Talk to Somalia over maritime dispute, Garissa leaders urge state

For years, the two nations have argued over where their boundary in the Indian Ocean.

In Summary
  • For years, Kenya and Somalia have argued over where their maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean runs.
  • Since the issue started there has been  growing tension between the citizens of the two countries.

A section of leaders from Garissa have said the row between Kenya and Somalia over the maritime boundary will only further strain the relationship between the two countries.

Kenya is fighting with Somalia over the Indian Ocean border. The case is at the International Court of Justice. But Kenya recently decided to withdraw from the court.

Speaking separately to the Star on the phone, Dadaab MP Mohamed Dahiye, county assembly majority leader Mohamed Gabow, Kenya Livestock Marketing Council chair Dubat Amey and Garissa peace secretary Hassan Osman said more needs to be done besides Kenya's withdrawal from the ICJ to pave the way for negotiations.

For years, Kenya and Somalia have argued over where their maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean runs.

In 2009, both countries agreed that the United Nations Commission in charge of mediating border disputes should determine the borderline once and for all but still the issue ended up in the ICJ.

Gabow said Kenya and Somalia have had a long-standing relationship even as Somalia deteriorated into civil war after the removal of President Siyad Barre in 1991.

“It is only Kenya that stood with Somalia and even went to the extent of hosting over one million refugees for over two decades. The border dispute that can be resolved amicably should not be allowed to bring bad blood between the two countries,” he said.

He said how the dispute is handled matters a lot, noting that since the issue started there has been growing tension between the citizens of the two countries, especially for Northeastern, which directly borders Somalia.

Dadaab MP Dahiye said that the two neighbouring countries share a lot, including doing business together, and so handling the matter inappropriately will have far-reaching effects on the citizens of both countries.

Amey urged President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Somali counterpart Mohamed Farmajo to initiate talks and "have the matter resolved in order to foster a good relationship between the two countries".

"It is good Kenya withdrew the case because allowing  the ICJ to resolve the matter would most likely have escalated the matter and may have even resulted to war with both countries to incurring heavy losses,” he said.

Two weeks ago, Lamu fishermen and activists held peaceful demos in support of the government’s move to pull out from the Kenya-Somalia delimitation case at the ICJ.

The demonstrators pushed for what they described as ‘One People One Ocean.’

The activists pointed to the fact that the area in contention has been a source of food and livelihood for centuries for Kenyans as it hosts prime fishing grounds discovered long before Kenya and Somalia were countries as defined by the current boundaries.

The Lamu community is predominantly fisherman and supply over 80 per cent of Kenya’s marine catch of fish, lobster, shrimp and octopus.

“The disruption of our people’s way of life will therefore lead to huge social economic changes that our people are not ready to deal with at a time when we are battling the coronavirus pandemic, while farming and tourism have been affected by insecurity," the activists said in a statement.

Edited by Henry Makori