Attention shifts to ICJ as Kenya stands ground on border dispute


Former Attorney-General Githu Muigai. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Attention shifts to the international court after Kenya last week set its “bare minimum” on the raging border dispute with Somalia over a coastal strip believed to harbour oil, natural gas and mineral reserves.

Somalia lodged the case over the 100,000 square kilometre stretch of sea floor before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in August 2014.

The Presidency said in a statement last week after a Cabinet meeting: “President Uhuru Kenyatta today chaired a Cabinet meeting at State House, Nairobi, which discussed and agreed on a roadmap for resolving the maritime border dispute with Somalia and measures for safeguarding Kenya’s territorial integrity.”

Foreign Affairs secretary who was instructed by the Cabinet to explain the roadmap to journalists only said Kenya would not cede an inch of its maritime boundary.

Tensions escalated between both countries last week after Kenya accused Somalia of auctioning exploration rights in the disputed maritime territory in the Indian Ocean, with Nairobi even recalling its ambassador to Mogadishu.

In the case before the Hague-based court, Somalia has asked the ICJ “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.”

In 2016, Kenya sought the United Nations’ authority and expertise to map out Kenya’s territorial waters to enable it exploit huge oil, natural gas and mineral reserves believed to be underneath the Indian Ocean sea bed.

Former Attorney-General Githu Muigai told the New York-based United Nations Commission at the time on the Limits of Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) — the body mandated to determine countries’ maritime boundaries — to fasttrack the demarcation of the sea borders to pave the way for Kenya’s search for riches in her territorial waters.

“We want the commission to map out Kenya’s outer limit of its continental shelf (the line between Kenyan waters and international waters) to enable Kenya to start exploration for oil gas and rare minerals within its sea,” Prof Muigai said then.