The Decision on Maritime dispute: A great victory for Somalia

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Somalia and Kenya are two neighboring countries in East African region which shares land
boundary in the southwest and some overlapping coastal boundary. These countries got the status
of independent states in the early 1960s. Both the countries disagree on a maritime boundary in
the area in which it overlaps. Somalia has also the longest coastline in East Africa which extends
from west to east from the Gulf of Aden to the Horn of Africa (about 3,025 km). Kenya has a short
coastline of about 550 km land boundary terminus (LBT) in North with Somalia and in South with
Tanzania. The legislation for delimitation of maritime boundaries started during the 1970s in
Kenya and the 1980s in Somalia1. Although Kenya started exploring the petroleum sources in
1970 from coastal areas, however, the equidistance line with Somalia was properly followed until
There was a conflict of 10000 sq. km in Indian ocean which was rich in oil and gas sources3. Prior
to move to court, the diplomatic debates and negotiations between these parties were held at
numerous occasions but failed to resolve the issue. Even recent round of negotiations was held in
Nairobi during March-July 2014. Another round of negotiations was proposed by Kenya to be held
in near future to advance discussions on the issue at Mogadishu on 25th and 26th August 2014.
Although Somalian delegation was ready for negotiations in this round but this meeting could not
Bayan Research Center BRC | | A Great legal victory for Somalia | Opinion Article
be held as Kenyan delegation did not arrive the place without any prior intimation. The Somalia
has also made many submissions to united nations to get assistance to resolve the issue. All these
circumstances manifested to move to international court to find ruling in this regard.
The Somalia was interested that southern boundary of Indian ocean should head out to South-East
according to land border extension. Meanwhile, Kenya was interested that Somalian border should
take roughly 45° turn at shoreline and run in a latitudinal line. The Somalia thought that that
Kenya’s claim is inconsistent with international law. The case was instituted by Somalia against
Kenya in international court of justice in 28th August 2014. In brief, there were two objectives of
Somalia to seek judgement on delimitation of maritime boundary based on international law and
to seek recognition that Kenya has violated the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Somalia.
The Judicial bench was comprised of fourteen (14) members. It takes the courts about 07 years to
dragging the process. The Kenya filed preliminary objections to the Court’s jurisdiction and the
admissibility of the application on October 7th, 2015. However, the decision was rendered on these
objections on 02nd February, 2017. The Kenya requested many postponements and public hearing
initially scheduled on 9-13th September, 2019 were delayed to November 2019, June 2020 and
March 2021. The Kenya also take a plea to that they have recruited new legal team and
unfortunately the meetings were not arranged with team because of restrictions imposed by CovidBayan
Research Center BRC | | A Great legal victory for Somalia | Opinion Article
19. Because of these reasons, the hearing must be delayed. The subsequent hearing was held on
15th and 18th March 2021 in hybrid format, however, the Kenya did not participate4. The Kenya
also claimed that there was already set boundary, established in 1979 and this disputed territory
was accepted as a part of Kenya. The Kenya also claim that there was not dispute until 2014. The
court discarded the Kenya claim about the previously agreed the maritime boundary. The case was
decided on 12th October 2021 after 07 years of judicial process. The court also determined that
Somalia should have control on majority of triangle in Indian Ocean which have been previously
under the control of Kenya since 1979. The court ruling grants the rights to Somalia to use natural
resources from the disputed territory and it was historic victory as described by Somalian president
Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. He further says, that Kenya should respect the ruling of
international court and take it as opportunity to strengthen the bilateral relationship. Thanks to
legal team, those people have successfully responded to queries and defended the point of view of
Somalian government. The court ruling will be very helpful for the socio-economic development of
Somalia because it mainly depends upon natural resources.
However, Kenyatta, the Kenyan president, said the ruling is a zero-sum game and will ultimately
worsen the regional peace and security situation. There were several protests in Nairobi when the
court refused to postpone the hearing. Kenya also announced in March 2020 that it would not
participate in the court proceedings. Last week, Kenya described the judicial process as flawed
and would not recognize the results.
Bayan Research Center BRC | | A Great legal victory for Somalia | Opinion Article

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