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Turkey pushing for Somalia-Kenya talks over maritime row

Friday February 26, 2021

ANKARA (HOL) - Turkey is working on bringing Somalia and Kenya to the negotiating table on the ongoing maritime row even as the case enters the home stretch at the International Court of Justice, HOL has learnt.

Somalia and Kenya seek a resolution from the ICJ on the ownership of a 150,000 square-kilometre (58,000 square-mile) area off the Indian Ocean coastline that is potentially rich in hydrocarbons.

HOL has learnt that Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu will be visiting Kenya and Somalia early March. He’s expected to engage Presidents Mohamed Farmaajo and Uhuru Kenyatta, who have had frosty relations in recent months.

Nur Sagman, Director General for Africa at Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is planning the trip for Çavusoglu. The Turkish FM is expected to visit Kenyatta in Nairobi first before travelling to Mogadishu.

According to sources privy to the new fresh diplomatic forays, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is keen on the two countries striking an amicable solution on the maritime case, which has been the primary source of disputes between the two countries for a better part of Farmaajo’s term.

It is believed that Erdogan contacted Farmajo and Kenyatta personally several times this month to reopen diplomatic channels between the two East African neighbours.

Ankara sees itself leveraging on good relations between Somalia and Kenya as it trades with the two countries and considers them a pedestal to bolstering its influence not only in the East and Horn of Africa region but the continent at large, sources said.

The International Court of Justice threw out Kenya’s prayers last month for a fourth-time delay of the case and ruled it resumes on March 15. It is expected to conclude the case this year and issue a binding and non-appealable ruling.

The two countries have had rocky relations in the last two years, culminating in the breakup of ties last December. Somalia expelled Kenya’s ambassador to Somalia Lucas Tumbo in November. By mid-December, Somalia kicked out all diplomatic staff over what the Farmaajo administration said was continued interference with his country’s internal affairs.

Nairobi has maintained innocence, and the regional bloc IGAD cleared it of wrongdoing following a fact-finding mission in January. Mogadishu dismissed the report as bias and done on the bidding of Kenya.

However, it is not clear how Turkey intends to circumvent the ongoing political turmoil in Mogadishu, which has seen Farmaajo come under intense pressure from the opposition and a section of Federal Member States. His term lapsed on February 8, and the opposition has demanded he hands over power to a caretaker Transitional Council.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been influential in Somalia’s reconstruction process, especially in rebuilding its economy and the military. He has sought to stand out among a host of western powers, including the US, EU and UK, which have maintained a strong influence of the Horn of Africa nation through hard power instruments such as the Security Council and financial muscle.

Turkish companies are also heavily invested in Somalia.

Turkey has also made inroads in Kenya through trade and military hardware supplies. Last month, Kenya ordered 118 armoured vehicles from Turkey for nearly $73 million US.


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