Kenya hires eight lawyers on Somalia maritime case

Sean David Murphy is an American international law scholar currently serving as Manatt / Ahn Professor of International Law at George Washington University Law School in Washington, DC, where he has taught since 1998. [Courtesy, Standard]

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

Prof. Sean Murphy of the George Washington School of Law will lead the team with Justice Tullion Treves, a former judge on the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea. Justice Treves also appeared before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a similar case between Peru and Chile.

Prof. Phoebe Okowa, lecturer in international law at Queen Mary University in London, is the only Kenyan woman. It was part of a maritime proceeding filed by Gambia against Myanmar. She is a graduate of the University of Nairobi, where she graduated with honors.

Also in the team is the Senegalese Prof. Makane Mbengue, who teaches international law at the University of Geneva. He has also fought litigation before the International Court of Justice, including representing the African Union in deliberating the legal ramifications for the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965. He will be the team coordinator.

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Professor Laurence Boisson De Chazournes, who is also an expert in international law, comes from the same university (Geneva). She has two nationalities – Swiss and French.

Another member of the team is Christian Tams, a professor at Gasglow University. The German citizen will pass on her expertise after appearing in different cases before the same court.

Kenya also took Eran Sthoeger from Israel. He also took part in Peru’s case against Chile.

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Also on the list is Sovereign Geographic President Coalter Lathrop. He will provide the Kenyan team with cartographic and legal support in demarcating land and sea borders.

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 sea area is approximately 255,000 km, which was determined in 1979 by parallel lines of latitude. Somalia recognized Kenya’s claim to the EEZ for 35 years.

However, in 2014, the horn of the African country filed a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice. The dispute was filed on August 28, 2014 by Somali Minister of Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion, Abdirahman Dualeh, on behalf of his government.


The point of contention between Kenya and Somalia is the nature of the line of the sea border.

Somalia claims a center line from the end point of the Kenya / Somalia land border, but Kenya insists on a straight line. Somalia’s center line cuts a triangle of the sea area currently occupied by Kenya, in which there are four oil blocks.

In 2019, Somalia floated in Kenya’s territorial waters next to the four controversial oil blocks for auctioning minerals.

A document called “Offshore Somalia 2019”, leaked by the Somali Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, showed that five oil blocks in Lamu are part of those that Somalia has given to investors.

Somalia was auctioned 15 blocks. These include blocks 131, 142, 152 and 153 in Galmudug, known as the Obbia Basin, blocks 164, 165, 166, 177, 178 and 179 in Hirshabelle called the Coriole Basin, and blocks 189 , 190, 204, 218 and 219 is located in the Lamu Basin, the territory of Kenya.

The document contained a plan with January 1, 2020 as the date on which the successful bidder would begin exploration.

“The exploration block map is ready. The area of ​​each block is a maximum of 5,000 km² and corresponds to a PSA, ”says the document.

It turned out that Somaila had also reached out to companies that had cut ties to resume exploration activities. Some expressed their willingness.

The document showed that before Somalia’s collapse in 1991, giant international oil companies (IOCs) had taken over large areas of their onshore territory, with exploration commencing and 40 oil wells drilled.

Interestingly, while Somali officials were bidding for hydrocarbon exploration in London in February 2019, they were quick to inform bidders that previously collected seismic data was incorrect due to the use of incorrect geological models.

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