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Kenya rejects ICJ ruling over maritime border dispute with Somalia

Wednesday October 13, 2021

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has slammed a ruling by the UN's top court to hand Somalia control of most of a potentially oil and gas-rich chunk of the Indian Ocean following a bitter row between the two countries.

Kenyatta said on Tuesday his government "rejects in totality and does not recognise the findings in the decision" by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) based in The Hague, which gave Nairobi only a small slice of the disputed tract of the sea off the East African coast.

With Kenya refusing to recognise the "biased" court's authority, all eyes will be on what Nairobi does next in one of the world's most troubled regions.

Somalia hails ICJ ruling

In a televised speech following the ruling, Somalia's Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who is widely known as Farmajo, urged Nairobi to "see the decision of the court as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship of the two countries".

But Kenyatta said in a statement that the ruling amounted to "a zero-sum game, which will strain the relations between the two countries".

"It will also reverse the social, political and economic gains; and potentially aggravate the peace and security situation in the fragile Horn of Africa Region," he added, reiterating Nairobi's support for a negotiated settlement instead.

ICJ rules in Somalia's favour

Somalia dragged Kenya to the court in 2014 after years of efforts to resolve a dispute over the 100,000 sq km tract failed.

Judges unanimously ruled there was "no agreed maritime boundary" in force and drew a new border close to the one claimed by Somalia.

However Kenya kept a part of the 100,000 sq km area, chief judge Joan Donoghue said.

Kenya last week said it would not recognise the court's judgment, alleging that the judicial process had "obvious and inherent bias."

Dispute could go to UNSC

The ICJ's judgment is final and cannot be appealed, but the court, set up after World War II to rule in disputes between UN states, has no means of enforcing its rulings.

States can however go to the UN Security Council if another country fails to obey a ruling.

Nairobi says it has exercised sovereignty over the area since 1979.

The contested area is believed to contain rich gas and oil deposits, and also has important fishing rights.

Nairobi has already granted exploration permits to Italian energy giant ENI but Somalia is contesting the move.


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