Somalia: Kenyan President in Last Minute Effort for an Out-Court Settlement With Somalia On Boarder Dispute

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has kicked off a diplomatic charm offensive in Africa, Europe and the Middle East as the dispute with Somalia over maritime resources continues to weigh heavily on his government.

The time is running out and Kenya's options are dwindling as the International Court of Justice at The Hague prepares to start hearings on September 19 on the Indian Ocean maritime border case filed by Somalia in 2014.

The dispute has simmered over time, with Somalia accusing Kenya of encroaching on its 100,000-square-kilometre territory with oil and gas deposits.

Before the case was filed, bilateral negotiations had dragged on for six years without much success.

Nairobi has been pushing Somalia to withdraw the case, but Mogadishu has been adamant, preferring to wait for determination at the ICJ.


With this stance, Kenya early this year sought mediation, drawing in the reformist Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to lead the effort.

The talks were initiated - Mr Abiy and the Somalia leader Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo met with Kenyatta in Nairobi in March - but the effort soon collapsed.

One of the explanations is that President Farmaajo, who is seeking re-election next year, dare not withdraw the case, as it would be seen as giving in to "outside forces" to relinquish what they considers Somalia resources--a sign of weakness. President Farmaajo has since avoided Kenya, even its airspace.

Meanwhile, there is little hope in that Mogadishu will consider a bilateral or regional resolution effort; this leaves Kenya with a few options, one of which is a diplomatic charm offensive in Africa and beyond to convince peers that a decision that affirms Somalia's claim will have security, diplomatic and economic reverberations.

Nairobi has assembled a team of international lobbyists to reach out to oil and gas investors, who are said to be keen on the outcome of the matter at the ICJ.

According to insiders, Kenya believes that oil and gas companies are fuelling the dispute, with some already taking strategic positions to join the race for exploration soon after the matter is dispensed with by the court.

Politically, Kenya is reaching out to international allies to get the much-needed support "to protect its territory," regardless of the outcome of the case at the ICJ.

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