Kenya, South Sudan Border Dispute Sparks Diplomatic Row

Harare — South Sudan has accused Kenya of stealing its land, setting the stage for a border dispute that may stymie trade between the two countries, reports Business Daily.

The South Sudanese government then summoned Kenya’s envoy to Juba, Samwel Nandwa, to protest the alleged infringement on its territory.

According to South Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Juba prefers a diplomatic solution but requests that the two nations resolve a boundary dispute.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mayiik Ayii Deng, met with the Kenyan Ambassador to South Sudan, Samuel Nandwa, to discuss areas of mutual concern. Issues concerning border were raised,where the minister, on behalf of the government of South Sudan, assured 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.

A sketch map of Eastern Equatoria state in South Sudan, showing the border with Kenya and Uganda.

Following confrontations at the border between the Toposa and Turkana groups, Mayiik met with the Kenyan envoy on February 8, 2023.

The two pastoral villages often move their animals over the border in search of water and pasture.

In multiple interviews with the media, local and state authorities in Eastern Equatorial State, South Sudan, are reported to have alleged that a convoy of Kenyan security agents momentarily crossed into South Sudan territory. This led to protests by Taposa youth demanding that their national government work with the Kenyan government to address the problem. Hundreds of Toposa who inhabit Kapoeta East County and a section of state legislators in Eastern Equatoria State accused Kenyan officials of allegedly inciting Turkana tribesmen to annex parts of their land.

Kenya and South Sudan share a boundary that stretches for more than 200 kilometers, from the tripoint with Uganda in the south to the tripoint with Ethiopia in the north or east. Over two-thirds of its length is in dispute, making up an area known as the Olemi Triangle.

Olemi lies near the top of Turkana, a Kenyan county where Tullow Oil discovered oil in 2012. It is also on the edge of southern South Sudan, which is thought to be rich in oil.

The border conflict with South Sudan occurs at the same time as Kenya and Somalia are at odds over a maritime boundary in an area of the Indian Ocean that is said to be rich in oil and gas. In the maritime dispute, Kenya rejected the verdict of a top UN court in 2021 that ruled primarily in favour of Somalia.

The issue was brought by Somalia in 2014 to the UN’s highest court for state-to-state disputes, which it welcomed. Should the conflict worsen, South Sudan may forbid Kenya from utilising the Nadapal border, which would hamper commerce in the long run.

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