Only the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will give Somalia and its people what is rightfully theirs in a peaceful process.
Those were the arguments of Somalia’s legal team when it took to the floor of the Hague based court to make its oral submissions in a case in which it wants ICJ to determine the disputed boundary dividing the maritime region between Kenya and Somalia in the Indian Ocean.
“If we are to have any hope of a durable and equitable solution that contributes to regional peace and security it lays in this great hall of justice and in the hands of distinguished members of this court,” Somalia’s agent Mona al-Sharmani argued.
In a strong worded statement, Somalia denounced Kenya’s submissions that ICJ lacked jurisdiction to determine the matter on the basis that avenues of resolving the maritime border battle had not been exhausted.
Somalia’s legal team denounced the controversial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which Kenya used to demonstrate that there was an alternative means of resolving the long-standing boundary dispute.
They didn’t dispute that the MOU existed.
But their point of contention and divergence from Kenya’s position was that the absolute intention of the MOU and as clearly stated on its title it was for the two parties ‘to grant each other no objection in respect of submissions on the Outer Limits of the Continental Shelf beyond 200 Nautical Miles to the Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf’ (CLCS).
“The one and only purpose of the MOU was to assure that there would be no obstacle to the CLCS consideration of our two countries submissions concerning the establishment of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles,” al- Sharmani stated.
According to Somalia, there was no single statement that suggested that the dispute over the maritime boundary would be resolved through negotiations.
“Kenya cannot truly believe that the MOU created a binding commitment to an alternative method of dispute settlement. Neither Kenya nor Somalia considered the MOU to have established a specific or exclusive means of settling the maritime boundary dispute let alone obligated the parties to resolve the dispute.”
Paul Reichler told the court that the drafter of the MOU – Norway – was crystal clear that the purpose of the MOU was to grant each other no objection in respect to submissions on the outer limits of the continental shelf to the CLCS.
“There is not a single reference to resettlement of the maritime boundary dispute or to establishment of a method for resolving that dispute. This is how the drafter of the MOU and the two parties understood the object and purpose of the agreement. Norway in fact took pains to distance itself from and avoid involvement in settlement of the boundary dispute and to separate that dispute as far as possible,” he explained.