Kenya: Kenya V Somalia Maritime Dispute

Hearings began on the World Court docket of Justice on Monday for a maritime boundary dispute between neighbours Kenya and Somalia. Nonetheless, Kenya refused to participate within the oral proceedings and the courtroom will most efficient seek written evidence equipped by Nairobi.

“The courtroom regrets the decision of Kenya now not to participate within the oral proceedings,” talked about presiding ICJ Favor Joan Donoghue in The Hague.

The dispute centres on the maritime boundaries between the 2 Horn of Africa neighbours, with some 100,000 square kilometres contested, approximately the dimensions of Iceland.

Lawyers performing for the Kenyan government had blamed difficulties making ready for the case, which Somalia filed on the ICJ in 2014, and raised concerns about the employ of video-hyperlink.

The courtroom determined to attain hybrid hearings, allowing four representatives of every birthday party within the courtroom, given the Covid-19 pandemic, and refused requests to additional extend the case.

Kenyan authorities submitted a 175-page “build paper” for consideration sooner than Monday’s listening to and requested to be allowed to address the courtroom, sooner than the open of proceedings. The judges denied these requests.

Lucrative oil and gas rights

Somalia claims a maritime boundary that runs equidistant or on a median line from the corresponding land border, while Kenya asserts a parallel line of latitude extending out from the land border.

Kenya proclaimed that boundary in a 1979 decree by outmoded President Daniel Arop Moi, claiming fishing rights over pure sources from the water, seabed or subsoil.

A ruling on the disagreement might well wait on resolve the rights to employ oil and gas sources within the residence, with Kenya having licensed blocks within the disputed maritime residence, and the Somali government then following suit, licensing these same blocks.

“Oil companies cannot predict what the final final end result of the boundary will be,” talked about Constantinos Yiallourides, an authority on maritime boundaries at College of Aberdeen.

“The dispute might well additionally in reality end result in a change of jurisdiction in which case their exploration and exploitation might well now not be assured,” added Yiallourides.

Lawyers for Somalia have argued that the country became as soon as unable to previously object about the contested residence attributable to instability and the “shut to complete disintegration” of the train precipitated by years of civil war.


Both Kenya and Somalia are signatories to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and if they cannot formula to a negotiated settlement, a third birthday party comparable to the ICJ can attain a boundary delimitation, to resolve where the water border lies.

Maritime boundaries are made up of assorted substances, which is able to usually win such disputes tough, especially when oil and gas concessions are enthusiastic.

“It is a long way a extraordinarily advanced area, we’re speaking about both the territorial sea and the boundaries of continental shelf both inner 200 nautical miles and past,” talked about Kai-Chieh Chan, a researcher at Paris II Panthéon-Assas College, who has written about the case on the ICJ.

Since a negotiated settlement seems now to be very now not going, it is probably going that the ICJ will attain the delimitation exercise. There is now not one blueprint for this, but past cases have helped assign particular procedures and approaches, in step with Yiallourides.

“Courts and tribunals will strive to protect consistency with existing case law,” talked about Yiallourides, who is a fellow on law of the sea on the British Institute of World and Comparative Law.

The courtroom will put together a series of steps, including identifying the actual nature of overlapping claims, figuring out any pre-existing agreements and finishing up a delimitation.

Parallel or equidistant?

Within the Kenya-Somalia dispute, a ruling on the delimitation will within the extinguish approach down whether or now not a median or equidistant boundary or parallel line is the fairest.

“That is the million dollar anticipate,” talked about Yiallourides, explaining that a series of assorted elements will be considered by the judges.

All other issues being equal, a median line, comparable to claimed by Somalia, is the default tool veteran for delimitation below UNCLOS.

“The article each now and then says the delineation or delimitation is basically basically based mostly on a median line or the equidistant line, but this line would be modified if there are special cases, justifying such modification,” talked about Chan.

Yiallourides talked about the courtroom is “free to put together a various blueprint” if it sees fit, and in some cases an equidistant line has been situation aside. Even supposing equidistant delimitation has turn out to be the customary approach, and indeed such an approach “seems that you are going to be in a build to order and beneficial”, he added.

The delimitation will, alternatively, be adjusted for equity, taking relevant cases into story, along with to proportionality, that marine pickle is allocated in an equitable formula.

“It is a long way going to be that the median line, it’ll be drawn in a formula that is unfair to at least one birthday party, so equity is one ingredient,” talked about Chan.

Particular cases

Any utter or implicit past agreements between the 2 countries, along with to fishing practices and colonial era delimitations are all elements that will also be considered.

Furthermore, oil and gas concessions equipped by both Kenya and Somalia might well even have an affect on the ruling, in step with Yiallourides.

“Any job that would motive a permanent modification of the seabed, that is drilling of wells, establishment of installations, and appropriation of petroleum, would be contrary to the provision of UNCLOS, and attributable to this reality an internationally unlawful act,” talked about Yiallourides.

Even granting oil licenses might well potentially be viewed as a trot endangering a final settlement, violating the principle that states must exercise restraint while a dispute is resolved.

The ICJ hearings had been anticipated to proceed unless Friday with Kenya’s oral arguments, and a second round of oral arguments on 22 and 24 March. Even supposing Kenya’s lack of participation is probably going to alter that.

ICJ judgements are final and can’t be appealed, alternatively, in reality choices are tough to build in power.

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