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Kenya hires foreign lawyers in maritime case with Somalia

February 21st 2021 at 00:03:20 GMT +0300


A former judge of an international tribunal and a law lecturer in the UK are part of a team of eight hired to defend Kenya in a maritime dispute filed by Somalia.

Prof Sean Murphy of George Washington School of Law will be leading the team alongside Justice Tullion Treves, a a former judge at the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea. Justice Treves also appeared before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a similar case pitting Peru versus Chile.

Prof Phoebe Okowa, lecturer of International Law at the Queen Mary University in London is the only Kenyan. She was a part of a maritime case filed by Gambia against Myanmar. She is an alumnus of the University of Nairobi where she graduated with First Class honours.

Also in the team is Prof Makane Mbengue, a Senegalese, who teaches international law at the University of Geneva. He too has litigated before the ICJ, including representing the African Union in the advisory on the Legal Consequences on the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965. He will be the team coordinator.

From the same university (Geneva) is Prof Laurence Boisson De Chazournes who is also an international law expert. She holds two nationalities – Swiss and French.

Another member of the team is Christian Tams, a professor at Gasglow University. The German national will give her expertise, having appeared before the same court in different cases.

Kenya has also taken Eran Sthoeger from Israel. He too participated in Peru’s case against Chile.

Also on the list is President of Sovereign Geographic Coalter Lathrop. He will offer cartographic and legal assistance to Kenya’s team in land and maritime boundary delimitation.

The team replaces lawyers Karim Khan, Payam Akhavan (American), Makena Muchiri (Kenya), Vaughan Lowe QC (British), Alan Boyle (British), Mathias Forteau (French) and Amy Sanders (British).

Kenya’s maritime area is approximately 255,000km, which was determined through parallel of latitudes in 1979.

However, in 2014, the Horn of African country filed a case before the International Court of Justice. The dispute was filed by Somalia’s Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion Minister, Abdirahman Dualeh, on August 28, 2014, on behalf of his government.

Point of disagreement

The point of disagreement between Kenya and Somalia is the nature of the line of the maritime boundary.

Somalia asserts a centre line from the Kenya/Somalia land boundary terminus but Kenya insists on a straight line. Somalia’s central line carves out a triangle of the maritime area currently occupied by Kenya and where four oil blocks are located.


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