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Kenya Hires Eight International Lawyers in Maritime Case with Somalia

The maritime dispute between Kenya and Somalia

Kenya has hired a team of 8 seasoned to defend the country in the maritime dispute filed by Somalia.

The eight judges to represent Kenya in the maritime dispute with Somalia are; Prof Sean Murphy of George Washington School of Law, who will be leading the team alongside Justice Tullion Treves, a former judge at the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea. Justice Treves also appeared before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a similar case pitting Peru versus Chile.

Prof Phoebe Okowa, who is the only Kenyan in the group, is a lecturer of International Law at the Queen Mary University in London. She was a part of a maritime case filed by Gambia against Myanmar. She is an alumnus of the University of Nairobi where she graduated with First Class honours.

Also in the team is the team coordinator, Prof Makane Mbengue, a Senegalese, who teaches international law at the University of Geneva. He too has litigated before the ICJ, including representing the African Union in the advisory on the Legal Consequences on the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965.

Then there is Prof Laurence Boisson De Chazournes who is also an international law expert. She holds two nationalities – Swiss and French, Christian Tams, a professor at Glasgow University, and Eran Sthoeger from Israel. He too participated in Peru’s case against Chile.

President of Sovereign Geographic Coalter Lathrop is also on the list of lawyers that will be representing Kenya in the maritime dispute. He will offer cartographic and legal assistance to Kenya’s team inland and maritime boundary delimitation.

The new team replaces lawyers Karim Khan, Payam Akhavan (American), Makena Muchiri (Kenya), Vaughan Lowe QC (British), Alan Boyle (British), Mathias Forteau (French) and Amy Sanders (British).

Karim Khan was last week elected the next chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to replace Gambian Judge Fatou Bensouda. Mr Khan will be only the third chief prosecutor in the court’s 18-year history.

 Kenya/ Somalia Maritime Dispute

The  Kenya-Somalia maritime dispute is rooted in a disagreement over which direction the border between the two countries extends into the Indian Ocean. Somalia argues that the maritime boundary should continue on in the same direction as the land border’s south-easterly path. Kenya, meanwhile, insists that the border should take a roughly 45-degree turn at the shoreline and run in a latitudinal line, giving the country access to a larger chunk of the sea.

Kenya has been making efforts effort to find an amicable and sustainable solution to the maritime boundary dispute with Somalia.

“We remain that the Federal Government of Somalia will be amenable and committed to the search for a mutually acceptable and sustainable solution to this dispute,” Uhuru said in 2019 while speaking at the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.

Somalia brought its case to the International Court of Justice at The Hague in 2014, but the hearing has been delayed. It is now scheduled for June this year.


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