Kenya will not attend International Court of Justice hearings that begin this week over a long-running border dispute with Somalia, according to a letter seen Sunday by AFP.
The ICJ was asked by Somalia to rule in a case that could decide which of the two countries will have control over a large Indian Ocean zone that is rich in fish and which might contain substantial crude oil reserves.
But in a letter sent Thursday, Kenyan prosecutor general Kihara Kariuki told the Hague-based court his country “shall not be participating in the hearing in the case” that is scheduled for Monday.
Kariuki said the first reason was that “Covid-19 pandemic conditions have hampered Kenya’s ability to prepare adequately for the hearing.”
The UN tribunal rules in disputes between countries, and has been hearing a case brought by Somalia in 2014.
Somalia, which lies northeast of Kenya, wants to extend its maritime frontier with Kenya along the line of the land border, in a southeasterly direction.
Kenya wants the border to head out to sea in a straight line east, giving it more territory.
The disputed triangle of water stretches over an area of more than 100,000 square kilometres (40,000 square miles).
In its letter, Kenya also argued that holding the ICJ hearings virtually did not allow it to present its case in the most effective way.
“Kenya humbly requests the Court to afford its Agent a thirty minute opportunity to orally address the court before the commencement of the actual hearings,” the letter said.
Kenya recalled its ambassador to Somalia in February 2019 after accusing Somalia of selling oil and gas blocks at a London auction despite the pending delineation case before the ICJ.
Kenya also contested the ICJ’s authority to rule in the case.
Somalia has not responded for the moment to Kenya’s decision to boycott the hearing, and the ICJ did not immediately reply to an AFP request for comment on the case.