Diplomacy ‘Kenya’s best bet’ in tiff with Somalia

George Kebaso

Kenya has no option but to engage Somalia diplomatically over the maritime dispute case awaiting determination at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Diplomatic and maritime experts on Friday cautioned that the outcome from the Hague-based court is not likely to be in favour of Kenya.

During a roundtable discussion on The Kenya-Somalia Maritime Dispute: Scenarios and The Road Ahead  the experts said the two countries are not in conflict, but suspicious interest from forces operating behind the scenes have pushed Kenya into proxy war.

Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad from Southlink Consultants said the integration between Somalia and Kenya has increased significantly. He cited the Sh300 billion a year miraa trade that has brought the two countries together.

“Somalis do not have any problem with Kenya. They have made Kenya their home. But there are unforeseen forces driving a certain agenda,” he said on Friday at the Africa Policy Institute (API) offices in Nairobi.

He proposed that Kenya should convince Somalia to withdraw the case and allow diplomacy to take precedence.

Encroach territory

Fatuma Ahmed Ali, an associate professor of international relations  at the United States International University-Africa, said Kenya needs to avoid the big brother syndrome towards Somalia, and instead seek alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

“Engage Somalia outside the court. The attitude that Somalia is ungrateful will eventually play against us,” she said.

Peter Kagwanja, API chief executive cautioned that from face value, if the court rules in favour of Somalia, a likely outcome, Kenya will become a landlocked country.

University of Nairobi Diplomacy and International Relations lecturer Patrick Maluki and political analyst Mark Bichachi, however, Kenya would not take it lightly if it continues to be bullied.

“We are aware that foreign forces eyeing the resources in the disputed boundary are the ones paying for Somalia’s case in court.  We are calling on the two countries to negotiate and contribute towards the rebuilding of Pan Africanism,” Maluki said.

Both countries are claiming ownership of a 100,000km2  block in the Indian Ocean that has major oil and gas deposits. Somalia took Kenya to ICJ in 2014 on claims that it was encroaching on its marine territory.

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