• Prime Minister Ahmed will Wednesday mediate talks and try to resolve the long-running maritime dispute between Kenya and Somalia.
  • Dr Abiy arrived in Nairobi Tuesday night accompanied by Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.
  • Last week, President Kenyatta met Dr Abiy in Addis Ababa during the Kenya-Ethiopia trade and investment forum, where it is said the two discussed the border dispute briefly.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has waded into Kenya’s-Somalia simmering maritime dispute.

Prime Minister Ahmed will Wednesday mediate talks and try to resolve the long-running maritime dispute between Kenya and Somalia.

On Tuesday, President Farmajo visited Addis where he held bilateral talks with Dr Abiy after which the two boarded the Ethiopian Airlines flight to Nairobi.
On Tuesday, President Farmajo visited Addis where he held bilateral talks with Dr Abiy after which the two boarded the Ethiopian Airlines flight to Nairobi.

Dr Abiy arrived in Nairobi Tuesday night accompanied by Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.

"The president’s main objective is to restore and strengthen diplomatic relations with the Republic of Kenya," President Farmajo's office said in a tweet.

While there has been no official statement from Nairobi yet on the two leaders' visit, sources say that Dr Abiy and Mr Farmajo will meet President Uhuru Kenyatta over the border row.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiye Ahmed at a past event.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiye Ahmed at a past event.

President Farmajo, who rose to power in 2017, has arguably had the closest relations with the Kenyan leadership – until now. Last week, President Kenyatta met Dr Abiy in Addis Ababa during the Kenya-Ethiopia trade and investment forum, where it is said the two discussed the border dispute briefly.

On Tuesday, President Farmajo visited Addis where he held bilateral talks with Dr Abiy after which the two boarded the Ethiopian Airlines flight to Nairobi.

The maritime border dispute has simmered over time and culminated with Somalia even filing of a suit at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2014.

The maritime border dispute has simmered over time and culminated with Somalia even filing of a suit at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2014.
The maritime border dispute has simmered over time and culminated with Somalia even filing of a suit at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2014.
AFP

Before then, bilateral negotiations had dragged on for six years without much success.

According to Somalia’s side of the story, Kenya has encroached on its 100,000-square-kilometre marine territory with potential oil and gas deposits in the Indian Ocean. Somalia says the boundary extends to the southeast as an extension of the land border.

Info-graphic: A maritime border conflcit between Kenya and Somalia
Info-graphic: A maritime border conflcit between Kenya and Somalia

On the other hand, however, Kenya insists that the marine boundary falls under its rightful border and should be determined by a parallel line of latitude to the east, as per the standards set by the colonial powers, which were adopted in the marine borders between Kenya and Tanzania, Tanzania and Mozambique and Mozambique and South Africa.

The conflict recently played out in the public after Kenya recalled its ambassador to Mogadishu, Lucas Tumbo, and ordered Somalia’s envoy in Nairobi, Mohammed Muhamud, to leave, after Somalia allegedly auctioned off oil and gas reserves in disputed maritime territories.

Mogadishu
Mogadishu

Irrespective of whose borderline is ‘legal and true’ the two countries cannot afford a conflict right now. Somalia’s economy is highly dependent on Kenya’s, and the country is a huge market for Kenyan goods lead by khat.

Somalia remains Kenya’s ‘last viable’ Khat market, taking in about 50 tonnes of the commodity daily, valued at more than Sh100 million ($1 million), according to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

In recent years, Somali has shot past Kenya’s traditional markets, Egypt, South Sudan and Rwanda to become one of the top buyers of Kenyan goods.

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Rangers, who are part of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), secure an area during a foot patrol on the outskirts of the controlled area of the old airport in the coastal town of Kismayu in southern Somalia November 12, 2013. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola
Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Rangers, who are part of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), secure an area during a foot patrol on the outskirts of the controlled area of the old airport in the coastal town of Kismayu in southern Somalia November 12, 2013. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola
Reuters

Kenya’s export to Somalia increased by 33.5 per cent in the first half of 2017, making it the third largest destination for Kenya’s goods in Africa after other markets shrunk.

Kenya on its part critically needs Somalia’s co-operation to weaken the Al Shabaab Islamist militants.

Kenya Defence Forces have been in Somalia since 2011 and by the looks of things they won’t be pulling out anytime soon.

In 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta said that Kenyan soldiers will maintain their presence in Somalia until the troubled country achieves peace, stability, and security.