Third Eye

Kenya stance on ICJ maritime dispute verdict right

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021 00:00 |
International Court of Justice.

Joseph Mutua Ndonga       

The government has indicated that it will not accept the judgement that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will deliver today on the Indian Ocean boundary dispute with Somalia. 

The argument is that the maps and demarcation records deposited at the United Nation Commission on Law of Sea are clear on the border and that there are further records signed by both parties committing themselves to the dispute resolution through negotiation.

Kenya argues that unless the talks are fully exhausted, the court has no jurisdiction on the matter.

World bodies played a leading role in the demarcation, including resolving the disputes that arose. Somalia did not raise concerns then. 

Perhaps, that’s why State officials, led by the President and Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary have categorically insisted Kenya will not surrender even an inch of its territory in that dispute. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who spoke in Lamu recently during the commissioning of the Kenya Defence Forces camp, said: “ We do respect our brothers and sisters in the neighbouring countries.

However, we cannot compromise on matters touching on territorial integrity. We shall use all means to safeguard and protect our boundaries.”

Kenya believes some powerful nations were behind Somalia’s move to sue at the ICJ.

This is because they were mainly laying claims to the number of the oil blocks located on the disputed area.

Somalia had at some point auctioned the blocks to an International Stock Market but the decision was quickly rescinded after Kenya bitterly protested. 

When Somalia filed the maritime dispute case, Kenya raised two main objections.

One, the ICJ lacked jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter because the channels of negotiations had not been exhausted.

Kenya wanted the matter to be referred to UN Commission on Law of Sea. Two, when the court took up the case, Kenya demanded a senior judge from Somalia in the bench to withdraw, citing conflict of interest. 

ICJ rejected the prayers. 

It will not the first time Somalia is laying claim to Kenya territory. The Shifta war of 1967-1969 erupted after they claimed North-Eastern region was theirs.

Then President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta deployed the military on the border and, after many fatalities, the Somalia retreated. 

In his submission to the ICJ, former Attorney General Githu Muigai said Kenya and Somalia signed an agreement in 2009 that outlined a clear roadmap to resolve the dispute through negotiations.

To give it legal effect, the agreement was submitted to the UN and adopted by the commission handling of such disputes. 

Again, ICJ rejected the prayer. 

Well, if the government makes good it threat and rejects the judgement, it will not be the first country to reject ICJ verdict.

In 1985, the US questioned the jurisdiction of the court over a dispute with Nicaragua. The US subsequently withdrew from the case, arguing the matter was political.

In 1976, Greece sued Turkey over continental self-dispute. Turkey refused to attend sessions, arguing it did not recognise ICJ jurisdiction.    

It disheartens to note that such a move by Somalia comes after the many sacrifices Kenya has made to safeguard the diverse interests of Somali citizens.

One such is the 2011 deployment of KDF to pursue al Shabaab militants who were not only targeting Kenyans but also plotting to overthrow the Somali government. 

The intervention was mainly intended to help Somalia establish a strong government, rebuild and reconstruct their country.   — The writer is a political analyst and blogger based in Nairobi   

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