Dialogue crucial in the Kenya-Somalia maritime dispute
SEE ALSO :The unseen war - Part 2In another attempt to find an amicable solution, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in 2009. This opened a new chapter of cooperation and better bilateral relations. The MoU notwithstanding, Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to demarcate the maritime boundary as laid down by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other international sea laws. Kenya wanted to settle the matter out of court, and as a result filed preliminary objection to challenge the jurisdiction of the court. However, ICJ dismissed Kenya’s prayers, setting the matter for full hearing. In the most recent diplomatic spat, there emerged a claim that Somalia has auctioned oil blocs located in a disputed maritime border in a London Conference held on February 7, 2019. In undiplomatically, tactlessly and provocative manner, the Kenyan government considered Somalia’s alleged move an aggression that will not go unanswered. In a diplomatic, tactful and softly worded communication, Somalia regretted the reckless statements made by Kenya. The accusation and counter accusation over the ownership of the maritime border that is before the adjudication of international court poses a threat to the peace, prosperity and cooperation that the two countries have enjoyed over the years. Maritime disputes are primarily a legal matter governed by the rules and principles of the law of the sea and other international law. Both parties are encouraged to review the dispute against the principles and rules of public international law at large. With respect to the economic development of disputed maritime areas, both parties are under international duty to negotiate in good faith, apply and exhaustively explore all avenues for alternative dispute resolution. In addition, they are under international obligation to refrain from any unilateral exploration activities in the disputed areas. As the parties wait for the ruling of the international court of justice, it is important that both countries provide a more flexible and balanced way to reach a satisfactory outcome. A new chapter of negotiation should be embraced to advance possible interim solutions and other formal cooperation. - The writer is the legal advisor to Mandera County Governor.