Category Archives: Kenya

East Africa’s Oil/Gas Rush Highlights Kenya-Somalia Maritime Border Dispute

If you’ve been following energy news in Africa, you are probably aware that East Africa is experiencing a bit of an oil and gas rush. In addition to the discoveries of oil deposits in Puntland and in the Lake Turkana region of Kenya, there have also been discoveries of about 100 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of recoverable natural gas deposits both onshore and off the coasts of Tanzania and Mozambique. As Kenya’s coastline shares the same geological formation as some of the exploration blocks off the coasts of countries further south, there are increasing hopes that Kenyan waters may provide similar discoveries of fossil fuel deposits in the years to come.

However, the prospects for oil or gas exploration off the coast of Kenya have called attention to the lack of a demarcated maritime boundary between Kenya and Somalia. Earlier this month, Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) challenged Kenya’s attempts to award offshore exploration blocks to Total and Eni. Somalia’s rationale for its complaint is that some of the exploration blocks lie in an area where the maritime boundary has not been demarcated – and where both countries claim ownership of these waters. Kenya, on the other hand, rejects that ownership of these blocks is contested, and believes there is no reason to hold up the award of licenses.

At the heart of the dispute is how the maritime boundary between Somalia and Kenya should be demarcated. Kenya would like the maritime boundary to run due east from the point at which the two countries touch on land. However, Somalia would like the border to continue diagonally southeast into the ocean, following the border between the two countries on land. Somalia’s claim is, I believe, consistent with how the maritime boundary should be demarcated according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).

Map of oil exploration blocks and disputed territory between Kenya and Somalia

Kenya claims that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with Somalia’s TFG in April 2009 set the border running east along the line of latitude. However, Somalia claims that the MoU was not to agree to the demarcation of the maritime boundary between it and Kenya, but rather to grant non-objection to Kenya’s May 2009 submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to delineate the outer limits of Kenya’s continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical mile limit. (Each country’s claim requires proof of cooperation with its neighbors.) Somalia claimed that the MoU did not, in fact, have legal basis if it was not ratified by the parliament. Somalia’s parliament later rejected this MoU in August 2009, claiming that Somalia was adhering to the appropriate requirements for delimitation of the continental shelf – not agreeing to a maritime boundary with Kenya.

In order for this issue to be resolved, Kenya and Somalia would have to agree on where the border should be demarcated and sign a treaty to that effect. However, this may be unlikely until Somalia has a permanent government and is able to address other political, economic, and security issues that would compete for the government’s attention. At stake are approximately 38,000 km2 (23,600mi2) of maritime territory over which both countries assert the legal claims to sell rights for oil exploration and collect revenue from any discoveries.

The timing of this maritime boundary dispute is particularly interesting for two reasons. First, it is a particularly inopportune time for Kenya to have a financial stake in where the boundary lies, given that it is currently involved in military operations in southern Somalia in the area adjacent to disputed waters. This is made worse by the earlier rumors that Kenya sought a “buffer zone” in that region. Nonetheless, I would be surprised if Kenya’s motivation to invade southern Somalia was tied to its future aspiration to award offshore exploration licenses. Second, this dispute between Kenya and Somalia may be the first of many similar disputes in the region if Somalia is able to reclaim a voice in regional issues. These disputes may be over trans-border natural resource deposits (as in the case with Kenya), or even over issues such as water rights and dam construction (between Ethiopia and Somalia).

My ‘Kenya’s invasion of Somalia’ paper and additional insights on Somalia (made by smarter people)

Earlier this month, my analysis of Kenya’s invasion of Somalia was published in Vol 3., No. 3 of PRISM Journal, which is put out by National Defense University. The abstract is as follows:

For the past two decades, Kenya has pursued a multilateral and primarily diplomatic approach to Somalia’s instability. However, in October 2011, Kenya launched an invasion of southern Somalia to dismantle al-Qaeda-affiliated Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, and thereby ensure Kenya’s national security and territorial sovereignty. Yet, there appears to be a notable disconnect between Kenya’s stated objectives in Somalia and the level of effort required to achieve its desired end-state. Al-Shabaab is but one symptom of Somalia’s enduring security, political, and humanitarian challenges; as such, the demise of al-Shabaab will not necessarily eliminate the many threats flowing over the Kenya-Somalia border. This article provides a context for Kenya’s invasion of Somalia, and highlights key challenges that may preclude Kenya’s military operations from stabilizing the country.

