How Jubbaland leadership led to the Somalia-Kenya diplomatic crisis?

Africa
By Daily Nation , Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenya on Saturday recalled its ambassador from Somalia for “urgent consultations” over a maritime border dispute that involves lucrative offshore oil and gas deposits.

Nairobi sent away the Somali Ambassador to Kenya Mohamud Ahmed Nur [Tarsan] and escalated an ongoing case at The Hague into the maritime border dispute battle between Nairobi and Mogadishu.

Kenyan said Somalia’s decision to auction oil blocks in London conference organized by Spectrum last week amounted to aggression against Kenyans and their resources.

This is the latest flashpoint in the relations between the two countries that have been significantly tested in recent years over their diametrically opposed views on the leadership of Ahmed Mohamed Islam alias Madobe, the regional president of Jubaland State in southern Somalia where Kenyan troops are stationed.

Whereas Nairobi has thrown its full support behind Madobe, the Somalia government of President Mohamed Abdullahi alias Farmajo is waging a determined campaign for his removal when the Jubaland elections are held in August. Kenya played a big role in Madobe’s election in 2013.

Credible sources say that, earlier in the year, President Uhuru Kenyatta sent a delegation of Kenyan-Somali elders to try and convince President Farmajo to reconsider his position on Madobe.

President Kenyatta’s request, our source revealed, was rejected by the Somalia President who told the Kenyan delegation that Nairobi could pick another candidate to replace Madobe.

The relations between the two neighbors were further tested in August last year when the Kenyan security authorities opened investigations into how Somalia’s deputy head of intelligence Fahad Yasin, a key ally of President Farmajo, had acquired Somalia and Kenyan passports.

Yasin, a former journalist-turned spy has been instrumental in Mogadishu’s pivot towards Qatar and away from Doha’s neighbors — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates — who have blockaded it since mid-2017.

LARGE DEPOSITS

The buyers at Somalia’s auction are said to be from the United Kingdom and Norway. Somalia Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre is a citizen of Norway.

Amb Macharia said that the government demanded that Somalia withdraws an incorrect map that it had issued at the time it auctioned the oil and gas blocks in Kenyan territory.

He said that the Kenyan government had already presented its decisions over the matter to the highest level of the Somali Government.

A narrow triangle off the coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean, about 100,000 square kilometers (62,000 square miles), is the bone of contention between neighboring Kenya and Somalia. Both countries want the area because it supposedly has a large deposit of oil and gas, but it's not clear to which country it belongs.

"The position of the boundary is a grey area," said Timothy Walter, a maritime border conflict researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa.

For Kenya, however, the boundary is quite clear. It lies parallel to the line of latitude. That gives Kenya the larger share of the maritime area and it has already sold mining licenses to international companies. But Somalia disagrees.

The Somalis want the boundary to extend to the southeast as an extension of the land border. In 2009, both countries agreed that the United Nations commission in charge of mediating border disputes should determine the borderline once and for all.

They also agreed that they should continue to work together to find a solution so that the matter would not have to go to court.

Garowe Online has contributed to this report.