Kenya, South Sudan locked in border dispute

South Sudan has summoned Kenya’s envoy to Juba Samwel Nandwa to protest an alleged encroachment on its territory.

A statement issued by South Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation says Juba wants a diplomatic solution to the dispute.

“Hon Mayiik Ayii Deng met with the Kenyan Ambassador to South Sudan (Samuel Nandwa) to discuss areas of mutual concern. Issues concerning our mutual border were raised,” said the statement, referring to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

“The minister, on behalf of the government of South Sudan, would like to assure all South Sudanese citizens that the highest levels of government are aware of the sensitivities at the border and are working in cooperation with our neighbours to ensure peace, prosperity and maintenance of border integrity,” it said.

Mr Deng met with the Kenyan diplomat on Wednesday after clashes between South Sudan’s Toposa and Kenya’s Turkana communities rocked the border.

The two pastoral communities routinely cross their borders in search of water and pasture for their livestock.

In South Sudan, local and state officials in Eastern Equatorial State claimed in several interviews with media last week that a convoy of Kenyan security officers strayed briefly into South Sudan territory.

Nairobi has not commented on the claim. Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua on Wednesday promised to get back to Newszetu on the matter but was yet to do so by the time of going to press.

This resulted in demonstrations by Taposa youth, calling on their national government to engage the Kenyan government on resolving the issue.

The two countries, however, have a portion of their border largely undetermined at the Ilemi (also called Elemi) Triangle, a sparsely populated area of about 14,000 square kilometres.

Ilemi is on the fringe of southern South Sudan, which is believed to be rich in oil, and at the top end of Turkana, a Kenyan county where Tullow Oil discovered oil in 2012.

The triangle consists of Kibish, Lokitaung, Naita, Karebur, Kokuro, Kaikor, Magila, Lorau and Loruth Esekon regions.

The name Ilemi is believed be from a famous chief of the Anuak, a community on South Sudan’s boundary with Ethiopia. The triangle was named in honour of chief Ilemi Akwon.

It is home to the Turkana, Didinga, Toposa, Inyangatom and Dassanach communities.

These communities are from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan, but they traditionally migrate to the triangle to graze their animals.

The Turkana are found in South Sudan and Turkana County while the Didinga are in South Sudan and north eastern Uganda.

In 1986, when the Kenyan government published a new atlas including part of the disputed Ilemi triangle within its territory, the result was a protest from Khartoum.

The Sudanese government believed that the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement insurgents had traded the lands in the Elemi Triangle with Kenya.

Khartoum said the triangle was part of its Equatorial Province. When South Sudan gained independence in 2011, the claim to the triangle was transferred to the new government in Juba.

The border dispute with South Sudan comes at a time Kenya is at loggerheads with Somalia over a maritime border in a part of the Indian Ocean believed to be rich in oil and gas.

In 2021, a top UN court decided mostly in favour of Somalia in the maritime row. Nairobi rejected the outcome.

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