Kenya rejected “in its entirety” the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to favor Somalia in a multi-year dispute over the maritime border of the two countries, adding that it was “deeply concerned” by the decision. and its implications for the region.
The Hague-based United Nations highest court on Tuesday drew a new border close to that claimed by Somalia although Kenya retained part of the 100,000 square kilometer (39,000 square mile) area.
“The decision was clearly wrong,” reads one declaration by the Kenyan presidency released Wednesday, adding that the verdict “embodies a perpetuation of the excessive jurisdictional reach of the ICJ and raises a fundamental question about respect for sovereignty and the consent of states to international judicial processes.”
The news was celebrated in Somalia where Osman Dubbe, Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, congratulated the Somali people for having “succeeded in seizing our seas”.
“This success did not come easily but through struggle and sacrifice,” he added on Twitter.
The international court panel of 14 judges rejected Somalia’s argument that Kenya had violated its sovereignty by operating in its territorial waters. He had also requested compensation from Kenya in this regard.
The Hague also said there was no evidence to support Kenya’s claim that Somalia had previously accepted its claimed border.
The court’s decisions are binding, although the court has no enforcement powers and countries ignore its verdicts.
What was the dispute about?
The dispute between Somalia and Kenya stems from a disagreement over the direction in which their border extends into the Indian Ocean.
While Somalia says the border should follow the same direction as the southeast track of its land border, Kenya maintains that the border should turn about 45 degrees at the edge of the shore and follow a latitudinal line.
Such a move will give Kenya access to more of the maritime area.
Besides fishing, the disputed area is said to be rich in oil and gas, with the two countries accusing each other of auctioning blocks ahead of the court ruling.
Malcolm Webb of Al Jazeera, in a report from the Kenyan capital Nairobi, said that “the court has already said that Kenya has no legal basis to overturn this judgment because it has adhered to the authority of this court in the 1960s and cannot retroactively revisit that ”. .
“The question now is whether Kenya will accept this decision. If not, it puts Somalia in a stronger position to seek UN support to seek diplomatic support to enforce or force Kenya to respect this decision, ”he said. declared.
What has happened so far?
In 2014, Somalia asked the ICJ to rule on the case after the failure of out-of-court negotiations between the two countries to settle the dispute.
In February 2017, the court ruled that it had the right to rule on the case, with judges dismissing Kenya’s claim that a 2009 agreement between neighbors amounted to a commitment to settle the case at the amicable, depriving the ICJ of its competence.
In June 2019, the ICJ said public hearings would take place between September 9 and 14 of that year, before pushing back the start date to November 4 after granting a request from Kenya that it had need time to recruit a new legal team.
The Kenyan side appealed the November dates, saying it needed up to a year.
The ICJ then moved the hearings to June 2020, but Kenya then requested another postponement, this time citing the pandemic.
The UN postponed the hearing to March 2021.
In January, Kenya wrote to the ICJ, asking for the hearing to be postponed for a fourth time, claiming that a card containing crucial information that was to be presented as evidence in the case had disappeared.
Somalia protested such a move and the ICJ said earlier this year that hearings would begin on March 15.
Kenya decided boycott the audience, citing the “perceived bias and reluctance” of the ICJ “to respond to requests for postponement of hearings” due to the pandemic.
The Hague continued hearing the Somalia case, while instead using written evidence provided by Nairobi.
One week before the final verdict, Nairobi announcement that he withdrew his participation in the case, as well as his recognition of the compulsory jurisdiction of the tribunal.