On Tuesday, the UN’s top court is due to rule maritime spat between Somalia and Kenya, delivering a verdict with potentially far reaching consequences for bilateral ties and energy extraction in the region. The Int’l Court of Justice (ICJ), is to give its final word in a case lodged by Mogadishu more than 7 years ago. A full bench of 15 judges led by US judge Joan Donoghine will preside over the case and is due to announce the verdict at the Peace Palace in Hague at 1300 GMT.
At stake are sovereignty, undersea riches and future relations between the two countries in one of the world’s most troubled regions. Kenya has already announced the ICJ as biased and announced it does not recognize the court’s binding jurisdiction. At the heart of the dispute is the direction that the maritime boundary will take from the point where the land frontiers meet on the coast. Somalia insists the boundary should follow the orientation of its land border thus head out in a line towards the southeast. But Kenya says its boundary runs in a straight line east- a delineation that would give it a big triangular slice of the area. Nairobi says it has exercised sovereignty over the area since 1979 when it proclaimed the limits of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ)- a maritime territory extending up to 200 nautical miles offshore where a stage has the right to exploit resources.
The contested 100, 000 square kilometer (38, 000 square-mile) area is believed to contain rich gas and oil deposits. Nairobi has already granted exploration permits to Italian energy giant ENI but Somalia is still contesting the move.