Kenya Now seeking 12 More Months For The Maritime Border Dispute

The International Court of Justice will, next week, once again review Kenya’s request for a 12-month delay of the public hearing in its maritime boundary case with Somalia.

On Thursday, Kenya’s Office of the Attorney-General asked the Court, based at The Hague, Netherlands, to grant a year’s postponement in what officials argue would be sufficient time to prepare.

The move came after the ICJ had initially granted a two-month delay for the public hearings earlier scheduled for September 9 but moved to November 4.

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Macharia Kamau told The EastAfrican the time granted by the Court was not enough for Nairobi to prepare.

“It is the same request for the 12-month postponement that was being revisited, at the invitation of the Acting President of the case, because we only got 55 days last time which is simply unworkable for Kenya,” he said from The Hague where he accompanied Solicitor-General Ken Ogeto and other state counsel. The decision on the new request should come “

In September, Kenya had asked the ICJ to delay the case arguing it needed time to recruit a new legal team.

“Due to exceptional circumstances, occasioned by the need to recruit a new defence team, Kenya has sought to have the matter postponed,” AG Kihara Kariuki’s office said at the time.

“The Rules of the Court allows for postponement of the hearing of the case to afford the parties an opportunity to be represented.”

Somalia sued Kenya at the ICJ, the UN’s principle Court, seeking to change the flow of the maritime boundary from the current eastwards direction from the land border at Kiunga, to a diagonal flow, threatening Kenya’s sea stake.

The area in the Kenya-Somalia maritime border dispute forms a triangle east of the Kenya coast. GRAPHIC | NATION MEDIA GROUP
The area in the Kenya-Somalia maritime border dispute forms a triangle east of the Kenya coast. GRAPHIC | TEA
Prof Payam Akhavan from the US, Prof Vaughan Lowe QC from the UK, Prof Alan Boyle (British), Prof Mathias Forteau (French), Mr Karim Khan (British) and Ms Amy Sanders (British) had been Kenya’s counsel in the initial stages of the case.

Somalia’s Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Gulaid argued the two-month extension should have been sufficient for Kenya to be ready.

Under Article 54 of the Rules of the Court, parties to a case may request the bench to alter the date fixed by the Court, “should occasion arise” to either delay the public oral sessions or stop those already going on until a later date.

The issue at hand though, is that Somalia has rejected Kenya’s call for out-of-court settlement.

Alternative

Although the ICJ ruled it had jurisdiction over the matter when it admitted the case; the tradition is that the Court may be forced to discontinue the case should the parties agree to withdraw it.

At the UN General Assembly in New York, President Mohamed Farmaajo rejected his President Uhuru Kenyatta’s call for talks.

Farmaajo claimed that talks between the two countries had “completely collapsed” adding that the Court would be the ultimate arbiter.