Bishop Giorgio Bertin, the apostolic administrator of Mogadishu, has warned that an on-going dispute between Kenya and Somalia over oil exploration blocks in a disputed part of the Indian Ocean, is a threat to peace in the region.
Kenya recalled its ambassador last week after accusing Somalia of auctioning four oil blocks in an area claimed by both nations. It demanded Somalia withdraw what it called “illegal maps” presented to prospective investors at a conference in London earlier this month. Somalia denies the allegations.
"Somalia is not now offering nor does it have any plans to offer any blocks in the disputed maritime area until the parties' maritime boundary is decided by the ICJ," the government in Mogadishu said.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague, which rules in disputes between countries, has been hearing a case brought by Somalia against Kenya over the dispute. Somalia added that it wished to “reassure the government of Kenya that it stands by its commitment not to undertake any unilateral activities in the disputed area until such time as the ICJ renders its judgment”, with which it would comply.
Bertin told The Tablet that international arbitration should decide the matter, with the oil resources used “for the good of the two peoples.”
Somalia is currently hosting African Union peace troops, with Kenya one of the main contributors. But Bertin said despite several years of attempts to stabilise the country there was no visible progress. The country is the base of al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in East Africa.
The 150,000 square kilometre (57,915 square miles) area under dispute contains oil and gas deposits beneath waters rich in fish, all of which have the potential to generate funds desperately needed by Somalia to rebuild its economy after decades of civil war. Kenya is seeking new revenue streams to help achieve President Uhuru Kenyatta’s plan to develop transport and housing.