Kenya is confident of winning a court battle against Somalia which on Monday formally filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over a long-running border dispute linked to lucrative oil and gas reserves in the Indian Ocean.
Attorney-General Githu Muigai said the case filed by Somalia was “baseless and lacked the relevant backing of international law on maritime issues”.
“We have received the memorandum filed today(Monday) in the court by Somalia and we are moving to immediately evaluate it and put together a team of international lawyers to defend our case in the most professional manner possible,” Prof Muigai told Business Daily from the Hague where the ICJ is based.
“From assessment of the memorandum filed in court I can say it is baseless and made out of ignorance of the relevant provisions of international law… I am confident we have a strong case against Somalia and we shall win this one,” added the AG.
Somalia on Friday vowed to file the case, scuttling an earlier deal with Kenya for an out-of -court settlement.
The surprise announcement by Somalia’s Information minister Mohamed Abdi Maareeye came barely a week after Foreign Affairs secretary Amina Mohammed told the Kenyan Parliament that Somalia had agreed to pursue arbitration outside the United Nation’s highest court which was preparing to start hearing the suit.
“We have received a pledge from the Federal Government of Somalia indicating readiness to withdraw a case it filed in New York against us and pull out of the case for us to resolve maritime boundary issues,” said Ms Mohammed.
READ: Somalia snubs out-of-court talks in Kenya border dispute
The assurance by Ms Mohammed. did not hold for long after Somalia opted to push on with the court case.
“The issue of the Kenyan government violations against our territorial waters has continued for a long time, so it’s the right time to end its fake claim in court,” Maareeye was quoted by Bloomberg as having told reporters last Wednesday in the capital, Mogadishu.
Somalia had also filed a formal claim for a bigger chunk of the continental shelf at the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) based in New York.
Somalia wants the maritime border to continue along the line of the land border, to the southeast diagonally and says a horizontal border would be unfair. Kenya, however, wants the sea border to go in a straight line east, giving it more sea territory.
If it goes the Somalia way, Kenya will be left with a small triangle in the Indian Ocean for mineral rights, losing at least seven oil blocks it has offered explorers.
The dispute has been running for years, keeping investors away because of lack of legal clarity over who owns potential offshore oil and gas reserves.
Kenya recently identified eight new offshore exploration blocks available for licensing, and all but one of them are located in the contested area.