Accessibility links

Somalia Parliament Demands Answers for Controversial Maritime Agreement with Kenya

The Somalia parliament is expected to demand answers today from President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's new government over a recently signed controversial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Kenya. The agreement, which was signed in early April, involved their maritime boundary, but it ignited heated debate in the Somali government over its legality. Somalia's parliament expressed deep concerns about the agreement, saying the accord does not have a legal basis as long as it is not ratified by the national legislature.

Somali parliamentarian Ismail Ahmed Nur told VOA that most Somalis are deeply suspicious about the pact with Nairobi.

"The agenda of the parliament today, Monday, is to talk about the issue of the MOU between the government and the Kenyan government regarding the demarcation of the waters between the two states. So that issue has made a lot of sensitivity from the Somali people and from the intellectuals," Nur said. "The issue is very sensitive so that members of parliament have tabled a motion to discuss that issue in detail and inquire the government to explain this MOU and discuss about excerpts of the MOU."

Nur said that legislators would not hesitate to block passage of the maritime accord if it is not determined to be in the interest of Somalis.

"If the parliament sees it as necessary, it will nullify that MOU," he said.

He added that the Somali public is not overly enthused about the agreement, which many are describing as controversial.

"It is not only the insurgents, but the majority of the Somali people have made suspicions on this MOU regarding the territorial waters between the two states because that has a lot of hidden explanations within this MOU. So, that is why the parliament has tabled this motion," Nur said.

He said some Somalis see the haste in the signing of the accord as unnecessary especially as the government faces a lot of problems that need immediate attention.

"First of all, a lot of members of parliament as well as Somali intellectuals see the signature of this MOU was not a priority for the government. As you know, we do have a lot of other priorities like the work on reconciliation, to work on the stabilization of the country, etcetera," he said.

Nur said although piracy is not a part of today's motion in parliament, most parliamentarians are eager to know the government's plan to address the menace that has recently caught international attention.

"I think the motion does not concern about the piracy, but the piracy is a very important issue for us, and we will ask the government if they do have any plans to counter this piracy which now became an international problem," Nur said.

He said it is important for the government to provide answers to parliament about the accord it signed with Nairobi.

"First, we will ask the government to provide the parliament detailed explanation on this MOU. And if the parliament sees that this MOU is not good for the country, we will make resolution that the MOU is null and void and that the current government has no capacity to change the sovereign articles of the state," he said.

Soon after the pact was agreed to with Nairobi, opposition groups sharply condemned the deal. Both states acknowledged it would facilitate their respective presentations next month before the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Under the MOU, both countries grant non-objection in claims to the outer limits of their continental shelves beyond 200 nautical miles to the Commission on Limits of the Continental Shelf.

Observers believe the accord between Mogadishu and Nairobi would be one of the biggest tests facing a new Somali government since it was formed early this year, with its fragile support within Somalia currently resting on whether it wins or fails in the battle for the minds and hearts of people over an ever-widening divide over the pact.

An acknowledgment of rights to define the two states' continental shelf is required under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), because the preparation of a country's claim for submission requires the cooperation of its neighbors.

Opposition groups say the Kenyan government submitted to the United Nations what it described as a new maritime boundary demarcation that takes huge chunk of Somalia's territorial waters, thus creating a so-called maritime dispute that the MOU says will not prejudice the submission of Kenya's claim to the Commission.

The hard-line Islamic insurgent group Al-Shabab condemned the agreement, describing it as a sellout to Kenya. Described by Washington as a terrorist organization with close ties to Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab demanded immediate cancellation of the agreement.

Al-Shabab has refused to recognize the new Somali administration, describing it as puppet of the west, and has promised eventually to take over the country and implement Sharia law.

But new Prime Minister Abdurashid Ali Sharmarke stoically defended the agreement. He says it is necessary to show cooperation between neighboring states in order to demonstrate Somalia's claim for an extension of its continental shelf.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1994 when President Muhammad Siad Barre was overthrown in a coup d'état.