Kenya and Somalia’s Long-Simmering Territorial Dispute Threatens to Boil Over

Kenya and Somalia’s Long-Simmering Territorial Dispute Threatens to Boil Over
A member of Kenya’s security forces walks past a damaged police post after an attack by al-Shabab in the settlement of Kamuthe, Garissa county, Kenya, Jan. 13, 2020 (AP photo).

Somalia's semiautonomous Jubbaland region has become a proxy battleground in a Kenya-Somalia maritime dispute that is rooted in a disagreement over which direction the border between the two countries extends into the Indian Ocean.

A 62,000-square-mile triangle of the Indian Ocean is driving a wedge in the Horn of Africa. For years, Kenya and Somalia have been at odds over the pie-shaped slice of the sea, to which each lays a claim and which is believed to contain sizable oil and gas deposits. But tensions between the two have been rising in recent months and are magnifying a standoff between Somalia’s central government and the semiautonomous Jubbaland region, in the country’s south.

The dispute between Kenya and Somalia is rooted in a disagreement over which direction the two countries’ border extends into the Indian Ocean. Somalia argues that the maritime boundary should continue on in the same direction as the land border’s southeasterly path. Kenya, meanwhile, insists that the border should take a roughly 45-degree turn at the shoreline and run in a latitudinal line, giving Nairobi access to a larger chunk of the sea.

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