Kenya Hires US, UK Lawyers in Somalia Dispute


  • Kenya has tapped top-level international lawyers in order to lead the maritime case against Somalia that has been ongoing for more than six years.

    The two neighbouring countries have been involved in a dispute over which direction their borders extends into the Indian Ocean. 

    The lawyers span from across the world and boast of different credentials as some have litigated before the International court of justice and handled multiple foreign cases.

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    On the frontline, is Sean Murphy of the George Washington School of Law who served as a legal counselor at the U.S. Embassy in The Hague in the 1990s. The advocate has represented various countries in international courts and tribunals among them Ethiopia, Jordan, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Suriname, and the United States.

    Somalia President Abdullahi Farmajo (left) with President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) at the United Nations summit in September 2019
    Somalia President Abdullahi Farmajo (left) with President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) at the United Nations summit in September 2019

    He is joined by Justice Tullion Treves, a former judge at the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea. Judge Treves is synonymous with cases dealing with maritime disputes as he handled a similar one pitting Peru against Chile before the international court of justice.

    The team also consists of Phoebe Okowa who is a lecturer of International Law at the Queen Mary University in the United Kingdom.

    Other top talents sourced by the state include Prof Laurence Boisson De Chazournes who is an international law expert, Christian Tams who is a professor at Glasgow University from Germany, Makane Mbengue, a Senegalese who teaches international law at the University of Geneva (serves as the team coordinator), Eran Sthoeger from Israel.

    The President of Sovereign Geographic, Coalter Lathrop rounds up the list. He will serve as legal aid to the team in land and maritime boundary delimitation.

    The news comes after the International court of justice rejected Kenya’s bid to postpone the case for the fourth time. 

    Information Minister of Somalia, Osman Dubbe affirmed that Mogadishu had made a petition to the ICJ regarding the case. He noted that justice delayed is justice denied. He added that both countries should head to the Hague to sort the border dispute at whatever cost. The case is set to commence on March 15, 2021.

    In August 2014, Somalia sued Kenya at the ICJ and sought to redraw their sea boundary to a diagonal flow by extending the land bordering the south of Kiunga, Lamu County.

    However, on its part, Kenya insists that the border should take a 45-degree turn at the shoreline which would see Kenya take the lion’s share of the Indian Ocean.

    Disputed Kenya- Somalia Maritime Border
    Disputed Kenya- Somalia Maritime Border


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