International Court Ends Dispute With Kenya Over Ocean Boundary By Citing Somalia Civil War

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) noted Somalia's civil war in its ruling that settled a dispute with neighboring Kenya over a maritime boundary, the Associated Press reported.

The ICJ sided with Somalia on Tuesday in the dispute over territory potentially rich in oil and gas.

Kenya had sought a claim of a maritime boundary along a parallel line of latitude, but the court said it found "no compelling evidence that Somalia has acquiesced" to the boundary claim.

The Hauge-based court also noted that it "cannot ignore the context of the civil war" in Somalia that destabilized the country for years and limited its government functions and ability to enforce its boundaries.

"I thank Allah for...for the fruit of the long struggle made by the Somalis in preventing Kenya's desire to claim ownership of part of Somalia's sea," Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said in a broadcast posted to his office's Facebook page.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice primarily sided with Somalia in a dispute with neighboring Kenya over a maritime boundary. Above, the U.N. International Court of Justice in The Hague on January 23, 2007. Rob Keeris/AFP via Getty Images

The ruling on Tuesday by the United Nations' highest court is legally binding, though the court has no enforcement powers. The court rejected Kenya's claim of the maritime boundary it sought, saying Kenya had not consistently maintained it. Instead, it leaned closer to Somalia's claim of a straight line into the Indian Ocean from their border.

But the court rejected Somalia's pursuit of reparations after the country alleged that some of Kenya's maritime activities had violated its sovereignty.

"Congratulations to the Somali people, we have succeeded in capturing our seas," Somalia's minister of information, Osman Dubbe, tweeted. The director of the Somali Maritime Administration, Hassan Mohamed Afrah, told The Associated Press he cautiously welcomed the ruling, and he hoped it would peacefully settle the dispute once and for all.

Kenya last week said it would not recognize the court's judgment, however, alleging that the judicial process had "obvious and inherent bias." Its statement acknowledged that the judgment would have "profound security, political, social and economic ramifications in the region and beyond," while urging Kenyans to remain calm.

Somalia filed the ICJ case over the countries' maritime boundary in 2014, contributing to their strained relations.

"The unraveling of relations has already negatively impacted efforts by Nairobi and Mogadishu to confront [extremist group] al-Shabab's lethal insurgency. Far better than more confrontation would be talks to agree on a mutually accepted way to implement the judgment," International Crisis Group researcher Meron Elias said in a statement.

Somalia-Kenya Dispute
The International Court of Justice primarily sided with Somalia in a dispute with neighboring Kenya over a maritime boundary. The map shows the Kenya-Somalia coastline and disputed area. Associated Press