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Economy

Kenya mulls UN protest in border spat with Somalia

MPs
MPs during a session at Parliament Buildings on June 13. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Parliament has directed the Cabinet to send a protest letter to the UN after its judges at the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) agreed to settle a maritime border dispute between Kenya and Somalia.

In a resolution tabled on Wednesday, National Assembly Leader of Majority Aden Duale argued that Somalia moved to ICJ without exhausting alternative dispute resolution mechanisms under international laws of the sea.

Kenya reckons that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which both countries are signatories, binds the two nations to settle their boundary disputes outside the court.

In the notice, both Mr Duale and his minority counterpart John Mbadi want the boundary dispute to be settled through diplomacy and dispute resolution mechanisms available under African Union, Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and East African Community (EAC).

Mr Duale and Mbadi want the IGAD and EAC to be the first point of call on such disputes and not the ICJ where Somalia has taken the matter.

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“The House resolves that the Government of the Republic of Kenya express to the United Nations of Kenya’s protest against the assertion of jurisdiction by the ICJ over the maritime boundary conflict between Somalia and Kenya,” said Mr Duale.

The ICJ has maintained it has authority to adjudicate in the maritime border involving stretches of the Indian Ocean that are potentially rich in oil and gas deposits.

If Mogadishu wins the case, Kenya could lose up to 100,000km2 of sea thought to contain huge amounts of oil and gas. Cases at the ICJ, which rules on disputes between states over international treaties, can last many years.

“The border dispute between the two countries may hamper current efforts in the continuing construction of a border wall between Kenya and Somalia, and the fight against piracy in Kenya’s waters and fight against Al-Shabaab in the Region,” said Mr Duale.

ICJ’s rulings are binding, though the court has no enforcement powers and countries have been known to ignore its verdicts.

Parliament has directed that as a last resort, the government considers military deployment to protect Kenya’s territory.

Kenya had challenged the admissibility of Somalia’s case at the ICJ in September 2016 on grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the application.

The ICJ dismissed the objection in February 2017 clearing the way for submissions by the two parties.

The court is set to convene on September 9.

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