Kenya rebukes Somalia for taking maritime border row to The Hague

Kenya prefers to have an African solution in its maritime border dispute with Somalia.

According to documents in our possession, Kenyan authorities argue that Somalia ought to have engaged the East Africa Community first, then move to the African Union if the dispute escalated, instead of filing the case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands.

Kenya’s position is that Somalia did not exhaust all dispute resolution mechanisms before going to The Hague based court which Kenya accuses of bias and links to the war-scarred country. 

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“Is the ICJ the ideal place to resolve the maritime dispute between Somalia and Kenya? Was it procedurally right for Somalia to go to the ICJ while at the same time presenting for auction subjects of the maritime dispute?" states Kenya's argument. 

"Why did Somalia not seek recourse at the African Union under the African Union Convention on Cross Border Cooperation? Was the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) not an option for Somalia to present its case? What of the East African Community?” the documents read in part.

In the document, Kenya accuses Somalia of ignoring African dispute resolution methods.

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“Somalia played the race card by opting for a Eurocentric legal system as opposed mediation and conciliation as practiced within the African traditional methods of dispute resolution. What then would be the consequences of the ICJ favoring Somalia against Kenya in the maritime dispute?” states the writers. 

According to the documents, Kenya refers to its relationship with Somalia as that of Siamese twins sharing a common destiny.

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"The issue is that the two countries not only share a common heritage but Kenya has continued to play the role of protector and defender of the interests of the peoples of Somalia since time immemorial," the documents read.

President Uhuru Kenyatta early this month met Somali's President Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo to try and resolve the dispute. This closed-door session was mediated by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

“The pair discussed extensively the matter. As an outcome, both agreed to work towards peace  and to take measures in addressing particular issues that escalated the tensions," said Ahmed on his Twitter account.

While criticising Somalia for jumping the gun to file a case in ‘a Eurocentric court,’ Kenya argues that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which governs maritime dispute settlement mechanism, demands that countries should first consider general, then regional or bilateral agreements with each other.

It also argues that UNCLOS allows countries to try to resolve disputes through other means before submitting these to either the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), the ICJ or to any other arbitration tribunal. 

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It vows not to honour the decision of the court as other UN member countries have brushed off its decisions in the past.

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Somaliamaritime border disputeThe HagueInternational Court of Justice