Strategic Security Policy Projections
The immediate threats in the Kenya-Somalia strategic challenges lies with Al Shabaab. From its perspective, Al Shabaab sees the solution to this issue as lying in its broad integration in the geography of a deconstructed region under an imagined caliphate. In the short term this issue is bound to lie in the background of the ongoing strategic security threats. It will however emerge as soon as Somalia is stabilized. Its potential threat is deeply embedded since with the enhanced desires to add value to the human, material, and territorial physical base of these states, it will be instrumentalized to affect survival and vital interests. Hence the potential use of military options and militarization of the seaboard will emerge, with critical implications for economic and other strategic security interests.
Should Kenya and Somalia fail to positively manage their strategic security relations, they risk exacerbating mutual strategic threats to the advantage of non-secular asymmetrical forces and other external actors. In comparative terms, Kenya is likely to lose more in the interim, given its underlying current and long-term strategic interests. Kenya is competing to have Mombasa become the preferred port of choice for regional importers and exporters. To this end, it has invested in undergirding rail, dryland and lake-based infrastructure. A functional high performing port of Mombasa is critical for Kenya’s repayment of Chinese debts accrued from these investments. It is equally interested in revamping its tourism sector ravaged by Al Shabaab led insurgencies along its ocean board, and instabilities resulting from past elections. Kenya has also invested deeply in the Lamu Pipeline South Sudan, Ethiopia (LAPSSET) geo-economic and strategic infrastructure belts. The envisaged rail, road and pipelines are expected to connect South Sudan and Ethiopia to Lamu port. The intended outcome is to evolve a strategic belt bridge that links the East Coast Ocean board to the Atlantic Ocean board. A further outcome is to enable the integration of the North-Eastern and Western Kenya regions to the traditional road and rail networks based in the south of the Equator.
A stable, secular Somalia can potentially call for support from its allies to operationalize long durée destabilization strategies like denying Kenya access into certain areas through conventional means. Asymmetrical actors like Al Shabaab can engage in maritime terrorism acts in maritime domains, against port, airports, energy platforms, settlements, individuals, and tourism resorts. Earlier, there was for example Mohamed Fazul’s attack on Kikambala resort, and failed surface to air missiles brought in by boat from Yemen and directed at an Israel Airliner at Moi International Airport Mombasa. Attacks have also been launched on assets such as the joint base on Manda Island. It is probable that similar maritime terror attacks directed at port and energy platforms will be launched in the future by Al Shabaab, this time citing the ICJ judgment as a justification.
The absence of strategic security cooperation has the potential of undermining ongoing counter terrorism and piracy operations between Kenya and Somalia. Failed efforts run the risk of advantaging Al Shabaab against the two states. Ramifications will be felt within states, in the region and in the international system. Without meaningful strategic security cooperation, neither Kenya nor Somalia will be able to access and much less add value to energy and aquatic resources obtaining in the contested maritime domain.
Kenya’s refusal to accept the ICJ judgment will certainly not affect the standing of the judgment, or its jurisprudence. But the court lacks the means of enforcement of its decisions. This enables the conflict to become entrenched and mixed up with other deep-seated East African security challenges. It however creates an opportunity for positive engagement between Kenya and Somalia mediated by influential actors within the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African Community (EAC) or the African Union (AU). Indeed, the fact that Somalia’s becoming a member state of the EAC is agreed to be only a matter of time may make the negotiation option as part of the implementation of the judgment more attractive. And it is equally clear that when the EAC federation envisaged in the Treaty Establishing the East African Community eventually happens, the maritime conflict will have been resolved. Meanwhile however, diplomatic activities hinged on negotiation offer options to move the conflict beyond its current zero-sum perspective.
According to Schofield et al (2021), the ICJ’s delimitation of the continental shelf sea awards of 200m EEZ limits adjustment. Thus, the considered approach to outer limits of parties’ continental shelf has consequences. Following this discrepancy, portions of the outer continental shelf were allocated to Somalia rather than Kenya. Approximately 324.Km2 or 94.4 square nautical miles of the combined EEZ and continental shelf areas beyond 200m EEZ limits lies within Somalia rather than the Kenya side of the boundary line.
It is thus argued that:
“as the outer continental shelf limits submitted by Somalia to the commission on the limits of the continental shelf (CLCs) are in places considerably seawards of those submitted by Kenya for areas of continental shelf located on the Kenyan side of the adjusted boundary line, some adjustments to Kenya ‘s outer continental shelf limits may eventuate”.
The ICJ itself acknowledged that in the light of the unpredictable outcome of the CLCs procedure, its ruling has the potential to give rise to a grey area located beyond 200m from Kenya but within 200m of Somalia but on the Kenya side of the delimitation line. This means that in this area, Kenya would have jurisdiction over the seabed, and Somalia would have jurisdiction over the water column.
Kenya could opt to initiate state building programmes as part of its National Security consolidation project under what can be referred to as Concerted Operations in Vulnerable Areas for Reintegration and Transforms (COVART). These could target the LAPSSET corridor border land, sea, and landward areas in former Coastal and North-Eastern counties to effect security driven micro and macro-economic, social, and political infrastructure. These should retain the potential of spill-over in Somalia enough to entice it towards such joint state building efforts. Such initiatives have the potential of being transformed into strategic security platforms for bilateral and trilateral state cooperation under the auspices of either the East African Community or the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development. These have the potential of integrating populations while effecting control over space. Their spill-over effect would include shared mutual resources, knowledge and institution building within contested maritime domains.