International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice will decide the fate of six oil blocks in the Indian Ocean as Kenya and Somalia engage in a maritime boundary dispute.

Somalia had sued Kenya in 2014, asking for a proper determination of the sea border. The main area in contest is about 100,000 square kilometers, forming a triangle east of the Kenya coast.

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Court filings now show that the riches in the area (oil and fish) are the reasons behind the dispute. Mogadishu is pushing to have access to the part of the sea which has significant oil deposit.

Kenya will kick-off proceedings by objecting to the case. International lawyers from Britain and France are representing the country at the United Nations court while an American and French lawyer represent Somali interests.

International Court of Justice

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Somalia’s representatives argue that Kenya ”acted unilaterally on the basis of its purported parallel boundary with Somalia, including in the territorial sea to exploit both living and non-living resources on Somalia’s side of a provisionally drawn equidistant line.”

They cited the number of petroleum exploration blocks which ”lie entirely or predominantly on the Somali side”.

Somalia is requesting that the ICJ divide ”all the maritime areas appertaining to Somalia and to Kenya in the Indian Ocean, including the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles”.

The division will affect Kenya because the boundary will extend to the south of the sea taking away vital areas of the sea from Kenya. The division if carried out will have a ripple effect as the Kenya-Tanzania sea border will also be affected.

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The case is only at a preliminary stage as objections are just being heard by the International Court of Justice. Decisions reached by the ICJ are usually binding as the two countries aim to get an advantage over their neighbor.