Photograph — Somaliland Live

Kenya’s request to delay the public hearing in its maritime dispute with Somalia has been granted by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The decision was arrived at after both parties agreed on the new dates, a statement released yesterday said.

The ICJ said after it “duly considered the views and arguments of the parties regarding Kenya’s request,” it has decided to postpone the proceedings to the week starting Monday, June 8, 2020.

Nairobi and Mogadishu also agreed to send legal teams on the new dates. “This postponement is granted on the understanding that both parties will be represented in the hearings and that no further postponement will be granted,” the Hague-based court was quoted as saying by The East African.

Back in 2014, Somalia filed a case against Kenya at the ICJ with the aim of remapping the sea boundary between the two countries from the current straight line to a diagonal flow. The goal was to claim a contested area along the Indian Ocean which is about 100,000km square in size and reportedly contains hydrocarbons reserves.

Since then, Kenya has been requesting for Somalia to withdraw but Mogadishu prefers to wait for the ICJ verdict. Seeking an out of court settlement, Nairobi at some point approached the African Union (AU).

President Uhuru Kenyatta also involved Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to lead mediation efforts which eventually collapsed due to Somalia’s unwillingness to consider a bilateral or regional resolution.

As recently as last month, during the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York, Somalia’s President Mohamed Farmaajo rejected Kenyatta’s call for talks, saying that the ICJ should be the ultimate arbiter.

Over time, the row has heightened diplomatic tensions between the two countries and even threatened the war on piracy in which over 30 Indian Ocean rim countries have cooperated to curb attacks.

Delay good news for Kenya

The ICJ decision will come as good news to Kenya as it had filed for a postponement of the public hearings on two occasions. In September, Kenya asked for more time to recruit a new defense team.

From the initial date of September 9-13, the ICJ pushed the trials to November 4-8 after which Nairobi complained that the new date was not enough for its legal team to prepare for the case. Kenya’s Attorney General had suggested September 2020 as the ideal time.

Apart from the maritime dispute, both countries also recently had a spat over an alleged breach of aviation regulation. Somalia said Kenya violated its airspace after an aircraft flew from Nairobi directly to Kismayu instead of making a stop in the capital Mogadishu first.

Somalia had in September issued a directive that all civilian aircraft first stop in the capital Mogadishu before proceeding to Kismayu. In response, the aviation authority filed a complaint against Kenya to the UN agency International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO).

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