The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has pushed oral arguments in the maritime border dispute case between Somalia and Kenya to 15 March 2021 over the global coronavirus pandemic.
The maritime border case, which has been ongoing for six years now, was to be heard between 8 and 12 June 2020.
The court’s decision was announced on State TV by the Somali Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Mohamed Guled and follows a request by the government of Kenya for the case to be indefinitely delayed because of disruptions caused by coronavirus.
Kenya argued that the pandemic had impacted its ability to marshal funds and resources for the case.
Somalia had opposed Kenya’s request, arguing that the case had already been delayed twice before, and that the court could hold proceedings via video conference, which would allow Kenya’s lawyers to make their arguments from home.
“The case will now be heard over four days between 15 and 19 March, two days for each country to present its case… The court reiterated that only oral arguments will be heard and that no new documental submissions will be accepted,” said Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi, who read parts of the court ruling on Somali National TV.
Kenya has been trying to avoid a binding court ruling on the matter, and to this end had put Somalia under diplomatic and political pressure for years in an attempt to have the case resolved outside court.
But war-torn Somalia has always insisted that the court must decide the sea borders between the two countries, resisting all attempts to get it withdraw the case.
Area of contention is a 100,000 square kilometres triangle separating the two countries inside the Indian Ocean, which is said to be rich in petroleum.