I’d been waiting to post that my paper had been published for two reasons. First, the paper came out within a week of Kenya taking Afmadow, and there’s been a perception – at least in the media – that this indicates that Kenya’s military operations will ultimately be successful. Second, I wanted to wait and see what subject matter experts from the region thought about some of the assertions I’d made – considering I hadn’t been in Kenya since right after the invasion. So what follows is based on some of the conversations I’ve had with people far smarter than myself this week, and the connections I’ve been able to make to some of the points articulated in or omitted by my paper:

What I’ve gathered is that militarily, the situation in Somalia is improving. In addition to Kenya taking Afmadow at the end of May, we’ve seen troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) expanding their control outside of Mogadishu to Afgoye. Ethiopian troops operating outside of AMISOM have been working with Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a (ASWJ) to hold territory in central Somalia and along their common border. Notably, they have not committed the same mistakes they did during their 2007-2008 occupation of parts of Somalia, and they say that they do not intend to remain in Somalia for very long. That said, when Ethiopia and its local allies withdrew from the city of El Buur earlier this month, al-Shabaab reportedly retook the town and beheaded two individuals believed to have collaborated with the Ethiopians. While this does not mean that al-Shabaab is resurgent, it does demonstrate a need for all forces pursuing al-Shabaab to be able to protect civilians from such retributions in the future. Another issue to track is possible human rights violations that may occur as TFG troops move in with AMISOM forces. While al-Shabaab was reviled for its draconian measures employed to control the population, I am told that they do have a relatively favorable reputation when it comes to maintaining law and order. And it would be a tragedy to have the population turn against troops that are either TFG or TFG-affiliated at the same time when they are supposed to be warming to the idea of a central government come August.

I’ve also gathered that the international community has much more faith in the progress in the political transition in Somalia than may actually be warranted. Without getting into too much detail on the end of the transition that is expected by August 20, the sense that I get is that the composition of the post-August 20 government may differ very little from the government that has been so instrumental moving Somalia forward over the past 8 years. (Please note my sarcasm here.) I’ve also been told that there’s a sense that this transition is externally imposed (by Uganda, the AU, UN, US, etc) and most critically, lacks sufficient Somali ownership. Another concerning element is that there is a tension between the need to demonize radical elements of al-Shabaab while simultaneously needing to include them in the transition process – if even for their reputation for maintaining law and order. The equities of the various stakeholders involved in the Somalia transition process with regard to this last point seem mutually exclusive, and I’m not sure how this is all going to get sorted out. What I didn’t get a sense of, however, is to what extent elements of Somali society are exhausted with war and want peace at any cost vs to what extent other elements of society have an interest in maintaining conflict.

Thus, we get to a point that was made by one of my instructors this week about the current situation in Somalia – “military ahead of politics” – meaning that the relative successes we’ve been seeing on the military fronts may not mean much if the political process falls apart or doesn’t result in increased stability across Somalia.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading the paper. There’s parts that are spot-on, and there’s parts where my analysis may be off, but I’ll let you determine which is which because it’s time for my last Kenyan dinner. (Insert sad face.)

Senate considers funding cuts to Kenyan security forces over human rights abuses (Part II)

In my last post, I wrote about how the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations had asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to submit a report to the Committee to verify that the U.S. government is not providing security assistance to Kenyan military or police personnel who may have been involved in human rights abuses in Mt. Elgon in March 2008 and in North Eastern Province between November 2011 and January 2012. In her report, Secretary Clinton is to document the steps the Government of Kenya has taken to conduct thorough, credible investigations of such violations.

