Africa – ICJ grants Somalia the maritime area claimed by Kenya

Africa – ICJ grants Somalia the maritime area claimed by Kenya
Africa – ICJ grants Somalia the maritime area claimed by Kenya

ICJ grants Somalia maritime area claimed by Kenya

The two countries have been fighting for several years over a maritime area in the Indian Ocean, rich in fish and potentially in hydrocarbons.

Posted today at 01:03

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Tuesday granted Somalia most of a maritime area of ​​the Indian Ocean, rich in fish and potentially in hydrocarbons, also claimed by Kenya.

The Kenyan government “totally rejects and does not recognize the conclusions” of the ICJ, headquartered in The Hague (Netherlands), reacted in the evening Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. His country had recently declared that it no longer recognized the authority of this court, the highest court of the United Nations, created in 1946 to settle disputes between member states, accusing it of partiality.

In a statement, Uhuru Kenyatta called the ICJ’s decision a “zero-sum game, which will undermine relations between the two countries” and “potentially worsen the situation of peace and security in the fragile region of the Horn of Africa, ”reiterating Nairobi’s call to work instead towards a negotiated settlement.

Already tumultuous relations

The ICJ ruled that there was “no agreed maritime border” and drew a new border close to that claimed by Somalia. Kenya nevertheless retains part of the disputed water triangle, which covers more than 100,000 km2.

The Court thus put an end to the procedure introduced in 2014 by Mogadishu and which regularly aggravates the already tumultuous relations between these two neighbors of East Africa. In a televised speech immediately after the announcement of the ICJ’s decision, the President of Somalia Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, aka Farmajo, called on Kenya to “respect international law” and to abandon “its ambition”.

The decisions of the ICJ are binding on the parties and are final, but the Court has no binding means to enforce them. A member state that finds that the other party does not comply with a judgment of the Court may, however, seek sanctions from the United Nations Security Council. Kenya and Somalia have clashed for years over the course of their maritime border, both claiming sovereignty over a vast maritime area that may harbor oil and gas fields.

“Fair solution”

Somalia, located to the east of Kenya, claimed that its maritime border with that country should be delimited in the extension of its land border, in a south-eastern direction. For its part, Kenya wanted the border at sea to be drawn in a straight line to the east, thus giving it more maritime territory.

It maintains that it has sovereignty over the disputed area since 1979, when it set the limits of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Kenya notably granted three oil exploration permits in the area concerned to the Italian company ENI, contested by Somalia. The ICJ eventually drew a line passing closer to the border claimed by Mogadishu.

The court rejected Kenya’s claims that Somalia had consented to its claims by not contesting them for several decades prior to this proceeding. The ICJ has also rejected the course of the border claimed by Kenya from the coast, saying it would have had “a serious severing effect” for Somalia.

Magistrates, however, amended Mogadishu’s proposal, saying Kenya risked having its maritime rights sandwiched between Somalia to the north and Tanzania to the south. “The Court therefore considers that the adjusted line it established as a maritime boundary (…) leads to an equitable solution”, declared the presiding judge Joan Donoghue. Finally, the ICJ rejected all Somalia’s claims for damages for surveying and drilling work from oil and gas companies that Kenya had authorized.


In March, Kenya said it would no longer attend court hearings after the court refused to allow further delays in the case. He then announced that he no longer recognized the jurisdiction of the ICJ. At the end of September, Nairobi notified the Secretary-General of the United Nations that it was withdrawing its recognition of compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ, dating from 1965.

“Perhaps Kenya’s decision not to participate in the oral proceedings was partly due to the fact that it was a losing battle,” Professor Cecily Rose told AFP. assistant in international law at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands.

In 2009, Kenya and Somalia agreed to settle their dispute through bilateral negotiations. But these have not been successful. Somalia therefore seized the ICJ in 2014 which, despite Kenya’s disputes, declared itself competent in February 2017. Tensions between the two neighbors reached a peak in February 2019 when Nairobi recalled its ambassador to Mogadishu, accusing the Somalia for auctioning oil and gas fields in the disputed area.


Posted today at 01:03

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