Kenyans fire back at ICJ after ruling on maritime border case with Somalia
Lamu fishermen have vowed to continue plying their trade along the rich Kiunga fishing grounds even after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) made its ruling in favour of neighbouring Somalia.
The disputed triangular area measuring 62,000-square kilometres, extends to parts of Mombasa and Lamu, from where Kenyan fishermen earn their livelihood.
The nation’s food and nutrition security, tourism sector and shipping activities are under threat, should the ICJ rule against Kenya.
Speaking to the media in Amu Island, today, Save Lamu Vice Chairman, Ishaq Abubakar, urged the National Government not to cede ground even after the ruling, terming the ICJ as a colonialist enterprise aimed at destabilizing Kenya’s territorial integrity.
Flanked by a section of Beach Management Unit officials from across Lamu, the activist further raised concerns that the fishermen, are likely to lose out on fishing grounds within the Kiunga area, with more than 50,000 households, who directly benefit from the fishing sector, likely to be affected.
“Our fishing grounds which have been the mainstay of many Lamu families over decades, are now under threat over the maritime dispute between Kenya and Somalia,” he stated, adding that 80 percent of the county’s catch comes from the disputed area.
He said that fishermen currently enjoy improved security without fears of piracy or Al-Shabaab, due to improved Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) presence, which has aided the fishing industry in Lamu to continue exploring its Blue economy potential.
Sentiments echoed by Lamu Beach Management Unit Network Chairman, Somo Mohammed Somo, stated that there is need for a quick resolution to be reached, to ensure that Kenyan waters are not affected.
“Not only is 80 percent of Lamu’s economy dependent on the blue economy sector, but 65 percent of Lamu’s rich fishing grounds are based in the disputed maritime waters of Kiunga area,” he stated.
The fishermen Association official said that a resolution is needed to ensure that the fishing industry is not affected, adding that there are fears of a military standoff between the two countries if a resolution is not reached soon.
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Lamu County Commissioner (CC), Irungu Macharia, called for calm stating that regardless of the ICJ verdict, it will continue to be business as usual along the maritime area in question.
“Fishermen can take heart in the fact that the National Government will not cede its territorial waters to Somalia under any circumstances,” he assured, adding that Kenya will still protect its waters and its people along the disputed area.
He stated that the National Government had already put in place measures to ensure that apart from the fishermen being protected, the LAPSSET project as well as the conservancies such as the Kiunga and Dodori National Marine Reserves, will continue to be protected by the government.
Kenya Marine Forum Chairman, Mohammed Athman, stated that the maritime dispute is due to capitalist interests, trying to override the cordial relations between Kenya-Somalia that the two countries have enjoyed over the years.
“The interests of some investors are trying to compromise the relations that the two neighbours enjoy, because of the oil and gas blocks that are at the heart of this dispute over the maritime sector,” he stated.
ICJ President Judge Joan E. Donoghue ruled Tuesday that there is no evidence to show Somalia submitted to Kenya’s use of latitude and longitude to determine maritime borders.
ICJ said that using Kenya’s method would not result in equitable determination of the maritime borders with Somalia.
Kenya’s claim that delimitation would endanger the livelihoods of fishing communities was not founded, ruled the ICJ.
For the past four decades, Kenya has said a line due east of the point where the two countries meet at the coast represents the maritime border.
The panel of 14 judges sitting in The Hague said that Kenya had not proved that Somalia had previously agreed to its claimed border.
Instead, they drew a new line which has split the disputed area in two.
The court is supposed to be the final arbiter in disputes between nations.
Ever since the maritime standoff gained traction, Kenya has ever wanted to resolve the boundary issue out of court, but Somalia wanted to he case heard at the final court, ICJ.