The government is seeking the United Nations’ (UN) authority and expertise to map out Kenya’s territorial waters to enable the country exploit huge oil, natural gas and mineral reserves believed to be underneath the Indian Ocean sea bed.
Attorney-General Githu Muigai on Monday told the New York-based United Nation’s Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) — the body mandated to determine countries’ maritime boundaries — to fast track the demarcation of the sea borders to pave the way for Kenya’s search for riches in her territorial waters.
“We want the commission to map out Kenya’s outer limit of its continental shelf (the line between Kenyan waters and international waters) to enable Kenya to start exploration for oil gas and rare minerals within its sea,” Prof Muigai told the Business Daily in interview from New York where he made Kenya’s case before the UN Commission. The commission helps countries define their sea boundaries.
Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also known as the Law of the Sea Convention, a coastal state like Kenya has sovereign rights to explore and exploit, conserve and manage the natural resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Such a zone extends to a maximum of 370 kilometres (200 nautical miles) from the edge of the territorial sea.
However, the UN Convention provides that countries with opposite or adjacent coasts must de-limit their zones by applying international law to avoid conflict with other nations.
The AG said Kenya wants a speedy delineation of what is technically referred to as outer continental shelf limit as provided by the Law of the Sea Convention.
The continental shelf of countries with sea borders is the natural extension of its land territory in to the sea.
Against the back drop of the push, Kenya is separately battling a court case before the UN’s top court over a maritime border dispute between it and Somalia.
The AG said Kenya would be arguing its case against Somalia’s claim next month in The Hague.
Somalia has taken Kenya before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking to reclaim an area of the Indian Ocean bordering Kenya’s territorial waters.
The area with potential reserves of oil and gas stretches more than 100,000 square kilometres.
Somalia, which lies to the north of Kenya, wants the maritime border to run along the line of the land border, to the southeast.
Credit: Business Daily