A maritime border dispute between Kenya and Somalia that has clouded the future for oil and gas exploration in seven blocks could be headed out of court months after the horn of Africa country took it to the international court of justice.
According to Kenya’s foreign minister Amina Mohammed its north eastern neighbor has indicated that it was ready to pursue the matter outside the ICJ which is yet to start hearings on the dispute.
While addressing the Kenyan parliament in Nairobi, Amina told legislators that her office has received a pledge from the Federal Government of Somalia that the latter would withdraw the case logged at the New York court.
Part of the dispute is a triangle of water stretching more than 100,000 a sq kilometers (approx. 40,000 sq miles) of which Kenya has awarded exploration contracts to various international companies among them Eni, Andarko and Total and where seven offshore blocks are located including Blocks L5, L21, L22, L23, L24 and L26.
Part of the argument is whether the two countries should decide the border using the equidistant line which would see Somalia’s maritime border extend South East unlike the current situation where the border extends eastwards, or a historical perspective.
According to an argument by the Federal Government of Somalia, the boundary line in the territorial sea “should be a median line as specified in Article 15, since there are no special circumstances that would justify departure from such a line” and that, in the EEZ and continental shelf, the boundary “should be established according to the three-step process the Court has consistently employed in its application of Articles 74 and 83.”
“Kenya’s current position on the maritime boundary is that it should be a straight line emanating from the Parties’ land boundary terminus, and extending due east along the parallel of latitude on which the land boundary terminus sits, through the full extent of the territorial sea, EEZ and continental shelf, including the continental shelf beyond 200 [nautical miles],” Somalia had told the court.
If the court was to rule in Somalia’s favor pundits think this could easily throw the region into crisis with other states also pursuing such a ruling in their favor.
Tanzania which has also been taken to court over a similar dispute by Somalia could find itself in a tussle with Kenya which would lose a large chunk of its continental shelf.
Both Kenya and Somalia had earlier come to a settlement on the matter before the Somalia parliament rejected the agreement.