In order to get a sense of the scale of the funding that may be at stake, let’s take a short crash course on security assistance funding. It’ll be fun, I promise.

Without getting too down in the weeds on U.S. security assistance, the Secretary of State maintains oversight for some security assistance under Title 22 (Foreign Assistance) of the U.S. Code. However, under Title 10 (Armed Services) of the U.S. Code, the Secretary of Defense has oversight of Section 1206 funds. This gives the Secretary of Defense the authority to train and equip foreign military forces for two specified purposes — to enable foreign military forces to perform counterterrorism operations, and to enable foreign military forces to participate in or to support military and stability operations in which U.S. armed forces are participating. (For background on the origins and future of Section 1206 funding, see the Congressional Research Service report Security Assistance Reform: “Section 1206” Background and Issues for Congress or the Government Accountability Office report Section 1206 Security Assistance Program—Findings on Criteria, Coordination, and Implementation.) There are other Title 10 authorities, but to be quite honest, some of this security assistance data is so opaque that efforts to dig up what other Title 10 funding Kenya might receive may be futile.

No matter who maintains the authorities for security assistance, funding is supposed to comply with the Leahy Amendment of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which stipulates that all units scheduled to receive training or equipment should be vetted so as to ensure that the U.S. government is not funding security forces that have been involved in gross human rights violations.

According to the FY13 Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations, Kenya receives the following Title 22 funds:

Type of Funding

FY11 Actual

FY12 Estimate

FY13 Request

Foreign Military Financing (FMF)





International Military Education and Training (IMET)




International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE)




Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs (NADR)




As a caveat, this may not be an all-inclusive list of Title 22 funds, as Kenya may receive additional assistance on a regional basis as a part of the Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism (PREACT) – a multi-disciplinary, interagency counterterrorism initiative formerly known as the East Africa Regional Strategic Initiative (EARSI). Regardless, we can still see that in accordance with the request of the Senate Committee on Appropriations report, and based on the FY13 Request in the Congressional Budget Justification, Secretary Clinton will have to verify that at least $9.8M of Title 22 security assistance funding would not be going towards Kenyan military or police personnel who may have been involved in human rights abuses.

Kenya also receives Section 1206 funds, which do not fall under State Department oversight, since they are Title 10 funds. I do not have visibility over what Kenya may have received in FY12 or what may be planned for FY13. But as a reference, Kenya received $46.5M in Section 1206 funds between FY06 and FY11. To break that down, that’s $25.9M between FY06 and FY09, $8.5M in FY10, and $12.1M in FY11. 

The question I’m left with is, if the Secretary of State must verify that Title 22 funds are not allocated to Kenyan security forces involved in human rights abuses, is the secretary of Defense being asked to carry out a similar investigation for Title 10 funds? Or is there a reason the Title 22 funds for Kenya are being placed under special scrutiny?

Senate considers funding cuts to Kenyan security forces over human rights abuses (Part I)

Last month, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations released a report of the Department of State Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2013. In the section of the report that discusses Foreign Military Financing (FMF), there is a paragraph about Kenya that reads as follows:

“The Committee directs the Secretary of State to take steps to ensure that no United States training, equipment, or other assistance is provided to any Kenyan military or police personnel who have been credibly alleged to have violated human rights at: Mount Elgon in March 2008; Garissa, Wajir and Mandera in North Eastern Kenya between November 2011 and January 2012; and in the Dadaab refugee camps in North Eastern Kenya in December 2011. The Secretary shall submit a report to the Committee on steps taken by the Government of Kenya to conduct thorough, credible investigations of such violations and the identification of military units responsible.”

