NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 13 – The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has rejected Kenya’s bid to have the maritime delimitation in the Indian ocean case with Somalia postponed for a fourth time.
The court’s registrar Philippe Gautier on Saturday notified both Kenya and Somalia that the case will proceed as planned from March 15, 2021 in a hybrid format.
The matter was postponed for a third time in May due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Solicitor General Ken Ogeto had petitioned the court to have the proceedings done in person owing to the complexity of the case that he underscored needed proper presentation.
“As already explained during our technical meeting on January 26, 2021, there is a possibility for a limited number of representatives of the parties to appear in person in the Great Hall of Justice with the other representatives participating by a video link,” Gautier said.
The Hague-based court further directed Kenya and Somalia to send the list of persons who will present the oral arguments on behalf of the two sides from which location they will do so, in which language they will speak and for approximately how long.
“This information will assist the registry in ensuring the smooth preparation and running of the hearing,” Gautier said.
The parties are seeking a resolution on the ownership of a 150,000 square-kilometer area off their Indian Ocean coastline, which both countries want to explore for oil, gas and fish.
Somalia filed the boundary delimitation dispute on August 28, 2014, staking a claim on an estimated 62,000 square miles oil-rich triangle in the Indian Ocean.
Mogadishu’s case is premised on Article 15 of the Convention of the Law of Sea adopted in 1982, Kenya saying the disputed area was in fact under its jurisdiction before the convention was enacted.
Somalia wants the sea boarder extended along the land boarder; a plea which if granted could limit Kenya’s access to high seas on its Indian Ocean shore technically rendering the country landlocked.
In February last year, Somalia rejected a Kenyan claim that it had auctioned off blocks in the area and said it would not take any unilateral action there prior to an ICJ ruling.
The disputed triangle of water is believed to hold valuable deposits of oil and gas in a part of Africa only recently found to be sitting on significant reserves.
Kenya maintains it has had sovereignty over the contested zone since 1979.
Somalia took the matter to court after saying diplomatic attempts to resolve the disagreement had led nowhere.
A final outcome will significantly impact a new source of revenue for either of the two countries but the case is set to last for several years.