Nairobi. Tanzania risks losing a big chunk of Pemba Island to Kenya if a case filed by Somalia in an international court succeeds, The Citizen has learnt.
In a case filed by the Somalia regime, Kenya also risks losing almost all of its territorial waters in the Indian Ocean if the international court rules in favour of Magadishu.
Yesterday, a Kenyan paper, the Sunday Nation, reported that the dispute could also unsettle regional harmony as endorsement of the Somalia demand could automatically move the Tanzanian island of Pemba to her northern neighbour, according to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho.
“This claim by Somalia could make Kenya a landlocked country which may restrict our access to the high seas. And if the alterations adopt the proposal by Somalia then the island of Pemba will become part of Kenya,” said Dr Kibicho said in Nairobi.
If the case filed by Somalia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is determined in its favour Somalia’s maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean would stretch all the way to Tanzania’s shores.
The Citizen could not immediately obtain the comments from the Tanzania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to establish whether the government is aware about the case filed by Somalia and its impacts to Pemba island or not.
Alarmed by the grave implications of the move by its war-torn neighbour, Kenya has already reopened negotiations with Somalia over its claim to a huge swathe of maritime territory considered rich in oil deposits and fish, which the ministry of Foreign Affairs says could effectively turn Kenya into a landlocked country.
On Saturday, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade Amina Mohammed told the Sunday Nation the matter is so sensitive that a quick meeting to facilitate direct talks between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Somalia counterpart Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has been arranged in New York.
“We are in discussions with the government of Somalia. It is unfortunate they logged their complaints even as we dialogued over this matter,” Ms Mohammed said, adding that Kenya preferred to settle the matter out of court.
Documents seen by the Sunday Nation show that the way Somalia wants the boundaries redrawn would take away at least five oil blocks and vast oceanic territory where deep sea fishing is conducted. It would also mean that Kenya might have to access the Indian Ocean only with Somalia’s permission.
In June, an Australian firm prospecting off Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast reported a verified oil find at one of its recently completed wells in the Lamu Basin.
Pancontinental Oil and Gas NL confirmed their completed Sunbird well has intersected an oil column, making it the first-ever discovery of oil off the East African coast.