07 July 2012, Sweetcrude, NAIROBI – TROUBLE is brewing between Kenya and Somalia as the latter accuses the former of illegally awarding four offshore oil and gas exploration blocks belonging to it (Somalia) to multinationals.
Somalia said the blocks awarded to French company, Total and its Italian counterpart, Eni, lie in its territorial waters.
The East African coastline, hosting the two countries has recently emerged as one of the world’s hottest oil exploration prospects.
Describing the award of the four blocks as invalid, Somalia’s deputy energy minister, Abdullahi Dool, said his government planned to table the matter to the United Nations, which oversees maritime border laws.
“We are concerned about the lease of blocks,” Dool told Reuters, adding: “I am sure we will lodge complaints.”
The blocks are among seven awarded by Kenya last week, three of them to Italy’s Eni and one to France’s Total.
They lie in an area long contested by Kenya, East Africa’s biggest economy, and Somalia, wrecked by more than two decades of civil war, split between an interim government and Islamist rebels and serving as the main base for Indian Ocean pirates.
Kenya rejected the accusation that ownership of the blocks was contested and said there was no need to hold up exploration.
Kenya’s first major oil discovery in March has raised expectations of more to come.
“Saying these are not Kenyan blocks is like saying we don’t have a full-fledged government, like we are a banana republic,” petroleum commissioner Martin Heya said.