Kenya has written to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking postponement of proceedings of a maritime dispute with Somalia.According to the application, Kenya says it needs to recruit a new team of lawyers to defend it hence it will not be able to proceed with oral hearing slated for next week. “Due to exceptional circumstances occasioned by the need to recruit a new defence team, Kenya has sought to have the matter postponed. The Rules of the Court allow for postponement of the hearing of the case to afford the parties an opportunity to be represented,” the application filed yesterday reads in part.
This came as lobby group wrote to the ICJ demanding the court’s president to withdraw from hearing the dispute.Barely a week to the hearing of the case, Pan African Forum Limited has written to the registrar of The Hague-based court seeking to have Justice Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf step aside citing his nationality and ties to Somalia’s leadership, among other issues.According to the lobby led by Ugandan activist Mark Matsanga, Justice Ahmed was born in 1948 in Puntland in Somalia and has close clan ties with the Horn of Africa’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.“As a Somali national, his heart falls near Somalia. Intellectual material of being neutral does not arise here because the presiding judge is a clan member of the President of Somalia,” the letter dated August 2, 2019, read in part.According to the activist, Kenya will not get a fair hearing in the international court.He claims in his letter that there is apprehension from media postings that Somalia has an edge over Kenya in the dispute.Mr Matsanga has cited interviews by Danta Dalka Group, which is allegedly sponsored by Open Society Foundation.The activist also accused Justice Ahmed of discussing the case while it is still in court.Kenya appeared before the ICJ for the first time on September 19, 2016. The country put a spirited fight that the court had no powers to hear the case filed by Somalia.The case has raised tension between the two countries, with Somalia floating auction of minerals within Kenya’s territorial waters alongside four contested oil blocs.A document titled ‘Offshore Somalia 2019’ from Somalia’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources shows four oil blocs in Lamu are a part of those Somalia has floated to investors.Although Somalia sued Kenya at the ICJ over the contested blocs, the document shows in September 2019, the country (Somalia) will be publishing its final version of the Production Sharing Agreement. This is the same month the case is expected to be heard.That document details Somalia’s plan, with January 1, 2020, as the date the successful bidder will start exploration.Somalia floated a total 15 blocs for auction. They include blocs 131, 142, 152 and 153 located in Galmudug and referred to as Obbia Basin, blocs 164, 165, 166, 177, 178 and 179 in Hirshabelle referred to as the Coriole Basin, and blocs 189, 190, 204, 218 and 219 located on the Lamu Basin, which is Kenya’s territorial waters.Meanwhile, Matsanga in his letter copied to Kenya’s Attorney General Kihara Kariuki, Ugandan President Yoweri Musseveni, Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres, says that Kenya should not participate in the case based on the apprehensions he has raised.The case will be heard from September 9 to 13.