Spokesman for the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Colonel Cyrus Oguna declined to comment on the appropriations bill, but characterized the relationship between Kenya and the United States as “cordial, historical and important.” And he’s correct. Relations between the United States and Kenya have generally been amicable, with occasional instances of discord – as one might expect from any bilateral relationship. Kenya has historically been a key partner for the U.S. military, considering the country’s geostrategic location for counterterrorism and counterpiracy operations as well as for its utility as a staging ground for crisis response operations in other countries in the region. Of note, the KDF is considered a relatively professional military, and receives considerable security assistance from the United States. The KDF is also part of a vital effort to stabilize Somalia as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which also receives U.S. funding.

The report on the appropriations bill alludes to two operations during which there were allegations of human rights violations – Operation Okoa Maisha (Save Lives) and Operation Linda Nchi (Protect the Nation). For additional details on former – the police and military’s heavy-handed response to the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) insurgency in March 2008 and the victims’ inability to receive justice for human rights abuses four years later, read the Human Rights Watch report “Hold Your Heart” Waiting for Justice in Kenya’s Mt. Elgon Region. For additional details on latter – the police and military’s violence against Kenyan Somalis and Somali refugees in the fall of 2011, read the Human Rights Watch report Criminal Reprisals: Kenyan Police and Military Abuses against Ethnic Somalis.

Unfortunately, I am at a loss for interpreting what Kenya’s inclusion in the report on the appropriations bill means. Given the existence of far less reputable militaries on the continent, I was surprised that the KDF was called out for further scrutiny in the report. (The police, however, were less of a surprise.) The timing is odd, considering the United States presumably desires that the KDF be successful in stabilizing southern Somalia. One could see how, in this situation, the investigation of such allegations could get pushed to the back burner – but it was not. Furthermore, although both the military and the police stand accused of some rather egregious human rights abuses detailed in HRW’s reports, if you look at the State Department’s 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, you will notice that the police are far more frequent human rights violators. In addition, it appears that the KDF tends to get into trouble when deployed domestically, but has not had a reputation for human rights violations when deployed abroad as members of African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations, for example.

Basically, what I’m trying to get at is that yes, bad things have happened and the United States is prepared to call Kenya out on these incidents. But based on what I have learned about the  U.S.-Kenya relationship, I have observed that sometimes things are not as they seem. So my underlying assumption is that Kenya’s security forces being placed under additional scrutiny may not be about Operation Okoa Maisha or Operation Linda Nchi. It may be about pressuring Kenya to cooperate with the ongoing International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of six high-profile individuals suspected of being responsible for the 2007-2008 post-election violence. It could also be a way to exert pressure on Kenya to have credible polls free of electoral violence next spring. Or perhaps there are tensions in the mil-to-mil relationship and the United States is using security assistance as leverage when Kenyan security forces need it most in Somalia and for homeland defense. (Or perhaps it is actually about human rights and I need to stop being such a conspiracy theorist.)

But it is just pure torture that I don’t know for sure what this might really be about. Any thoughts?

The KDF (finally) takes Afmadow and Kenya to (officially) join AMISOM

More than seven months into its invasion of southern Somalia, Kenya has seized the city of Afmadow. The fall of Afmadow marks the second major blow for al-Shabaab this week, having lost the Afgoye corridor located west of Mogadishu to troops from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). Having controlled much of south-central Somalia since 2008, al-Shabaab has continued to execute “tactical retreats” from major urban areas, leading some Somalia-watchers to assert that the group is in its dying days. In addition to the KDF assault from the south and AMISOM’s advances to the south and west of Mogadishu, al-Shabaab is also being squeezed from the west by Ethiopia/AMISOM in Beledweyne and Baidoa. (For a good counterargument that the war in Somalia is changing but not over, see Focus on the Horn’s interview with Roland Marchal earlier this week.)

