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Somalia-Kenya sea row case stalls amid budget cuts

By East Africa correspondent , Garowe Online
PETITION: Lawyer Kibe Mungai representing petitioner

NAIROBI, Kenya - A case challenging Kenya's participation in the International Court of Justice has stalled following the latest budget cuts in the country's Judiciary.

President Uhuru Kenyatta's government slashed the country's Judiciary budget by $25 million under unclear circumstances last week.

Early this week, Chief Justice David Maraga accused the executive of sabotage, threatening to ground all Judiciary's functions until the budget is reinstated.

And a case challenging Kenya's participation in maritime dispute at The Hague is among those affected, with three judges suspending it in Nairobi.

Justices Kanyi Kimondo, Robert Limo and Anthony Mrima were to deliver their judgment Thursday on whether Kenya should withdraw from the maritime dispute with Somalia at the Hague-based International Court of Justice.

"Take notice that the above judgment which was to be delivered by a three-judge bench yesterday will now be delivered on notice.

"Parties will be notified of the new judgment date through their advocates once directions are given. We regret the inconvenience caused,” the notice read.

Through lawyer Kibe Mungai, Kiriro and 19 others had contended that Kenya’s participation in the maritime dispute before the ICJ was unlawful on grounds that the delegation of sovereign powers of the people to the Executive through the AG is limited and does not include engaging in actions that may alter Kenya’s territory and territorial waters without reference to the people through a referendum.

The AG, Kihara Kariuki, has played a major role in the postponement of the maritime case with Somalia last month, after pitching a tent at the Hague-based court for a week.

ICJ agreed to postpone the border dispute to June 2020 when the two parties will have inter-tribal hearings before the commencement of the case.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has been keen to avoid tussling with Somalia in court. At the UN General Assembly in New York two months ago, Uhuru asked for negotiations to solve the stalemate.

“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.

However, his Somalia counterpart Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo dismissed out of court settlement, arguing that Somalia is ready for the ICJ ruling.

"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," Abdullahi had said.

Last week, Kenya's Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Kamau Macharia accused President Farmajo of sabotage, adding that 'Kenyans and Somalias are enjoying cordial relationship'.

The former Kenyan diplomat at the UN insisted that Nairobi is for out of court settlement. However, he said should ICJ rule on the matter, the country will study the judgment before making a formal pronouncement.

Early this week, Somalia's Petroleum minister Mohamed Ahmed said Mogadishu only auctioned oil deposits that are far from the disputed Indian Ocean maritime border.

Somalia is making a return to the oil business after three decades. Already Dutch giants Shell and Exxon Mobil have paid $1.7 for leasing of oil blocks in Somalia for 30 years.

The 20 Kenyans want the country to withdraw from ICJ battle, arguing that the case interferes with the country's sovereignty. The case in Nairobi will be heard after the budget cut standoff is solved.


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