Kenya has, in an unprecedented move, pull out of the maritime border case with neighboring country Somalia that was scheduled to kick off tomorrow at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, Kahawa Tungu has learnt.
Reports indicate that Kenya won’t participate in oral submissions that would have allowed the two countries to present evidence in the border row that has led to strained diplomatic relations.
The court had on March 9 announced, in a press statement, that the hearings would be conducted from Monday, March 15 to Wednesday, March 24.
Due to the Covid-19 threat, the court said the hearing would be held in hybrid format between 3pm and 6pm East African time.
“Some members of the Court will attend the oral proceedings in person in the Great Hall of Justice while others will participate remotely by video link. Representatives of the Parties to the case will participate either in person or by video link,” the statement read.
However, Kenya’s last-minute withdrawal came as a shock to many who have been following on the matter and expected the case to kick off after months of postponement following requests from authorities in Nairobi.
In February this year, ICJ declined Kenya’s request to postpone the case for the fourth time, this is seen as one of the reasons why Kenya has pulled out of the case.
Kenya had in January petitioned the Court to postpone the public hearings as it protested a missing map crucial to its case.
Kenya also objected to proceedings via video link, arguing that the Covid-19 pandemic has frustrated its preparations for the case and insisting only in-person hearings would guarantee a level playing field.
“Kenya will be unable to defend itself fairly, fully and transparently if the scheduled hearing proceeded by video link,” Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki said in a letter to ICJ dated January 28.
On the other hand, Somalia wanted the case to proceed without further delay.
But despite Kenya’s decision not to participate in the Monday session, observers opine that the court is likely to proceed with the hearing.
The two countries are, however, yet to comment on the latest development.
But a section of Kenyans online has criticized Kenya’s move.
“Someone has decided to THROW AWAY Kenya’s case in the MARITIME dispute with Somalia…how do you RUN away ala USAIN BOLT from an international adjudicatory process you participated with diligence and decorum at the 11th hour?” posed city lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi.
Someone has decided to THROW AWAY Kenya's case in the MARTIME dispute with Somalia…how do you RUN away ala USAIN BOLT from an international adjudicatory process you participated with diligence and decorum at the 11th hour?
— Ahmednasir Abdullahi SC (@ahmednasirlaw) March 14, 2021
If the Somalia Team can prepare during COVID-19, it is not very convincing to argue the case should not proceed because Kenya is dealing with COVID logistical challenges. Kenya has had the case delayed 3 times before. I think one cannot fault the Court. https://t.co/F0Uui0l3Sj
— Dr Sylvia Kangara (@SylviaKangara) March 14, 2021
Kenya and Somalia have been in a dispute over which direction the two countries’ border extends into the Indian Ocean.
According to Somalia, the maritime boundary should continue on in the same direction as the land border’s southeasterly path.
On the other hand, Kenya believes that the border should take a roughly 45-degree turn at the shoreline and run in a latitudinal line.
The case was filed at ICJ on August 28, 2014, by Somalia, arguing that diplomatic negotiations have failed to resolve this disagreement.
Somalia requested the Court “to determine, on the basis of international law, the complete course of the single maritime boundary dividing all the maritime areas appertaining to Somalia and to Kenya in the Indian Ocean, including the continental shelf beyond 200 [nautical miles]”.
Somalia further asked the Court “to determine the precise geographical co-ordinates of the single maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean”.