After thunder comes rain, and the rain came on 12 October, as the International Court of Justice ruled on the maritime border between Somalia and Kenya. The Court confirmed equidistance from the coasts as the cardinal principle of delimitation, extending the boundary established in 1927 into the sea and thus accepting Mogadishu’s claims based on these arguments.
The verdict tempers its application to some extent. Given the geography of the boundary points, located along a slightly concave coastline and therefore unfavourable to Kenya, the Court ruled a slight adjustment of the boundary in favour of Nairobi. The result is a line running south-east from Ras Kamboni for 200 nm, leaving Kenya with only part of the disputed area. Mogadishu’s claim for compensation was rejected, as was Kenya’s claim of damage to fishing communities in the Lamu area.
The ruling is binding and unappealable, but its application is left to the will of the parties or the community of states. Somalia, and in particular its President Farmajo, extolled the achievement of a long sought-after result; he decried the celebration in obvious terms of national redemption – while also calling for cooperation and a strengthening of relations on new tracks.
On the Kenyan side, however, the Court’s jurisdiction, and therefore the verdict, is rejected outright; President Uhuru has not hesitated to announce that he will do ‘everything possible’ – as President and Commander-in-Chief – against those who seek to enforce it. The media take sides according to local affiliations. Pro-Kenya readings abound in the press, especially in English and international press.
It is possible that the government in Nairobi will take the case to the UN Security Council, pre-empting Somalia and leveraging the non-permanent seat it has enjoyed since January on the rotating presidency in October. Kenya could also ask for a review or continue to seek a bilateral agreement, aiming at some recognition of its sovereignty or competence over the area. Its position may now be weaker vis-à-vis Somalia, but possibly not vis-à-vis that part of the international community that already supported – either out of interest or good-faith – its reasons.
In the meantime, diplomatic relations between Taiwan and Somaliland are intensifying, while Dubai’s DP World and Britain’s CDC announce investments in the ports of Dakar in Senegal ($1 billion), Ain Sokhna in Egypt and Berbera in Somalia ($700 million for the two terminals). CDC’s role will be a minority one, but the respective shareholdings have not been disclosed.
On the internal Somali side, the ruling may revive tensions as it is in fact a point in favour of Farmajo. On the other hand, Prime Minister Roble has on several occasions sought a soft interlocution with Nairobi, although he has made it clear that the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice over the delimitation was non-negotiable.
It is however now time to celebrate and this also overshadows the deadline of October 10th – the date indicated for the start of elections for the Lower House. New events of terrorism have also been recorded in the capital (October 12nd-13rd, with 17 civilian and military casualties), four years after the attack that claimed over 600 lives on October 14, 2017. The consequences of that act are still visible in Mogadishu.