Tuesday October 21, 2014IT is now official that Kenya and Somalia are headed for a legal fight at the International Court of Justice regarding the maritime delimitation of the Indian Ocean.
Just days after Kenya formally responded to the suit by Somalia, the Court's President, Peter Tomka, has set a date for the initial pleadings of the high stakes case.
The Star has established that war-torn Somalia has up to July 13 next year to formally submit its claims to the huge swathe of maritime territory in dispute, considered to be rich in oil deposits and fish stocks.
“By an Order of 16 October 2014, he [the President] fixed 13 July 2015 and 27 May 2016 as the respective time limits for the filing of a Memorial by the Federal Republic of Somalia and a Counter-Memorial by the Republic of Kenya,” the Court document states.
The fixing of the dates now means that Kenya may have lost an attempt to challenge ICJ jurisdiction to hear the case. “The President of the Court made the Order having regard to the views of the Parties. The subsequent procedure has been reserved for further decision,” a Court official said.
It is unclear what was contained in Kenya's response to Somalia. ICJ Associate Information Officer Joanne Moore told the Star that “documents filed by the parties are not made public until the beginning of the hearing”.
Attorney General Githu Muigai reportedly paid a visit to the Court two weeks ago, after the ICC status conference in the case against President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In the suit, Somalia wants the boundaries redrawn in a move that could see Kenya become a landlocked state and lose at least five oil-rich petroleum blocks.
Somalia also accuses Kenya of lack of commitment in negotiations to unlock the standoff, forcing them to seek a judicial determination.
“The inability of the parties to narrow the differences between them, and the failure of the Kenyan delegation to attend the final meeting, have made manifest the need for judicial resolution of this dispute,” a Somali source told the Star.
ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, with its seat at the Peace Palace in The Hague, The Netherlands.