UN court has no jurisdiction in Somalia border dispute, says Kenya

Monday September 19 2016

Attorney- General (AG) Githu Muigai. PHOTO | FILE

Kenya's Attorney General (AG) Githu Muigai. PHOTO | FILE 

By Fred Oluoch

Kenya maintains that the International Court of Justice has no jurisdiction to hear the case on the maritime border dispute with its neighbour Somalia.

Presenting the country’s position on Monday at the ICJ sitting at The Hague, Kenya’s Attorney-General Prof Githu Muigai, argued that there was still room for bilateral negotiations because Nairobi and Mogadishu had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in 2009 in which they agreed to resolve the issue though diplomatic means.

In the hearing on Monday, Prof Muigai accused Somalia of rushing to the UN court despite the existence of the signed agreement, adding that Mogadishu's claims that Kenya had sought to steal crucial oil and gas reserves was "absurd and hurtful" in a case which began in 2014.

"Somalia would have the court believe that during all these years, Kenya has been scheming to take advantage of its neighbour to steal its sea and oil," he said.

Mogadishu's claims before the ICJ "are unfair and disrespectful of a government and people who sacrificed so much in support of Somalia," he added.

Somalia went to the international court in 2014 accusing Kenya of encroaching on nearly 100,000 square kilometres of marine territory with potential oil and gas deposits in the Indian Ocean.

Somalia, which lies north of Kenya, wants the border to run along the southeast direction, the same angle as the land border. It further says that the 2009 MoU was largely drafted by Kenyan officials in the neighbour’s favour at a time Somalia did not have an effective government.

Kenya, however, insists that the border line should run horizontally eastwards into the ocean which has been the practice among countries bordering the ocean since 1924.

The 2009 agreement had stated that the border would run east along the line of latitude although further negotiations were to be held at the United Nations level to establish the two countries marine territories.

This agreement also stated that maritime boundary adjustments would only occur after the commission had established the outer limits of the continental shelf and that both sides would avoid courts as much as possible over the matter.

However, after out-of-court talks between the two countries failed, the Somali government filed a case at the ICJ in February.

The hearing, which started on September 19, will run through Friday with Mogadishu also getting a chance to state its case.

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-Additional reporting by AFP