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Nairobi and Mogadishu have been fighting for years for a maritime area of the Indian Ocean of 100,000 km2 rich in fish and hydrocarbons. The International Court of Justice on Tuesday drew a new border close to that claimed by Somalia. Kenya rejected this decision.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) put an end to a procedure which has lasted for seven years by granting, Tuesday, October 12, to Somalia the major part of a maritime area of 100,000 km2 of the Indian Ocean, rich in fish and potential hydrocarbons, also claimed by Kenya.
The highest court of the United Nations (UN), which sits in The Hague, ruled that there was “no agreed maritime border” and drew a new border close to that claimed by Somalia .
The ICJ has rejected the course of the border claimed by Kenya from the coast, saying it would have had “a serious severing effect” for Somalia. Kenya, however, retains part of the disputed water triangle between the two countries.
“The Court therefore considers that the adjusted line it has established as a maritime boundary (…) leads to a fair solution,” said Presiding Judge Joan Donoghue.
Finally, the ICJ rejected all Somalia’s claims for damages for surveying and drilling work from oil and gas companies that Kenya had authorized.
Kenya does not recognize jurisdiction
Once the judgment was rendered, the President of Somalia immediately asked Kenya to “respect international law” and to abandon “its ambition”. Describing this maritime dispute as an “epicenter” of tensions, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, called in a televised speech that the decision of the ICJ be “an opportunity to strengthen the relationship of the two countries and the collaboration between their peoples. neighbors”.
But, unsurprisingly, the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, directly rejected the decision, saying he “does not recognize the findings” of the ICJ. In a statement, he called the ICJ’s decision a “zero-sum game, which will undermine relations between the two countries” and “potentially worsen the situation of peace and security in the fragile region of the Horn of the United States. ‘Africa,’ reiterating Nairobi’s call to work instead for a negotiated settlement.
Prior to the decision, Kenya had accused the court of partiality and had already indicated that it no longer recognized the jurisdiction of the Court, created in 1946 to settle disputes between member states.
The decisions of the ICJ are binding on the parties and are final, but the Court has no binding means to enforce them. A member state that finds that the other party does not comply with a judgment of the Court may, however, seek sanctions from the UN Security Council.
A different that goes on forever
Nairobi and Mogadishu have clashed over the course of their maritime border for years, both claiming sovereignty over a vast maritime area that may harbor oil and gas fields.
Somalia, located to the east of Kenya, claimed that its maritime border with that country should be delimited in the extension of its land border, in a south-eastern direction. For its part, Kenya wanted the border at sea to be drawn in a straight line to the east, thus giving it more maritime territory.
It maintains that it has sovereignty over the disputed area since 1979, when it set the limits of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Kenya notably granted three oil exploration permits in the area concerned to the Italian company ENI, contested by Somalia.
In 2009, the two countries agreed to settle their dispute through bilateral negotiations. But these have not been successful. Somalia therefore seized the ICJ in 2014 which, despite Kenya’s disputes, declared itself competent in February 2017. Tensions between the two neighbors reached a peak in February 2019 when Nairobi recalled its ambassador to Mogadishu, accusing the Somalia for auctioning oil and gas fields in the disputed area.