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ICJ postpones sea border case to 2020 as Somalia goes to the polls

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - International Court of Justice [ICJ] on Thursday postponed the hearing of Kenya-Somalia maritime dispute for another eight months following an application by Nairobi, Garowe Online reports.

The Indian Ocean dispute which has literally put the two countries at loggerheads was initially scheduled for hearing in September this year but Kenya applied for postponement.

ICJ declined to postpone the hearing date for 12 months to allow Kenya to reorganize her legal team, only giving three months. Judges had scheduled hearing on November 4th-8th.

With Kenya determined to get more time, the Hague based court was forced to postpone the case for another eight months, insisting that no more application will be granted to Kenya.

"The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has decided to hear the Somali-Kenya maritime dispute case on June 8-12, 2020," said Somali deputy PM, Mahdi Mohamed Guled in a tweet.

For the last two weeks, Kenya's Attorney General Kihara Kariuki and Solicitor General Ken Ogeto have pitched a tent at The Hague, pushing for the cancellation of November hearing.

Some analysts believe that the postponement may be a win-situation for Kenya since Somalia goes to the polls next year and current leaders in power will be busy working on their re-election campaigns. 

In September, the African Union declined Kenya's pressure to have Somalia withdrawing the case. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Somalia counterpart Mohammed Farmaajo met at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York three weeks ago.

The meeting which was brokered by AU chairman and Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah did not bore fruits with Somalia sticking to court process at The Hague.

Uhuru had opted for negotiations with Somalia, arguing that Kenya prefers dialogue rather than a hectic court process in the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Uhuru, while congratulating Sudan and South Sudan for committing to a path of sustainable peace, challenged Somalia to consider dialogue and negotiation as an option for resolving the maritime border dispute currently before the ICJ.

“In the same spirit, my administration continues to reach out to Somalia in an effort to find an amicable and sustainable solution to the maritime boundary dispute between us,” he said.

“In this regard, I welcome the decision of the African Union Peace and Security Council of 3rd September 2019 that urges both parties to engage.”

However, Somalia President Mohammed Farmaajo insisted that Mogadishu believes in the court settlement of the dispute.

According to him, the relationship between Kenya and Somalia should not be comprised simply because of the current case which the ICJ has jurisdictions to hear and determine.

"Our overall relations are excellent. Our maritime boundaries have never been delimiting. It's our disagreement between the two sister states.

"We are happy that the ICJ found that it has jurisdictions to hear the case and it has scheduled it for November. Somalia as a member of the UN is keen to see this court settlement to its end," he said.

Kenya had sacked six lawyers who were handling the case. Recently, sources within the government blamed former Attorney General Githu Muigai for allegedly undermining the magnitude of the case.

Although the case has been at the ICJ since 2014, Kenya accused Somalia of auctioning Indian Ocean oil deposits to a British firm without consent. It briefly recalled her ambassador to Mogadishu, sending the Somalia envoy back home as well in April.


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