Kenya could forfeit three of its 20 oil blocks in the Indian Ocean to Somalia if it loses a maritime territorial dispute brought against it.
Tomorrow, Kenya begins an epic fight at the international justice city of The Hague, Netherlands, to fight claims of grabbing part of Somali’s maritime territory where oil blocks L-21, L-23 and L-24 are located.
This time round, the duel will be located at the historic Peace Palace where the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is hearing the case, is located. The building is located a few miles away from the International Criminal Court.
Somalia’s Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion minister Abdirahman Dualeh filed the dispute on August 28, 2014 on behalf of the Somali government. Lawyers Paul Reichler of Foley Hoag LLP, New York and Prof Allain Pellet, a Frenchman, are representing Somalia.
Attorney General Githu Muigai is leading the team of Kenya’s defence which also includes British lawyer Karim Khan who represented Deputy President William Ruto at the ICC. “Attorney General Githu Muigai is today leading the Kenyan delegation to the ICJ in The Hague to present Kenya’s submissions to the court on the Maritime Delimitation in the Indian Ocean (Somalia vs. Kenya) Case,” a statement from the AG’s office issued yesterday said.
Besides the pair, Kenya has hired a constellation of legal minds – Prof Payam Akhavan (American), Prof Vaughan Lowe QC (British), Prof Alan Boyle (British), Prof Mathias Forteau (French) and Ms Amy Sanders (British).
The point of disagreement between Kenya and Somalia is the nature of the line of the maritime boundary. While Somali insists on a median line from Kenya/Somali land boundary terminus, Kenya insists on a straight line.
Somali’s equidistant line carves out a triangle of the maritime area currently occupied by Kenya and where the three blocks are located.
Court documents filed by Dualeh say the three blocks of oil on the triangle were awarded to Italian company Eni SpA in 2012 by the Kenyan government.
According to information posted on the court’s website, the hearings, which end on Friday, will solely deal with the preliminary objections raised by Kenya to the substantive case. In its case, Somalia wants the court to determine the boundary dividing all the maritime area between Kenya and Somalia in the Indian Ocean, including the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.
It wanted the court to determine the precise geographical co-ordinates of the boundary in the Indian Ocean.
In its preliminary objections filed on October 7, 2015, Kenya holds its ground that it has exercised uncontested jurisdiction over the disputed maritime areas since it first proclaimed its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in 1979.
It has contested the jurisdiction of the ICJ to hear the matter and to the admissibility of the suit on the basis of an April 7, 2009 agreement between it and Somalia to the effect that the dispute would be solved through negotiation.
Kenya also says the 2009 agreement had also proposed that the final settlement would only be after the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has established the outer limits of that maritime boundary. “Kenya contends that the court’s jurisdiction specifically excludes disputes where, as is the case here, the parties have agreed to another method of settlement,” Muigai said yesterday.
He said Kenya remains committed to friendly neighbourly relations, establishment of peace and security in Somali and to the delimitation of the maritime boundary “at the appropriate time in accordance with the agreed procedure”.
The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the UN established in 1945.
ts role is to settle legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisories to legal questions referred to it by UN organs. Its judgments have a binding force and are not appealable.