ICJ Delivers Kenya Upsetting Ruling in Maritime Border Dispute with Somalia



The International Court of Justice, also known as The Hague, has ruled largely in favour of Somalia in its maritime border row with Kenya, over a resource-rich portion of the Indian Ocean.

The court ruled against Kenya and Nairobi rejected the decision claiming bias in a row that has seen both countries be at loggerheads since 2009. 

The maritime space being contested is a triangular area of the Indian Ocean that’s thought to be rich in oil and gas and one that has seen both countries taking investors there.

Kenya has for decades said the Somali government is wrong in its declaration of the ownership of the space, citing that a line east of the point both countries meet at the coast is where the border ends. Somalia in its claim said the maritime border should travel same route as the land border for the ease of determination of sovereignty. 

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A panel of 14 judges sitting in The Hague listened to both nations’ claims and dismissed Kenya’s assertion that Somalia had accepted its definition of the border and claimed that there’s no proof that Somalia accepted the MoU they allegedly signed. The judges rather divided the disputed border with a line, to the chagrin of Kenya.

Kenya’s refusal to accept the ICJ’s ruling also throws a spanner in the works of Somalia as Nairobi is not legally bound to follow the ruling and the ICJ cannot enforce its ruling too.

The ICJ also dismissed Somalia’s claims that Kenya had operated on its territorial waters as it sought damages and reparations. 

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Should Kenya insist on not accepting the decision at The Hague, both nations may have to take their issue to the United Nations Security Council. 

Kenya which had sought a delay in the ruling said the judgement process is flawed as it sighted a Somali on the 14-judge panel of the ICJ. 

As it stands, none of both nations have total sovereignty over the disputed marine border, with the ICJ’s ruling not totally clearing the coasts for either nations but withholding Kenya’s desire to start explorations inside ‘troubled’ waters.

The area has an abundance of oil and gas, and Kenya recently invited Italian energy company, Eni to explore while Somalia also sold oil blocks in the area. 

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