Kenya seeks UN help to secure oil, gas riches beneath its 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.