Lamu Fishermen Protest Over Maritime Dispute with Somalia

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For the longest time, the coastal waters of Lamu have been the primary source of livelihood for the inhabitants living in the region. However, lately, not all has been well. The Somali government has been claiming ownership of part of the waters. The news, of course, took the residents by surprise, and thus they did not hesitate to voice out their opinions.

Coastal Fishermen Strike

Recently, fishers, based on Kenya’s northern coast, took to the sea, with their dhows to protest over Kenya and Somalia’s surging tensions over the maritime border dispute. The demonstrators were carrying banners that read “Save Lamu Waters.”

The maritime debate has been on since 2014. Back then, the Somali government called on the United Nations International Court of justice to intervene. However, the Kenyan court representatives failed to take part in the hearings making the negotiations unsuccessful.

“It is not too late for both countries, Somali and Kenya, to explore other obvious channels including the IGAD, the African Union, or even our Elders, who have settled such differences for centuries,” says Is’Haq Abubakar, of the Save Lamu movement.

Mr. Abubakar added that a great relationship has coexisted between Somalia and Kenya, and it was not about time to ruin it. He urged the two governments to employ sustainable measures to resolve the situation, considering the two boundaries were colonial lines drawn neither to the interest of Kenya or Somalia.

Threatened Livelihoods

The coastal waters are vital to the people of Lamu. Being that they are rich in fish, they are a great source of food and income. Division of the waters could have a tremendous impact on the people relying on the seas for survival.

Adam Lali Kombo, a fisherman in Lamu, expresses how much they depend on the water. He states that since most Lamu people are not educated, they solely rely on the fish for their survival. As such, a decline in fish would mean a plunge in 50% of their livelihood, and since there are no industries to invest in, they would have nothing to depend on.

The waters where these fishermen get their fish from are under the Kenyan government. However, controversies arise when Somalia wants to keep a part of the territory. A similar case arose some years ago over the Migingo island, which was on the border between Kenya and Uganda. While Mogadishu wants to extend the maritime frontier with Kenya and the land borderline, Kenya wants the border to remain to head out to the sea.

Patriotic Kenyan fishers have taken to react on social media over the issue. Besides, sharing territory with Somalia would mean risking the lives of the Lamu inhabitants, more so Somalia is known for insurgent attacks. The Somalian government can also disinherit Kenyan fishers to fish in the waters by inflicting maritime piracy and terror.

As the disputed water houses many fishers across the sides of the border, a clash between Somalia and Kenya could mean trouble.

Kenya fails to Attend the Hearing.

Somalia condemned Kenyan court representatives for failing to attend the court proceedings over the issue. Meanwhile, the ICJ decided to proceed with the hearing in the absence of Kenya. The ICJ President, Mrs. Joan, stated that they would use Kenya’s written evidence during the Somali case.

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