NAIROBI: Kenya said on Friday it was rejecting the jurisdiction of the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ), ahead of a ruling next week on its long-standing maritime border dispute with Somalia.
Neighbors in the Horn of Africa have been feuding for years over part of the Indian Ocean claimed by the two countries and believed to have oil and gas deposits.
“In addition to withdrawing its participation in the ongoing case, Kenya (…) has also joined with many other members of the United Nations in withdrawing its recognition of the compulsory jurisdiction of the court,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Kenya announced in March that it would boycott the ICJ hearings in the case after the Hague-based court refused to allow further delays. The final decision is due on Tuesday.
“The delivery of the judgment will be the culmination of a flawed judicial process against which Kenya has expressed reservations and withdrew,” the foreign ministry said, accusing the court of “obvious and inherent bias” in the dispute resolution.
“As a sovereign nation, Kenya will no longer be subject to an international court or tribunal without its express consent.”
Somalia, located in north-eastern Kenya, wishes to extend its maritime border with Kenya along the land border, in a south-easterly direction.
Kenya wants the border to run towards the sea in a straight line east – a delineation that would give it more of the ocean. The disputed water triangle covers an area of over 100,000 square kilometers (40,000 square miles).
Nairobi maintains that it has had sovereignty over the disputed area since 1979.
The two countries agreed in 2009 to settle their dispute through bilateral negotiations.
Two meetings were held in 2014, but little progress was made. A third round the same year failed when the Kenyan delegation did not show up without informing their counterparts, later citing security concerns.
Somalia took the case to court in 2014 after saying diplomatic attempts to resolve the disagreement had gone nowhere.
But Nairobi – which has described itself as “a beacon of peace and stability” in an unstable region – said on Friday it was determined to resolve the dispute through “amicable negotiations.”
Kenya accused the ICJ of incompetence over the case and its assumption of arbitration amounted to using pseudo-judicial processes to undermine territorial integrity.
Next week’s ICJ verdict could further disrupt the often difficult relations between the two countries.
Somalia has long bristled with what it calls Kenyan interference in areas beyond its border, while Nairobi has accused Mogadishu of using it as a scapegoat for its own political problems.
Kenya recalled its ambassador to Mogadishu in 2019 after accusing Somalia of selling blocks of oil and gas in the disputed area.
He described the move as an “illegal seizure” of resources and reminded Mogadishu of Kenya’s aid in the battle against al-Shabaab jihadists in Somalia.
Kenya is a major troop contributor to AMISOM, an African Union military operation that combats al-Qaeda-linked fighters leading a violent insurgency across Somalia.
Somalia severed relations in December 2020 after Kenya welcomed the leadership of Somaliland, a breakaway state not recognized by Mogadishu.
But the two countries agreed to restore relations when Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble met with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in August 2021.