CW 41/2021: The Difficulty of finding truth
Press Review 8 October 2021 to 15 October 2021

International Court of Justice (ICJ) rules in favour of Somalia in Kenya-Somalia border dispute

Last Tuesday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered its ruling in the long-standing border dispute between Kenya and Somalia. For several years, the two East African countries have been arguing over the location of their maritime border. Kenya argues that the border should run parallel to the latitude – and that they have agreed on this with Somalia, which Somalia disputes. Somalia, on the other hand, demands that the border runs in a South-Easterly direction as an extension of the land border. In 2009, the two countries had initially agreed in a UN-backed memorandum of understanding to settle the border dispute through negotiations, but no solution was found that both parties agreed to. After Somalia accused Kenya in 2012 of illegally granting exploration rights to the corporations Total and Eni, the Somali government finally filed a lawsuit with the UN Supreme Court in 2014. The area is contested because of its potentially large oil and gas deposits and fishing grounds, to which both countries lay claim. According to the previous demarcation, the area was within Kenya’s maritime boundary. Consequently, there was no reason to change the border from Kenya’s point of view. According to the Somalis, however, the previous border demarcation is not legal and to Somalia’s disadvantage. The 14 judges in The Hague finally stated in their judgement that Kenya had not been able to prove that there had been a previous agreement with Somalia on the maritime border. They took the Somali border demarcation as a basis and adjusted it slightly in favour of Kenya. The new border provides that in the 200 nautical mile zone, 120,000 square kilometres will go to Kenya and 93,000 square kilometres to Somalia. The court rejected the Somalis’ claim for compensation for extraction permits already granted by Kenya.  In the run-up to the judgement, the Kenyan government around Uhuru Kenyatta had already announced that it would not recognise the judgement, partly because of the court’s bias. The Somali government around President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed welcomed the ruling and called on Kenya to respect the international rule of law. The ICJ ruling is final and cannot be appealed. However, the court has no power to enforce its rulings. States can appeal to the UN Security Council if another country does not comply with a ruling.


Facing the Past – Trial over Thomas Sankara’s Death

Thirty-four years ago, the then President of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara, and twelve of his comrades-in-arms were killed. A trial has now begun on 11 October 2021 to shed light on the exact circumstances of Sankara’s death. Sankara, who came to power in a coup d’état in 1983, was shot dead on 15 October 1987 together with other military officers during a meeting at the headquarters of the Revolutionary Council (Conseil National de la Révolution). A comprehensive reappraisal did not take place. To this day, Sankara enjoys great prestige as an anti-colonial fighter, especially among Burkina Faso’s younger generation. The charismatic Pan-Africanist stands for a modest lifestyle, the strengthening of local structures and Marxist-inspired politics. He is therefore also referred to as the “Che Guevara of Africa”.  Critics, on the other hand, point to a report by Amnesty International documenting detentions and torture of opposition members during Sankara’s time in power. The case of Sankara is also so explosive because his former companion and later presidential successor Blaise Compaoré is suspected of being the mastermind behind the murder. After Sankara’s death, Compaoré led the government until his resignation in 2014 and has been living in exile in Côte d’Ivoire ever since. Only under interim president Michel Kafando was Sankara’s body exhumed and the case reopened. The new trial is considered a success by representatives of civil society. However, many people were disappointed that Blaise Compaoré, the main defendant, will not appear in court.


In other news

The Ugandan writer Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, imprisoned several times in 2020 for his book “The Greedy Barbarian”, has been named “International Writer of Courage” by Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga.This award honours writers who are persecuted for their beliefs. It is part of the PEN Pinter Prize, which commemorates Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter. Rukirabashaija’s novel “The Greedy Barbarian” tackles corruption at the highest levels of government in a fictional country. After its publication in 2020, Rukirabashaija was arrested, interrogated and tortured several times by Ugandan security forces. He describes this “inhuman and degrading” treatment in his latest work, “Banana Republic: Where Writing is Treasonous”. The Ugandan author thanked Dangarembga and PEN for the award and their support. Tsitsi Dangarembga herself will receive the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade this year.

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