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Fishermen Want Kenya-Somali Maritime Standoff Sorted

Lamu fishermen have commended the national government for withdrawing itself from the Somali-Kenya maritime dispute case whose hearings were to commence at The Hague this week.

Speaking to the press Monday in Lamu Island, Lamu Fishermen Association Organising Secretary Abubakar Mohammed Twalib stated that the fishermen were glad that the national government heard the pleas and took into consideration demands by the fishermen over the maritime dispute, in which if Kenya was to loose, would result in the forfeiture of the rich Kiunga fishing grounds.

Apart from fishing, there is speculation that the disputed area about 100,000 square kilometres is also rich in oil and gas.

The dispute between the two East African countries stems from a disagreement over which direction their border extends into the Indian Ocean.

Somalia argues that the maritime boundary should continue on in the same direction as the land border’s southeasterly path with Kenya insistent that the border should take a roughly 45-degree turn at the shoreline and run in a latitudinal line.

Abubakar further said that the Lamu was bound to lose its maritime economy if the Somali take is accepted, with fears from a section of maritime experts that the success of the LAPSSET project could also be affected.

“It is important that Kenya stood firm in its resolve to keep hold of its maritime waters by waking out of a court process that could have undermined the country’s interests,” he further added.

Fishermen demonstrate in Amu Island over the Kenya-Somali maritime dispute, demanding that their interests be included while addressing the matter. Photo by Amenya Ochieng.

According to the fishermen, Kenya’s loss to Somalia in the maritime dispute would spell doom for the Lamu blue economy that is heavily dependent on the rich Kiunga fishing ground which Somalia is laying claim to.

“We laud the national government for walking out of the international court, without the involvement of all parties who will be affected by any ramifications once a verdict is reached,” Save Lamu Chairman, Walid Ahmed stated.

The same sentiments were echoed by Save Lamu Vice Chairman Is’Haq Abubakar who stated that the maritime dispute could easily be handled diplomatically.

“The historical interests between Kenya and Somalia run deeper than the perception being given through the maritime dispute is playing out in the international scene,” Is’Haq stated, adding that there could be hidden international interests that are keen to profit off of the disputed maritime waters.

The vice chairman further added that the maritime dispute can be resolved through regional channels such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) rather than an International Court.

He stated that the fishing economy is heavily dependent on the waters in dispute and urged both countries’ officials to amicably resolve the maritime dispute.

 

by Amenya Ochieng

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