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Map  of the 12 October ICJ Decision

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled on the ongoing maritime dispute between Kenya and Somalia. The ruling was generally seen to be in favour of Somalia, with a new boundary line drawn by the ICJ closer to the Somalian claim, attributing to Somalia several offshore oil blocks claimed by Kenya.

ICJ Judge Joan Donoghue said the revised maritime border along the exclusive economic zones for the continental shelves of Somalia and Kenya "achieves an equitable solution".

The court found that Kenya, which did secure some territory beyond the Somali claim, had failed to prove there was an established sea boundary between the states, which would have given it a greater portion of the disputed territory. The panel of 14 judges sitting in The Hague said that Kenya had not proved that Somalia had previously agreed to the Kenyan claimed border as it had argued in their case to the court.

Somalia's Information Minister, Osman Dubbe, welcomed the ruling and congratulated Somalis on regaining their territory.

In a televised address, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said the ruling followed the long struggle by his government and the people of Somalia “against the unlawful attempts by the Kenyan government to claim parts of our maritime territory”.

The Ruling came after Kenya had publicly revoked its recognition of the court’s jurisdiction over the case and there was no representative from Kenya at the judgment.

Kenya has since rejected “in totality” the decision by the ICJ and has said that it is “profoundly concerned” over the decision and its implications for the region.

In a statement by Kenya’s Presidency, it said “The decision was clearly erroneous,”, adding that the verdict “embodies a perpetuation of the ICJ’s jurisdictional overreach and raises a fundamental question on the respect of the sovereignty and consent of States to international judicial processes”.

Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, said the decision would “strain relations” between the neighbouring countries. The president went on to accuse the ICJ of imposing its authority on a dispute “it had neither jurisdiction nor competence” to oversee after the new boundary which has given Somalia territorial rights over a large portion of the Kenyan claim, thought to be rich in oil and gas reserves.

The Kenyan President was also concerned that the verdict would ‘strain the relations between the two countries’ and that it would “reverse the social, political and economic gains; and potentially aggravate the peace and security situation in the fragile Horn of Africa region.” He added that that Kenya was “committed to finding a diplomatic solution to the current impasse”.

The case was originally filed with the ICJ by Somalia in 2014 and concerned a boundary dispute covering more than 100,000 square km (around 38,000 square miles) of sea floor claimed by both countries. Somalia argued the maritime boundary should run in the same direction as the south-easterly path of its land border, Kenya claimed the border should take roughly a 45-degree turn at the shoreline and run in a latitudinal line.

The ruling by the ICJ is legally binding but cannot be enforced by the court.




Image: Courtesy of the International Court of Justice. The course of the maritime boundary after the judgment of 12 October 2021 and the two claims.