The International Court of Justice (ICJ) granted Somalia sovereignty over a large part of a maritime area in the Indian Ocean, very rich in fish and potentially in hydrocarbons, which was also claimed by Kenya.
The Hague (AFP)
The ICJ, the highest judicial body of the UN, decided that “there was no agreed maritime border” and drew up a new border line, satisfactory to Somalia’s interests.
Kenya retains a part of the maritime zone disputed by both countries, with an area of 100,000 km2.
With this decision, the process initiated in 2014 by Mogadishu and which had altered the already convulsive relations between these two neighboring countries of East Africa is put to an end.
Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as ‘Farmajo’, asked Kenya on Tuesday night, October 12, to “respect international law” and renounce “its ambitions”, during a television speech.
‘Farmajo’, who presented this maritime dispute as “the epicenter” of the tensions, defended that the ICJ’s decision represents “an opportunity to strengthen relations between the two countries and collaboration between neighboring peoples.”
The Kenyan authorities did not react.
Kenya, prior to this ruling, had accused the ICJ of bias and had said that it did not recognize the powers of the court, created in 1946 to resolve disputes between member states.
The decisions of the ICJ must be respected by the UN countries and cannot be appealed, but its magistrates do not have the necessary coercive means to demand compliance.
A border conflict crossed by the wealth of natural resources
Nairobi and Mogadishu have disagreed for years on the layout of their maritime border.
Both claim control of an extensive maritime zone, where there may be oil and gas reserves.
Located to the east of Kenya, Somalia defends that its maritime border should be established as an extension of its land border, in a direction towards the southeast.
Instead, Kenya believes that the maritime border should be drawn in a straight line to the east, which would give it a much more extensive maritime territory.
The ICJ decided on a border delimitation very similar to that requested by Mogadishu.
The court “considers that the line established as the maritime boundary (…) allows an equitable solution to be reached,” said Joan Donoghue, president and judge of the ICJ.
In 2009, Kenya and Somalia agreed to resolve their discrepancies through bilateral negotiation, but this was unsuccessful.
So, Somalia decided to take the case in 2014 before the highest judicial body of the UN.