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All Eyes at The Hague as ICJ Rules on Kenya-Somalia Maritime Border Row

All Eyes at The Hague as ICJ Rules on Kenya-Somalia Maritime Border Row

October 11, 2021
Kenya's Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs Macharia Kamau and top government officials addressing a news conference in Nairobi. Kenya has disputed the ruling that is due to be made by ICJ on the maritime border between Nairobi and Mogadishu tomorrow. Photo: MFA.

Kenya has protested the ruling on the maritime border between Nairobi and Mogadishu slated for October 12 at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) whose ruling could have a serious ramification on the logistics industry in Eastern Africa.

Last week, Kenya announced the withdrawal of its recognition of the International Court of Justice's compulsory jurisdiction, a move seen by pundits as preempting of the judgment that will be made tomorrow.

In a statement, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau said the country will not recognise ICJ's judgment on the Kenya-Somalia maritime dispute.

"The delivery of the judgment will be the culmination of a flawed judicial process that Kenya has had reservations with, and withdrawn from, on account not just of its obvious and inherent bias but also of its unsuitability to resolve the dispute at hand," Ambassador Kamau said.

Amb Macharia said as a sovereign nation, Kenya shall no longer be subjected to an international court or tribunal without its express consent.

The rulings by ICJ are binding, though the court has no enforcement powers and countries have been known to ignore its verdicts.

Kenya withdrew from the ICJ case in March citing procedural unfairness at the court, betrayal and external interference, among other reasons.

In 2014, Somalia asked the ICJ to rule on the case after out-of-court negotiations between the two countries aimed at settling the dispute broke down.

In February 2017, the court ruled it had the right to adjudicate on the case as judges rejected Kenya’s claim that a 2009 agreement between the neighbours amounted to a commitment to settle the matter out of court, stripping the ICJ of jurisdiction.

Somalia claims its maritime boundary should run in the same direction as the southeasterly path of the country’s land border, while Kenya argues the border should take a 45-degree turn at the shoreline and run in a latitudinal line.

The maritime dispute has already had an impact on diplomatic and trade ties between Kenya and Somalia.

In March last year, Somalia banned the import of khat, a multi-billion stimulant plant that Kenya normally exports to Mogadishu, arguing the prohibition was to contain the spread of coronavirus, however, khat, popularly referred to as miraa in Kenya, from Ethiopia were not stopped.

In December 2020, Somalia ordered all its diplomats in Nairobi to return home and ordered their Kenyan counterparts to leave within seven days.