Somalia says Kenya continued with oil-exploration activities in the disputed area of the Indian Ocean even after Mogadishu sued over the matter at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Somalia’s senior presidential legal adviser Mona Al-Sharmani told the court on Friday that Kenya’ Ministry of Energy and the National Oil Corporation publicly announced plans to issue licenses in spite of the ongoing tussle over the sea border in the oil-rich Indian Ocean region.
Ms Al-Sharmani rebutted Kenya’s assertions that it had suspended any activities in the area following the start of negotiations that failed before Somalia took the case to the ICJ in The Hague.
“This is news to Somalia. We had never previously been told that that was the case,” Ms Al-Sharmani told the court presided over by French Judge Ronny Abraham.
Somalia was referring to an argument by Kenya’s Attorney-General Githu Muigai on Wednesday that it had suspended any prospecting in the disputed area as a sign of readiness to negotiate a solution.
“Kenya has voluntarily suspended its transitory exploratory activities in the disputed area as an expression of its good faith. In May, we invited Somalia to enter into provisional arrangements pending an agreement on the maritime boundary,” Prof Muigai argued on Wednesday.
“We remain open to discussing these arrangements with Somalia,” he added.
But in a battle between the two countries on whether the court should hear or drop the case, Somalia says Kenya’ assertions were untrue.
On Friday, Somalia argued that in 2012, Kenya issued exploration licences to reputable oil firms for six oil blocks that both sides claim to be in their territory. At the time, Somalia says Kenya conducted two seismic surveys in the area.
Then in 2014, just two months before the case was filed and during the time both countries were attempting to negotiate, Somalia claims Kenya solicited tenders to conduct seismic tests in the search for oil in the area.
Ms Al-Sharmani further claimed that in October last year, before Kenya filed its objections to the court’s jurisdiction, the National Oil Corporation and the Ministry of Energy invited tenders for prospecting licences for further activities in the area in 2017.
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She told the court “it was exactly this pattern of behaviour that raised Somalia’s concern” over the sea resources it believed it owned and influenced it “to have recourse to international dispute settlement mechanisms to protect our rights under international law — including our rights over maritime areas and the resources they hold.”
Somalia sued Kenya in August 2014 before the ICJ seeking a determination of the actual flow of a sea boundary between the two countries.
Mogadishu wants the court to help determine whether the borderline should flow eastwards as demanded by Kenya or diagonally to the south from the land border as it wants, insisting “diplomatic negotiations, in which their respective views have been fully exchanged, have failed to resolve this disagreement.”
Both parties have finished making their submissions to the court regarding the admissibility of the case, with Kenya arguing it had an agreement with Somalia to resolve the boundary through negotiations as Somalia said the agreement did not exclude other methods.
The judges are set to announce the date when they will deliver their verdict on whether the court has jurisdiction to hear the matter.