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Somalia suffers major set back as court rejects its demands

NATIONAL
By Kamau Muthoni | October 13th 2021
Major F.A Ndeke from the Kenya Defence Forces takes Inspector General Joseph Boinnet (left) on a tour of the construction of the security perimeter along the Kenya-Somalia border on January 25, 2017. [Courtesy]

Somalia's expansionists dreams suffered a major blow yesterday after the International Court of Justice rejected its demand to have its territorial waters extended in a move that would have rendered Kenya landlocked.

Somalia went to the Netherlands based court in 2014, demanding that the boundary runs equidistant or a median from land border and further wanted Kenya punished for conducting activities in the disputed area.

However, the court dismissed the claim, finding that the net effect would have been to make Kenya a landlocked country, as it would not have access to the waters.

According to the 15 judges in a unanimous decision, the geographical area between Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania was such that Somalia’s boundary claim would meet Tanzania’s and disadvantage Kenya.

“The cut off effect of Kenya cannot be examined coast of Kenya and Somalia in isolation. When the mainland of Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania are observed together as a whole, the coast is in no doubt a concave. Kenya faces a cut off its maritime entitlement as the middle state located between Somalia and Tanzania,” ICJ’s president Joan Donoghue said.

Kenya’s maritime area is approximately 255,000km, which was determined through parallel latitudes in 1979.

Meanwhile, it has a mutual agreement with Tanzania on maritime, which closes as a straight line along Pemba Island.

The court agreed that if Somalia’s claim is allowed its boundary closes through the Kenyan coast and joins that of Tanzania, locking out Kenya in a triangle.

 “The provisional equidistant line between Somalia and Kenya progressively narrows the coastal projection of Kenya, substantially reducing its maritime entitlements within 200 nautical miles. This cut-off effect occurs as a result of the configuration of the coastline extending from Somalia to Tanzania, independent of the boundary line agreed between Kenya and Tanzania, which in fact mitigates that effect in the south, in the exclusive economic zone and on the continental shelf up to 200 nautical miles” Donoghue added.

In the case Somalia saw no reason for adjusting the provisional equidistance line. It maintained that there are no unusual or anomalous geographical circumstances since the coasts of the parties are comparatively straight and unremarkable.

In a court process that Kenya boycotted, Somalia contended that the effect of that boundary agreement can only deprive her neighbour of some of its entitlements beyond 200 nautical miles.

Somalia concluded that the provisional equidistance line should remain intact since no adjustment is required or justified

Somalia complained that Kenya was surveying and drilling in the Lamu Basin, referring in particular to the offshore oil concession blocks L-5, L-13, L-21, L-22, L-23, L-24 and L-26.

 “The Court notes that these concession blocks are located entirely or partially north of the equidistance line claimed by Somalia as the maritime boundary.

There is no evidence that Kenya’s claims over the area concerned were not made in good faith. Under the circumstances, the Court concludes that it has not been established that Kenya’s maritime activities, including those that may have been conducted in parts of the disputed area that have now been attributed to Somalia, were in violation of Somalia’s sovereignty or its sovereign rights and jurisdiction,” the court ruled.

On the other hand, the judgment by the court slightly adjusted Kenya’s claim to the contested area. The judges rejected Kenya’s argument that it had agreed with Somalia to set its boundaries along the parallel of latitude.

“Court finds that there is no compelling evidence that Somalia has acquiesced to the maritime boundary claimed by Kenya and that, consequently, there is no agreed maritime boundary between the Parties at the parallel of latitude. Kenya’s claim in this respect must therefore be rejected,” it continued.

 It then shifted the boundary to the north, and which now proceed on same geodetic line as the adjusted line within 200 nautical miles until it reaches the outer limits of the continental shelves.

Kenya has maintained that it will not recognise either the decision or the court, which it accused of being biased.

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