Kenya: ICJ Postpones Kenya-Somalia Maritime Dispute Case for a Year

Commercial, geopolitical and internal players behind Kenya-Somalia standoff.
6 September 2019

Nairobi — The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has postponed the Kenya-Somalia maritime dispute case following an application by the Kenya government, which sought time to recruit a new defence team.

Kenya's request is contained in a letter from the Attorney General's office, dated September 3.

"I have the honour to inform you that the court has duly considered the request made by the Republic of Kenya on September 3 that hearings due to open on 9 September 2019, be postponed by 12 months, as well as the views expressed by the Federal Republic of Somalia in its letter dated 4 September, 2019," ICJ's registrar Philippe Gautier wrote.

The court however, expressed "deep regret regarding this last-minute request which has caused undue effect on the administration of the judicial work of the court."

Earlier this week, David Matsanga, the Chairperson of the Pan African Forum, filed a petition in the court seeking orders to have the presiding judge in the case, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, to recuse himself over alleged conflict of interest.

In his application, Matsanga wants the judge cited for subjudice for allegedly commenting about the Kenya-Somalia case outside court and conflict of interest because he is a Somali national.

Matsanga said in his suit papers that he is apprehensive of a 'risk of an unbalanced and a biased outcome' in the case.

"We have interest in the Kenya/Somali case as regional natives of the East and the Horn of Africa," he said.

"As a Somali national, his heart falls near Somali," Matsanga added.

"As a Pan African Forum, we view these statements as roadside shows that makes the President of the ICJ not fit to preside over the matter between Kenya and Somalia," he said.

Somalia filed the boundary delimitation dispute on August 28, 2014, staking a claim on an estimated 62,000 square miles oil-rich triangle in the Indian Ocean.

Mogadishu's case is premised on Article 15 of the Convention of the Law of Sea adopted in 1982, Kenya saying the disputed area was in fact under its jurisdiction before the convention was enacted.

Somalia country wants the sea border extended along the land border; a plea which if granted could limit Kenya's access to high season its Indian Ocean shore technically rendering the country landlocked.

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