Tensions between Kenya and Somalia over maritime dispute threatening Lamu livelihoods

Rising tensions between Kenya and Somalia over a long-running border dispute are threatening the livelihoods of Lamu residents. Kenyan fishermen in Lamu County took to the streets to pretest against the rising tensions in the region.

The disputed triangle of water that stretches more than 100,000sq km is rich in sea life crucial to fishermen on both sides of the border.

its also believed to have substantial deposits of crude oil reserves making it a hotly contested area for its economic value.

Somalia since 2014 has been asking the UN’s International Court of Justice to rule over contested waters of the Indian Ocean in its favour. Kenya has withdrawn from the ongoing court case jeopardizing the situation. 

If the fishing waters are lost to Somalia, 50% of Lamu livelihoods could be lost as the majority of the community are not educated and depends on fishing as the main source of income.

Also, no major industrial investment in the region and this could lead to crime rise in the region.

“I can say we are losing fifty percent of our livelihoods because normally our community Lamu is not educated and in Lamu County, we don’t have any industry to be invested, so we lose the fishing ground we are losing our life,” Explained Adam Lali Kombo, a fisherman of Kiunga.

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The residents urged both countries to explore other channels including African Union, IGAD, and even elders to settle the dispute as the communities have coexisted for centuries.

“The people of Lamu and our brothers in Somalia have coexisted for centuries and continue to consider the current boundaries simply as colonial lines drawn neither to the interest of Kenya or Somalia people,” said Haq Abubakar of the Save Lamu movement.

The waters where fishermen get their fish are currently administered by Kenya, but Somalian authorities claim they should be included in its territory.

Mogadishu wants to extend its maritime frontier with Kenya along the line of land border in the southeast direction while Kenya wants the border to remain to head out to sea, in a straight line east giving Kenya more territory.

ICJ regretted Kenya’s withdrew from the case, however, decided to proceed with the deposition of Somalian authorities.

Somalia criticized Kenya’s defiance of the International Court of Justice saying it was inconsistent with the rule of the law and commitment to the court.

on the other hand, Kenyan prosecutor Kihara Kariuki said in a letter Kenya would be participating because the Covid-19 pandemic had hampered Kenya’s ability to prepare adequately for the hearing.

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