In the longstanding border conflict between Somalia and Kenya, the International Court of Justice redefined the sea border. Kenya only gets a small part of the disputed area – and immediately rejected the judgment.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has awarded Somalia control of most of a potentially oil and gas-rich sea area off the East African coast after years of dispute with Kenya. The judges in The Hague unanimously ruled on Tuesday that “no agreed maritime border” was in force and awarded Somalia a large part of the Indian Ocean area. Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta sharply criticized the verdict.
According to the judgment, Kenya only gets a small part of the disputed area. Kenyatta said his government “completely rejects” the decision and does not recognize it. The ruling will put a strain on relations between the two countries.
“It will also undo the social, political and economic gains and possibly worsen the peace and security situation in the fragile region of the Horn of Africa,” said Kenyatta. Instead, Nairobi would support a negotiated solution.
Somalia brought Kenya to the court in 2014 after years of unsuccessful efforts to resolve the dispute over the 100,000 square kilometer area. The judgment of the ICJ is final and cannot be appealed. However, the Hague institution has no way of enforcing its judgments. However, states can turn to the UN Security Council if another country does not obey a judgment.
Nairobi had previously described the court as “biased” and not recognized its authority. After the decision, Mogadishu called on the Kenyan government to “respect the international rule of law”.
At the center of the dispute between Somalia and Kenya was the course of the common maritime border, which begins at the point where their land borders meet on the coast. Somalia insisted that the border follow the course of its land border and thus run in a 200 nautical mile line to the southeast. Kenya, on the other hand, stated that its border ran in a straight line to the east – a demarcation that would have given it a large triangular piece of the sea area.
In the disputed area, rich gas and oil reserves are suspected. There are also significant fish stocks. Nairobi has already given Italian energy giant ENI exploration permits in the area, which Somalia is contesting.
The ruling could further worsen diplomatic relations between the two countries. Kenya had already dismissed its ambassador in 2019 and accused Somalia of selling oil and gas units in the disputed area.