Kenya still pushing for out-of-court deal with Somalia in maritime row

Sunday September 15 2019

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs CS Monica Juma in February

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs CS Monica Juma in February, demanding that Somalia withdraw illegal maps of a disputed maritime zone after the Cabinet okayed a roadmap to resolve the row. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

AGGREY MUTAMBO
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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Despite the court case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Kenya says it prefers an out-of-court settlement.

Kenya wants to still take up the African Union’s suggestion for direct talks with Somalia, to prevent the maritime dispute from snowballing into a bigger conflict.

In Nairobi, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma said an out-of-court settlement is preferable to Kenya due to its likelihood of generating a durable solution for both parties.

Last week, the ICJ, which was due to hear the maritime dispute case between Kenya and Somalia, agreed to postpone public hearings until November 4.

But the African Union Peace and Security Council also asked the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat to appoint a special envoy to help Mogadishu and Nairobi hold talks.

“An out-of-court settlement is predicated on willingness by parties to engage. It is important to also encourage the other party so that they can be amenable.

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“Our preference is on this type of settlement, which is also, by the way, the preferred framework by UN, by AU and by IGAD because it has the greatest guarantee for ensuring a peaceful conclusion of the matter,” Ms Juma told reporters in Nairobi.

The area in dispute is some 100,000 square kilometres of water said to contain hydrocarbons and fish resources.

While Nairobi is opposed to Somalia’s bid to change the course of the boundary, it says the resources in the area are not the primary reason for Kenya’s contest.

“That is not even the point. The point is larger than that. The first attribute that defines you as a country is your territorial integrity. The issue about what is there or what is not is a secondary matter. This is about who we are and an infringement on our territorial integrity is the first infringement on the attribute of what defines the Republic of Kenya.

“This matter is larger than simply the fishes and hydrocarbons.”

The ICJ, based at The Hague in The Netherlands, says public hearings should begin on November 4, 2019 and end on November 8, 2019. Last week, the Court agreed to reschedule the sessions – the last part of the programme in the case before a verdict is made – after Kenya asked for time to recruit a new legal defence team.

Initially, ICJ had scheduled the hearings for September 9, 2019 to September 14, 2019.

Kenya’s legal team had been composed of American Prof Payam Akhavan, Prof Vaughan Lowe QC from the UK, Prof Alan Boyle (British), Prof Mathias Forteau (French), Mr Karim Khan (British) and Ms Amy Sanders (British).

Kenya has under 50 days to recruit a new team that will take on Somalia during the public hearings.

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