Somalia has dismissed claims that it plans to auction oil blocks in the disputed border region with Kenya just days before an arbitration case starts at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Somalia Petroleum and Mineral Resources minister Abdirashid Mohamed Ahmed said the Horn of Africa nation remains committed to the judicial process at The Hague-based court.
Nairobi has repeatedly accused Mogadishu of scheming to sell oil blocks in the Indian Ocean region.
“Any suggestion that Somalia has behaved dishonourably by trying to attract bids for oils blocks in the disputed area, or indeed has even undertaken any seismic surveys in that area, is entirely unfounded,” Mr Ahmed said.
The maritime border tiff over 100,000km2 of sea, believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits has been raging from 2014 when Somalia took the matter to the ICJ after diplomatic talks collapsed.
Last month, Nairobi wrote a protest letter to the United Nations saying the matter should be settled through mechanisms available under African Union, Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) and East African Community (EAC).
Kenya said that the decision to take the matter to ICJ will hamper co-operation between the two nations in fighting piracy in Kenya’s waters and the fight against Al-Shabaab in the region. Yesterday, Mr Ahmed differed with Nairobi, saying the hearing at the court headed by Somali judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf would be fair “as there are alternative dispute resolution mechanisms under international laws of the sea.”
“Somalia is committed to the arbitration process currently under way in the ICJ and will abide by the judgment of that court, which will without doubt be delivered fairly and within the rule of international law,” said Mr Ahmed.
In 2016, Nairobi unsuccessfully challenged admissibility of the case at the ICJ on grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the application.
The Hague-based court initially dismissed the objection in February 2017.
The two states were to face off again from Monday to Friday, but Kenya has sought to have the matter postponed.
“The rules of ICJ allow for postponement of the case to afford the parties opportunities to be represented,” said Attoney- General Kariuki
This is a brief history of the Kenya – Somalia Border dispute
Kenya and Somalia have had a dispute over a 100,000 square kilometres of sea area for a long time. The disputed area that lies in the Indian Ocean, is believed to contain large deposits of oil and gas.
In August 2014, Somalia filed a case against Kenya at International Court of Justice (ICJ). Somalia accused Kenya of infringing into its territory by awarding a couple of foreign firms to prospect for oil and gas in the disputed area. At ICJ, Kenya lost the bid to stop the case from going to full hearing, despite arguing that the two East African nations had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2009 that bound the them in an agreement to work with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS), the UN agency charged with settling border disputes.
The Somalia parliament rejected that MOU and sought recourse at the ICJ.
Kenya, which was represented by former Attorney General Prof. Githu Muigai, had argued that it has stood with Somalia during its difficult time after the fall of government in 1991, by harbouring refugees and working for peace in Somalia.
Kenya had also insisted that her boundary with Somalia is along a parallel of latitude, in its eastern border, as was decreed in the presidential proclamation of 1979. Somalia on the other hand, wants the court to demarcate the boundary to determine the exact geographical coordinates as an extension of its southeastern land borders.
Kenya efforts to stop the case from going to full hearing hit a dead end; Kenya was supposed to file a substantive response to the main case in December 2017. As of 2018, ICJ had authorized the submission of a reply by Somalia and a rejoinder of by Kenya and fixed the time limits for the filing of these written pleading to June 2018 and December 2018 respectively.
The case is still at the ICJ and the decision of the court will be final and will have to be accepted by the two counties.
However, a few months ago, Kenya accused Somalia of auctioning the oil blocks in the disputed border area. This action precipitated a diplomatic row where Kenya recalled her ambassador and expelled Somalia’s.
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