The fall of Afmadow to the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) has been a long time coming – seven months to be precise. (For a timeline of Kenya’s invasion see AEI’s Timeline: Operation Linda Nchi). After all, the city is only about 90 miles from the Kenyan border. However, due to the inopportune timing of Kenya’s invasion at the start of Somalia’s short rainy season, and the unanticipated costs and logistical challenges that accompanied the invasion, the KDF has been bogged down outside Afmadow since October 2011. Now that the KDF controls Afmadow, it will be more difficult for al-Shabaab to block its advance towards the port city of Kismayo, which lies approximately 80 miles south.

According to a statement made by Kenya’s Minister of Defence Mohamed Yusuf Haji in mid-January, Kenya was unwilling to take Kismayo without international financial and logistical support. Thus, it is plausible that there is a correlation between the KDF’s progress in Afmadow en route to Kismayo and the fact that Kenya and the African Union will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will officially make the KDF part of AMISOM in the coming days. Negotiations on this matter had been taking place since December, but had been delayed – possibly due to disagreements over command-and-control and financial arrangements. In addition to Haji’s reluctance to have the KDF advance on Kismayo on its own, these drawn out negotiations may have also contributed to the KDF’s relative lack of progress since the fall. Once KDF troops are “re-hatted” as AMISOM troops, this will not only alleviate the financial burden of the war for Kenya, but also enable KDF troops to continue the momentum of AMISOM’s progress since the end of last summer, and possibly create the space necessary for the effective implementation of the road map to end the transitional period. General Julius Karangi (Chief of General Staff, KDF) now anticipates that Kismayo will be taken before the mandate of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) expires in August. (One of the conditions of last summer’s Kampala Accord was that the TFG’s mandate would be extended to August 20, 2012.)

However, even if military operations against al-Shabaab are going relatively well, they could still unravel as armed groups compete for control of lucrative territories cleared of al-Shabaab. Take Kismayo as a prime example. Kismayo is currently al-Shabaab’s largest source of revenue, and Kenya seeks to disrupt al-Shabaab’s finances by expelling it from the city. According to the Report of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, al-Shabaab generates between $35 million and $50 million per year from port revenues from Kismayo, and to a lesser extent, Marka and Baraawe in Lower Shabelle. For more in-depth knowledge of the clan dynamics in southern Somalia, I would strongly advise reading pretty much anything Ken Menkhaus has ever written. But for the purpose of this post, do pay special attention to the part of his paper for the ENOUGH project which discusses how Kismayo has been a chronically contested city since 1991. Highlighting the potential pitfalls of Kenya’s engagement with various clans in the region who will seek to control Kismayo, he states:

Kismayo is the prize that matters most in the region. If a durable deal can be struck on Kismayo, the rest of the region will be relatively easy to solve. The political challenge for Kenya and any other governments seeking to shape a positive outcome in Kismayo is that regional clans have all advanced very inflated claims about their rights to the port city. These disparate claims have been part of the reason the city has remained so contested for 20 years. There are two approaches to a new political dispensation in Kismayo that are likely to fail, and yet they are the two most likely to attract external support. The first is the “victor’s peace” approach: external acquiescence or support to clan domination of the city, most likely by the Ogaden represented by the Ras Kamboni militia, or a narrow coalition of Ogaden and Marehan clans. If the Ras Kamboni leadership has its way, its militia will help capture the city and will look to build alliances with selected clans, but with these two dominant clans maintaining a controlling interest in the seaport and its revenues. As argued above, this will produce armed resistance from other clans and will play into Shabaab’s hands. Kenya will be accused of supporting a narrow clan agenda linked to powerful Ogaden interests within the Kenyan government, which risks domestic problems in Kenya’s large Somali population as well.

So to sum up this post, progress is being made against al-Shabaab on the military front – not only from the south (KDF), but also from the north (AMISOM) and the west (Ethiopia/AMISOM). Kenya will legally become part of AMISOM in the next few days, which implies that they should be eligible for funding for pre-deployment training, payment of troop allowances, logistic support, and the reimbursement for contingent-owned equipment (COE). One major potential pitfall is sub-state governance, that is, who will control Kismayo, and whether fights over this territory will detract from the gains made on the military front.

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