Brain Booster for UPSC & State PCS Examination (Topic: Border Dispute between Kenya and Somalia)

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Topic: Border Dispute between Kenya and Somalia

Border Dispute between Kenya and Somalia

Why in News?

  • Amidst the instability in East Africa, Kenya has said that it will not take part in proceedings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over its maritime border dispute with neighbouring Somalia.

About Disputed Area

  • The dispute between two countries is about the direction in which both countries’ maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean should extend.
  • According to Somalia, the sea border should be an extension of the same direction in which their land border runs as it approaches the Indian Ocean, i.e. towards the southeast.
  • Kenya, on the other hand, argues that the territorial southeast border should take a 45 degree turn as it reaches the sea, and then run in a latitudinal direction, i.e. parallel to the equator.
  • Such an arrangement would be advantageous for Kenya, whose coastline of 536 km is more than 6 times smaller than Somalia’s (3,333 km).

Strategic Importance

  • A decision favoring the Kenya would be advantageous for it, whose coastline of 536 km is more than 6 times smaller than Somalia’s (3,333 km).
  • The area is an oil- and gas-rich area in the Indian Ocean, as well as has significance for fishing communities, with wider region.
  • The triangular area thus created by the dispute is around 1.6 lakh sq km large, and boasts of rich marine reserves.


  • After Somalia first brought the case in 2014, the United Nations (UN's) International Court of Justice (ICJ) was scheduled to begin the public hearing in The Hague.
  • But before proceedings could begin, Kenya's government announced its intent to withdraw from the case, based on a 2009 argument and present its complaints to the UN Security Council, of which it is currently a nonpermanent member.
  • Based on international maritime law, the court was widely expected to rule in Somalia's favour.
  • These hearings never took place, as Kenya successfully applied to have them postponed thrice– the last one being in June 2020, when it cited difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • Relations between Somalia and Kenya have sharply deteriorated.
  • Somalia criticised Kenya in 2019, after the latter blocked the entry of two Somalian legislators and a minister after they landed at Nairobi airport, and proceeded to deport them.
  • Kenya accused Somalia of an “unwarranted attack” on its territory during a conflict between Somalia and regional forces. Somalia refuted the accusation.
  • Despite it the two countries remain allies in their fight against Al Shabaab, an Islamist terror organisation that has launched several attacks in both countries over the past decade. And their fight against them has been weakened.
  • It is expected that both countries soon reach out to a middle point, before this can seriously affect their security issues.

About Horn of Africa

  • The Horn of is a peninsula in Eastern Africa and the easternmost projection of the African continent.
  • It lies along the southern side of the Red Sea and extends hundreds of kilometers into the Gulf of Aden, Somali Sea and Guardafui Channel.
  • The Horn of Africa consists of the countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

About International Court of Justice

  • ICJ was established in 1945 by the United Nations, situated at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands).
  • It settles legal disputes between States and gives advisory opinions in accordance with international law, on legal questions referred to it by authorized UN organs and specialized agencies.
  • Its judgments are final and binding on the parties to a case and without appeal.
  • It has no jurisdiction to try individuals accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity. As it is not a criminal court, it does not have a prosecutor able to initiate proceedings.