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Durham University

IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Diplomatic tensions in Kenya-Somalia maritime dispute

(16 August 2019)

The diplomatic war of words in the dispute between Kenya and Somalia over their ongoing maritime boundary appears to be escalating as the date for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) judgment on the case approaches.

The two countries’ varying maritime claims as to where the maritime border should extend from the land boundary has created a 100,000 square kilometre triangle of disputed maritime territory. The seabed beneath the disputed area is believed to be rich in oil and gas resources, increasing both states’ interest.

Kenya has expressed displeasure with Somalia for taking the dispute to the ICJ in 2014 without first seeking mediation through the African Union or other diplomatic means. The diplomatic fallout has escalated ahead of the anticipated ICJ verdict in September 2019.

In February, Kenya recalled its ambassador to Somalia and expelled Somalia’s envoy in Nairobi. In May, the country suspended direct flights from Somalia to Nairobi and denied entry to three top Somali officials at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

In response, Somalia said its officials would no longer attend meetings in Nairobi and banned all Kenya-based NGOs working in the country.

The diplomatic tensions recently intensified when two Kenyan MPs tabled a Motion in Parliament to authorise military force to protect the ‘sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic’.

The motion, which directly references the dispute with Somalia, endorses peaceful dispute resolution mechanisms as the preferred option, but it also authorises military action. It also specifically calls for the Kenyan government to lodge a protest to the United Nations, rejecting the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.


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