Kenya: Speculation Arises on Somalia's Plot to Auction Oil Blocks

Presidents Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo of Somalia and Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta
20 August 2019

The maritime border dispute between Kenya and Somalia now under arbitration at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is likely to get murkier as details emerge that Somalia has scheduled to auction oil blocks within the contested sea territory in December, even before the ICJ delivers judgment on the matter in the first week of September.

In February this year, Somalia hosted an oil and gas conference in London and disclosed plans to offer for auction four oil blocks that are within the contested maritime zone.

Why authorities in Mogadishu would be in a hurry to set the date for the auction weeks ahead of the ruling on ownership of the contested territory raises questions.

Why would bidders commit to buy oil blocks whose ownership is in dispute? Questions have also been raised as to who are the undisclosed bidders and who paid for the London conference where the blocks were secretly put on auction.


This also comes as it emerged this week that besides Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, having dual citizenship, the other big four who call shots in Mogadishu - the prime minister, foreign affairs minister, intelligence head, and the president's security adviser - also hold dual citizenship.

Kenya is exposed to losing up to 26 per cent of its Exclusive Economic Zone and 85 per cent of the continental shelf and access to international waters should Somalia and her shadowy backers have their way at the ICJ.

A decision in favour of Somalia also will have the effect of extending her territory by up to 50 miles from Kenya's tourism resorts in Lamu and adjacent islands, and to the strategic Lamu port, exposing Kenya to further terrorist attacks and long term insecurity.

Only last week, President Mohamed, popularly known as Farmaajo, announced that he had forfeited his US citizenship, information that is yet to be independently confirmed.

Details have now emerged that the country's Prime Minister, Mr Hassan Ali Khaire, is a Norwegian citizen, while National Security Adviser Abdisaid Ali is a citizen of Denmark.


He is a former security adviser to the European Union Special Representative for the Horn of Africa.

Curiously, his appointment was announced by Mr Michael Keating, the UN Special Envoy for Somalia.

The other two in the "Pentagon" that rules Somalia are Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmed Isse Awad, a Canadian citizen, while Head of Intelligence Abdullahi Mohamed Ali is a citizen of Qatar.

Many MPs in the federal government also have dual citizenship. Majority of them have lived in foreign countries for so long that joke in Mogadishu is that they are in Somalia as tourists.

There is claim in the capital that majority of the leaders are serving interests of cartels in the countries where they owe allegiance.

While Kenya enjoys cordial relations with almost all countries where power wielders in Mogadishu are citizens, non-state players in the same countries may not wish her well and are suspected to be behind the maritime row with an eye on oil and other mineral wealth.

Oil cartels in the US, Europe, and the Middle East have often used underhand tricks to secure their interests, even where such interests may not necessarily be those of their mother countries.


A case in point is where US oil "sheikhs" and their partners in high places bulldozed the war with Iraq based on false narratives, while their true intention was to lay hands on oil and the lucrative reconstruction work that came in the aftermath of the war.

An illustration that such cartels operate outside official channels was the case of a highly-paced official in President George W. Bush's administration, who conveniently forgot to indicate in his official CV that he was once chief executive of one the private companies that made a kill from the ill-advised war on Iraq.

There are credible fears that individuals in power in Somalia have privately struck deals with shadowy cartels in foreign capitals to be allocated drilling blocks in the disputed territory with Kenya.

Such would explain why Somalia's leadership would want the dispute arbitrated at the ICJ and not at a regional state to state level where their personal interests would come to scrutiny.

That there is a shadowy hand behind the scenes also comes out from the fact that the government in Mogadishu is too broke to afford court fees at the ICJ, hence can only be relying on some benefactors who would be coming for their pound of flesh should the dispute be determined in favour of Somalia.


A 1964 Organisation of African Union (OAU) resolution urged member states to preserve the colonial boundaries existing at independence.

Somalia did not subscribe to the resolution, but proceeded to lay claim of territories in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti leading to war at different times.

The settlement of war with Kenya in the early years of independence came with the 1967 acceptance by Somalia to recognise Kenya's territorial boundary, and an accord to the effect signed in Arusha.

But not long after, Somalia reneged on the agreement with subsequent resumption of hostilities between the two neighbours.

The current dispute regards establishment of coastal states maritime zones in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which both countries became parties to in 1982.

The convention allows coastal states to establish an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles and a potential continental shelf of up to 350 nautical miles


Kenya enacted the Maritime Zones Act whose objective is to consolidate the law relating to its territorial waters.

Somalia did not raise any objection to the boundary until 2014 when it filed a case at the ICJ claiming a part of Kenya's maritime zone.

Somali leaders did not give Kenya an opportunity to negotiate settlement.

They did not seek any other alternative dispute resolution mechanism including negotiations as provided for under UNCLOS.

Kenya's first and most preferred option is to engage Somalia to resolve the boundary dispute through diplomacy and dispute resolution mechanisms available under the African Union, Inter-governmental Authority for Development and the East African Community.

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