Kenya Quits Somalia Border Case, Seeks Africa Body Mediation

Kenya withdrew from an International Court of Justice case on a maritime-border dispute with neighboring Somalia after its request for a postponement was denied, and is seeking for the matter be resolved by the African Union.

“We withdrew,” Kenya’s Solicitor General Ken Ogeto said by phone. “We don’t want to appear symbolically. You appear because you think you’ll have justice.”

Kenya announced its withdrawal on Monday as proceedings got under way about who owns an area off the two nations’ Indian Ocean coastline. Both countries plan to explore the region for oil, gas and fish.

The issue “belongs in the African border dispute mechanism system,” Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau said in an interview. Kenya favors “bilateral negotiations and continental negotiations in the context of facilitation by the African Union,” rather than seeking a settlement at the court, he said.

In 2014, Somalia challenged a 2009 agreement that set its maritime border along latitudinal lines extending 450 nautical miles into the sea. The matter relating to a 150,000 square-kilometer (58,000 square-mile) area was postponed at the ICJ for a third time last May due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Somalia is “deeply concerned that Kenya has decided not to appear at these hearings,” Somali Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Gulaid said at the ICJ. “In Somalia’s view, this is inconsistent with Kenya’s obligations under the charter, the statutes and rules of the court.”

The court regrets Kenya’s decision not to participate in the proceedings and will use the country’s filings in determining the matter, ICJ President Joan Donoghue said during Monday’s hearing.

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