Ethiopian PM to mediate Kenya-Somalia border dispute

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will Wednesday mediate talks seeking to resolve the long-running maritime dispute between Kenya and Somalia.

Dr Abiy arrived in Nairobi Tuesday night accompanied by Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.

"The president’s main objective is to restore and strengthen diplomatic relations with the Republic of Kenya," President Farmajo's office said in a tweet.

While there has been no official statement from Nairobi on the two leaders' visit, sources say that Dr Abiy and Mr Farmajo will meet President Uhuru Kenyatta over the border row.

The maritime border dispute has simmered over time, culminating in Somalia’s filing of a suit at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2014 accusing Kenya of encroaching on its 100,000-square-kilometre marine territory with potential oil and gas deposits in the Indian Ocean. Before then, bilateral negotiations had dragged on for six years without much success.

Kenya insists that the marine boundary is determined by a parallel line of latitude to the east, as per the standards set by the colonial powers, which were adopted in the marine borders between Kenya and Tanzania, Tanzania and Mozambique and Mozambique and South Africa.

On its part, Somalia says the boundary extends to the southeast as an extension of the land border. This would take a large swathe of what Kenya considers its Exclusive Economic Zone.

The area in the Kenya-Somalia maritime border dispute is about 100,000km2 forming a triangle east of the Kenya coast. 

Somalia’s economy is highly dependent on Kenya’s, while Somalia is a huge market for Kenyan goods and khat. Kenya on its part, critically needs Somalia’s co-operation to weaken the Al Shabaab Islamist militants.

President Farmajo, who rose to power in 2017, has arguably had the closest relations with the Kenyan leadership – until now.

Last week, President Kenyatta met Dr Abiy in Addis Ababa during the Kenya-Ethiopia trade and investment forum, where it is said they discussed the border dispute briefly.

President Farmajo visited Addis Tuesday where he held bilateral talks with Dr Abiy after which the two boarded the Ethiopian Airlines flight to Nairobi.

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