Nairobi pulls out of oral hearings in Kenya-Somalia maritime case

Thursday March 18 2021
Kenya-Somalia maritime dispute.

The area in the Kenya-Somalia maritime border dispute forms a triangle east of the Kenya coast. GRAPHIC | TEA


Somalia will be allowed to conclude its final submissions to the International Court of Justice after Kenya reiterated pulling out of oral hearings.

On Wednesday, Kenya’s Attorney General Kihara Kariuki wrote to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), confirming Nairobi’s earlier decision not to take part in oral submissions, protesting the scheduling.

Somalia sued Kenya at the ICJ based at The Hague, seeking to redraw their maritime boundary in the Indian ocean from the current easterly parallel line of latitude to a diagonal border based on the line of equidistance.

The decision now means Somalia will use the slot initially granted to Kenya to respond to Mogadishu’s submissions made on Monday and Tuesday

“In light of the fact that, by a letter dated 17 March 2021, the Republic of Kenya confirmed its decision not to participate in the oral proceedings, Somalia will present its final submissions on Thursday 18 March 2021 at 3pm (5pm EAT),” the Registrar announced on Wednesday.

In their submissions on Monday and Tuesday, Somalia dragged in Tanzania, telling the court that Nairobi’s 2009 maritime agreement with Tanzania, which follows a parallel line of latitude had influenced Nairobi to violate Somalia territory, by making the same call on the flow of the border.


Paul Reichler, appearing for Somalia, said Nairobi had deliberately lost its own sea territory when it signed a deal with Tanzania. Kenya had argued that changing the flow of the boundary as Somalia has demanded would see Nairobi lose crucial fishing areas in the sea. Mogadishu, however, said Kenya would be demanding “charity” if the border remains as it is.

The lawyers also argued that Kenya had violated Somalia’s rights after it authorised oil firms to explore the fossil fuels in the disputed area. Somalia says it is seeking “remedies” for any future boundary dispute, but said they will not necessarily demand compensation from previous violations.

The case which Somalia filed in August 2014 affects a sea area of about 100,000km2 thought to have lucrative fishing grounds and oil. Previously, Kenya has accused Somalia of auctioning blocks in the disputed area. Mogadishu too claims Kenya had given contracts for exploration to foreign firms.

Judges will start writing their judgments after today’s session. They do not usually have deadlines under which the judgments are delivered. Usually, each of the judges will write their independent verdicts which are then polled for majority or unanimous decision.