Nation Out for a Piece of the Indian Ocean

Published on Monday 29th June 2009

Kenya has moved swiftly to make public a policy on ocean management, a condition given by the United Nations before it is granted a massive territorial extension it applied for in the Indian Ocean.

The policy consolidates different ocean management interventions contained in various documents and is developed in harmony with internationally accepted principles of ocean management.

t also conforms to ecosystem-based management and integration which aims at promoting peaceful use of the ocean.

The main thrust of the policy is the realisation of integrated ocean and coastal management in order to establish the requirements of a holistic approach for the sustainable use of ocean space and marine resources covering the country's internal waters, territorial sea, the exclusive economic zones and the continental shelf.

If implemented, the policy will put Kenya at the fore of acquiring an additional 103,000 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean following an application in May.

The United Nations has asked Kenya to publicise the policy in order for the citizens to have knowledge on how it is going to manage the large area to be added to the country.

Its main areas of concentration will include co-ordination and integration of all coastal and ocean related activities and advancing sustainable multiple use of ocean resources and maintenance of biodiversity.

The proposed integrated ocean management strategy is expected to catalyse the neglected investment in national marine capacity development "in order to attain a critical mass of trained manpower necessary to exploit maritime resources" as outlined in Vision 2030.

"This policy will invest in appropriate coastal and marine infrastructure, have in place an Ocean Development Strategy, research in marine science and technology; and establish a special Ocean Development Fund. This will enable Kenya manage conflicts between resource users. Ownership of a programme to manage ocean and coastal resources and space requires capacity," it reads in part.

The implementation of the policy will however be based on the need to put in place ocean management institutional and legal frameworks. This process will require that the policy gets Cabinet approval as well as that of Parliament.

Subsequent to the approval by the two institutions, the Attorney General will be required to draft and present the Integrated Ocean Management (IOM) Bill to Parliament for debate and enactment into a national law.

Kenya joined other African nations in May to gain additional territory beyond their stipulated 200-nautical-mile territorial waters.

It entered its submissions on May 6, just a week before the set deadline, and has been awaiting a response from the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on when it should defend its application.

The Commission has since responded after receiving Kenya's application: "The consideration of the submission made by Kenya will be included in the provisional agenda of the twenty-fourth session of the Commission to be held in New York from August 10 to September 11, 2009."

The submission aimed to delineate the outer limits of Kenya's continental shelf outside the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), so as to claim the right to explore and exploit non-living and mineral resources on the seabed and sub-soil of the extended continental shelf adjacent to the EEZ in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The anticipated benefits for Kenya, when the sovereignty is granted, will include exclusive rights to exploit the resources of this area, providing revenue for the government and employment for its citizens.

Kenya entered its submission as the fourth African nation after Seychelles, Ghana and South Africa.


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