Kenya said it’s seeking an out-of-court settlement of a dispute over an oil-rich territory with Somalia, a week after the United Nations International Court of Justice granted its request to delay the case.
“The matters are not black and white,” Kenyan Foreign Secretary Monica Juma said Friday in the capital, Nairobi. A “sustainable solution has to be seen as mutual. We have preference for negotiated settlement.”
Both countries claim ownership of an area almost 150,000 square kilometers (57,915 square miles) off the Indian Ocean coastline, said to be rich with oil, gas and tuna fish. In 2014, Somalia went to court to challenge a 2009 agreement that set its maritime border along latitudinal lines extending 450 nautical miles into the sea.
The ICJ earlier this month postponed a much anticipated hearing on the matter to Nov. 4 because Kenya said it needed time to recruit a new legal team. Prior to the postponement, Somali Foreign Minister Ahmed Isse Awad said his country is committed to the legal process after previous negotiations with Kenya failed to resolve the matter.
Regardless of how the dispute is resolved, it’s threatening to undermine relations between the nations that have forged an alliance in recent years to fight al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militants who’ve staged deadly attacks in Somalia and Kenya for over a decade.
“This matter is more important than fish and hydrocarbons,” Juma said. “The most important point is territorial integrity.”
Kenya’s move for an out-of-court settlement comes after the African Union’s Peace and Security Council announced plans to appoint a mediator to help resolve the matter, an intervention that Nairobi supports, according to Juma.
“We believe that this matter can be resolved amicably,” she said.