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UN’s top court on Tuesday awarded Somalia control over most of a potentially oil and gas-rich chunk of the Indian Ocean following months of a bitter legal battle with neighbouring Kenya over their sea border.
In its ruling the International Court of Justice insisted that there was ‘no agreed maritime boundary’ and drew a new border close to the one claimed by Somalia, although Kenya kept a part of the 100,000 square-kilometer (38,000-square-mile) area, chief judge Joan Donoghue said.
Kenya, which had claimed the entire area off the East African coast, said last week that it would refuse to recognise the jurisdiction of the ‘biased’ Hague-based court.
The court’s decision, which is final, could have far-reaching consequences for the future of relations between two key countries in one of the world’s most troubled regions.
Somalia dragged Kenya to the ICJ in 2014 over the disputed patch of sea.
At the heart of the dispute is the direction that the joint maritime boundary should take from the point where the land frontiers meet on the coast.
Somalia insisted the boundary should follow the orientation of its land border and thus head out in a 200 nautical mile line towards the southeast.
But Kenya said its boundary runs in a straight line due east — a delineation that would have given it a big triangular slice of the sea.
The court in the end drew a line passing closer to the boundary claimed by Somalia.
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 where a state has the right to exploit resources.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK