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Kenya upbeat on ocean deal with Somalia

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Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (left) and President Uhuru Kenyatta at the official reception for the Kenya Airways Dreamliner B787 at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi

Kenya is optimistic of reaching a deal with Somalia over the exploration of resources around a disputed section of their shared Indian Ocean off-shore border territory.

In its preliminary prospectus for the planned Sh132 billion Eurobond, the government said the two countries were in discussions to amicably resolve the matter.

“Kenya and Somalia are in discussion with regards to their respective submissions to the UN Commission on the Limits Continental Shelf,” the document said in part.

Kenya and Somalia signed a memorandum of understanding in 2009 that the border would run east along the line of latitude, but Somalia, which has lacked an effective central government since 1991, then rejected the agreement in parliament.

In 2012, the Somali government accused Kenya of awarding offshore oil and gas exploration blocks illegally to multinationals Total and Eni, claiming that the concessions lie in waters claimed by Somalia.

Kenya denied the accusation that ownership of the blocks was contested and said there was no need to hold up exploration. Both countries have since submitted separate submissions to the UN agency seeking to claim additional territory on the shared Indian Ocean border.

According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, all countries that border the ocean are allowed to use the 200 nautical miles into the ocean for exclusive economic purposes without interference from other countries.

Kenya formally laid claim to an additional 103,320 square kilometres of seabed off its coastline, beating an April 13, 2013 deadline that was set for the submissions.

Failure to beat the deadline would have left all exploration and exploitation rights over the territory in the hands of the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

Failure to secure such rights would also mean that firms eyeing investments in such zones would have to go through strenuous and expensive processes to secure permission from the ISA.

Kenya and Somalia habour ambitions of striking oil and gas off-shore and analysts say they would immensely benefit from privileged provisions of the UN convention.

The provisions exempt developing countries that are net importers of a mineral resources produced from its continental shelf from financing the exploration of non-living resources beyond the 200 nautical mile limit.

Kenya and Somalia are net importers of oil and gas and qualify for the exemption. Kenya is also in talks with Tanzania over the demarcation of their shared Indian Ocean territory as the scramble for off-shore resources intensifies.

Tanzania made a late claim in 2012 for its share of the Indian Ocean territory, delaying the commencement of proceeding to decide the demarcation of the extra seabed claimed by Kenya and Somalia.

Kenya, by virtue of sharing a common border with Tanzania, had to wait for Tanzania’s final submission to get the UN’s verdict on its application.

Sea law experts say the UN Commission on the Limit of Continental Shelf – the arbiter in the fresh scramble for sea wealth – must receive all applications from neighbouring states to demarcate the new borders.

The EastAfrican

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