UN court largely sides with Somalia in sea border dispute with Kenya

Although Somalia does not get what it wanted, court’s decision awards it most of disputed territory

Andrew Wasike and Magdalene Mukami   | 12.10.2021
UN court largely sides with Somalia in sea border dispute with Kenya


Somalia will now own a chunk of what used to be Kenya’s territory in the Indian Ocean following a judgment on Tuesday by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

In an illustration issued by the ICJ, despite Somalia not getting what it wanted, the court’s decision awarded it most of the disputed territory.

Joan Donoghue, the ICJ president who was leading the 15-member bench of judges, read out the ruling, asking both Kenya and Somalia to respect the judgment which is final, without appeal, and binding on the parties.

The court unanimously found that that there is no agreed maritime boundary between Somalia and Kenya.

The court also unanimously rejected the claim made by Somalia that Kenya, by its conduct in the disputed area, had violated its international obligations.

In Mogadishu, all Cabinet members led by Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Rooble watched together the ICJ decision on the case.

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo hailed the ruling, terming it as a “historic victory” for his country.

“We hope that the Kenyan government will respect the supremacy of international law and will forgo their misguided and unlawful pursuits. Instead, we hope that Kenya will treat the Court’s decision as an opportunity to strengthen relations between the two countries and enhance cooperation between the two peoples,” he said.

Last week, Kenyan Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Macharia Kamau had said: “The delivery of the judgment will be the culmination of a flawed judicial process that Kenya has had reservations with and withdrawn from on account not only of its inherent bias but also of its unsuitability to resolve the dispute on hand.”

In August 2014, Somalia instituted proceedings against Kenya with regard to a dispute concerning the delimitation of maritime spaces claimed by both countries in the Indian Ocean.

In October 2015, Kenya raised preliminary objections to the jurisdiction of the court and the admissibility of the application.

The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the UN. It was established by the UN Charter in June 1945 and began its activities in April 1946. The court is composed of 15 judges elected for a nine-year term by the UN General Assembly and Security Council.

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