We choose friends but God gives us neighbors. It is only Island countries like Comoros who can tell how lonely, cold, and harsh it can be without neighbors. Through the privilege of being neighbors, Kenya and Somalia should guard the ties between them jealously.
For many years, Kenya and Somalia have enjoyed good relations. Most of Somalia refugees have settled in Kenya and our troops are serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which is helping the government of President Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo battle the Al Shabaab.
Unfortunately, the bonds that have held Kenya and Somalia for decades are breaking each day because of the long-standing Maritime dispute over the Indian Ocean. Each country is laying a claim on the 62, 000 square miles triangle believed to contain sizeable oil and gas deposits. This disagreement led Somalia to seek the International Court of Justice (ICJ) intervention in 2014.
The hearing was set for the last year 2019 but was postponed to June this year. However, following the emergence of the COVID 19 pandemic the case was again shifted to 15th March 2021, hence providing an opportunity for the two countries to dialogue.
With or without the contested triangle we remain neighbors and nothing should come between us.
The dispute has drawn international attention with countries taking sides based on their interests rather than their conscience. As it stands, this is not only a war between Kenya and Somalia but also a fight between Western super-powers yearning for the lucrative oil interests in the disputed portion of the Indian Ocean. Britain and Norway have sided with Somalia whereas the USA and France support Kenya.
The International Court of Justice is always the last resort in the event all other conflict resolution mechanisms fail. There is no appeal on its verdict and its decision is binding. Kenya is opposed to the move by Somalia inviting ICJ to resolve the dispute. The delay of the hearing for another 10 months provides an avenue for the two countries to seek an amicable solution.
The recent win by Kenya in the United Nations Security Council offers an opportunity to end the long-simmering dispute peacefully and testify to the world of its sheer capabilities in conflict resolution. Both countries ought to understand that the solution lies within them hence they should not yield to outside pressure from countries who want to take advantage of the conflict for their interests.
Just as Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe joined hands and agreed to share their offshore oil reservoirs in their Joint Development Zone, Kenya and Somalia should embrace the dialogue approach, propose and implement laws to enable them to share the maritime resources for peaceful coexistence.
With or without the contested triangle we remain neighbors and nothing should come between us. Failure to reach an agreement will leave no other option except the ICJ to decide. This will create one win two looser scenario, as whichever the decision made by the court will mean a win for Al Shabab and a loss for the two countries. In the event the court rules in favor of Kenya, Somalia will be angered, and Al Shabab will side with them in destabilizing peace in Kenya. The reverse is true that if Somalia wins, Kenya may opt to withdraw its troops from AMISOM hence Al Shabab capitalizing to execute its terror activities in Somalia. Kenya and Somalia need to come to the negotiating table and agree to bear in mind that conflict trigger war which is always costly. Furthermore, an eye for an eye turns the whole world blind.