Kenya explains why it withdrew from maritime case with Somalia

Kenya outlined that procedural unfairness had left doubt on whether substantive justice would be done.

In Summary

•Kenya re-stated that it should not have been dragged to the Court by Somalia merely because of the neighbor’s resurgent expansionist agenda. 

•According to Kenyan lawyers, the speed at which the matter was rushed before the Court and the players involved in this dispute, pointed to a well-orchestrated strategy of pitting the countries against each other in total disregard to the precarious security situation in the region.

Map showing disputed maritime area.
Map showing disputed maritime area.
Image: FILE

Kenya has explained why it decided not to participate at the Maritime Delimitation Case with Somalia, citing procedural unfairness at the International Court of Justice.

In a statement on Friday, it said the decision was made after extensive consultation on how best to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Kenya.

Kenya had asked for the case to be delayed while it briefed a new legal team, and also cited the coronavirus pandemic, but the ICJ ruled the case should be heard virtually.

In a letter to the Registrar at the ICJ, Philippe Gautier Kenya outlined that while it had no doubt about the merits of its case, procedural unfairness had left doubt on whether substantive justice would be done.

Kenya restated that it should not have been dragged to the Court by Somalia merely because of the neighbour’s resurgent expansionist agenda.

The dispute concerns a 160,000 sq km triangle in the Indian Ocean.

The area is thought to be rich in oil and gas.

Kenya also noted that the composition of the membership of the bench conducting the case reinforced concerns of bias, citing the case of Somali Citizen, Judge Abdulqawi Yusuf, who sits on the ICJ and who has previously represented Somalia at the Third United Nations Conference on the law of the sea.

Kenya has also informed the Court that influential third party commercial interests are fueling the case, that threatens to destabilize the peace and security of an already fragile region.

According to Kenyan foreign affairs communique, the speed at which the matter was rushed before the Court and the players involved in this dispute, pointed to a well-orchestrated strategy of pitting the countries against each other in total disregard to the precarious security situation in the region.

"Influential third parties are intent on using instability in Somalia to advance predatory commercial interests with little regard to peace and security in the region," Kenya foreign affairs communique read in part.

Kenya also objects to the presence on the ICJ panel of a Somali judge, saying he should recuse himself.

Meanwhile, Kenya remains confident in its position that there is an existing maritime boundary that was established in 1979.

"The boundary as established has been respected by both Countries until 2014 when Somalia attempted to repudiate the agreement by dragging Kenya to the International Court of Justice seeking to appropriate Kenya’s maritime space," Kenya foreign affairs said.