Hague court rules on Kenya-Somali maritime dispute

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021 00:00 |

The diplomatic relations between Kenya and Somalia could be strained further today as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivers the much awaited judgment on the maritime dispute between the two countries.

The announcement by ICJ last week that it was going to deliver its judgement today, triggered a chain of events with Kenya withdrawing from The Hague based court citing bias, mistrial and injustice.

The Somali government filed the case in the ICJ in 2014 and the ICJ President Justice Joan E. Donoghue will read the judgment.

Yesterday, Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi called on the government to jealously guard the country’s territorial boundaries.

In reference to the simmering maritime border dispute with Somalia, Mudavadi who spoke in Makueni County asked the government and the military to be steadfast in guarding Kenya’s boundaries.

“No single inch of the country should be given away,” he said.

His Ford-Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang’ula urged President Uhuru to not compromise on the Kenyan territory.

Through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government last week signaled that it will not be bound by the judgement, neither will it respect or obey the orders that will be issued by the court.

Sneak preview

Kenya had questioned the composition of the members of the bench handling the case and cited the case of Somalia Citizen, Judge Abdulqawi Yusuf who sits on the ICJ and has previously represented Somalia at the Third United Nations Conference on the law of the sea.

While ICJ doesn’t have the power or authority to ensure its judgments are enforced, obeyed and respected, the move by the Kenya government presents a sneak preview of the direction the dispute is likely to take in the coming days.

The maritime border dispute between the two countries has attracted international attention with countries openly taking sides in the matter. For instance, the United Kingdom and Norway are said to be rallying behind Somalia.

Somalia argues that the maritime border line should continue in the same direction as the land one but Kenya maintains that the boundary should take a 45-degree turn on the shoreline and run in a latitudinal line therefore giving it control of a larger chunk of the all-important ocean.

On the other hand, United States and France are backing Kenya in the dispute that is likely to test the relationship between the two countries and their East African neighbours.

The border dispute has been exacerbated by the fact that the pie-shaped dispute area is said to a source of massive oil and gas deposits.

Kenya has in the past accused Somalia of auctioning oil blocks in the disputed area even the case was going on terming it as an act of defiance and impunity. 

Unfavourable verdict

In 2011, Kenya deployed its troops to Somalia in a bid to contain the terror attacks that Al-Shabab were staging in Nairobi, Mombasa and other towns.

In a move to restore order and normalcy in its borders, the government has thrown its weight behind the Jubaland administration which is fighting for independence from the Mogadishu based Somali administration.

The matter is like to land at the UN Security Council where Kenya enjoys significant support by virtue of being a non-permanent member unlike the war-torn Mogadishu.

University don Prof Macharia Munene opines that Kenya loses so much by being part of the court process, adding that ICJ has not been seen to be fair in the case against Kenya.

“Courts operate on the basis that they be fair. ICJ is clothed with an umbrella of favouritism,”he said.

According to Patrick Maluki and Peter Njagi both Advocates, any unfavourable verdict against Kenya may be protested and that Kenya may neither respect nor implement the Court’s decision.

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