Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan in talks over disputed land

Sunday February 21 2016

Kenya has begun consultations with South Sudan and Ethiopia on the demarcation of disputed border points, including the northwestern tip of the mineral-rich Elemi Triangle.

A South Sudanese delegation led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, was in Nairobi for consultations with his counterpart, Amina Mohamed, over the demarcation of the 14,000km border between the two countries.

At the same time, Kenyan officials from the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior and Lands were in Naivasha, for talks with a delegation from Ethiopia on the demarcation of the border.

Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia have all made a claim to the Elemi Triangle in an ownership dispute that has last for more than a century, due to the failure by the colonial powers to mark the boundary.

Dr Benjamin said that Kenya and South Sudan were approaching the issue as friendly nations.

“This is just the initial meeting in which experts from both countries will evaluate the amount of work and the resources needed,” said Dr Benjamin.


He added that their quest for the demarcation had been influenced by the African Union’s resolution that all African countries delineate and demarcate their borders by the end of 2017.

The former colonial masters — UK, France, Germany and Belgium — have offered maps showing the colonial boundaries. 

Ms Mohamed confirmed that negotiations with Juba will begin in early March.

The AU has offered Kenya and South Sudan technical support such as boundary experts and satellite imagery. South Sudan has entered into similar consultations with Uganda over five disputed border points.

The Elemi area was retained by Kenya after Sudan’s Independence in 1956.

Ethiopia traces its claim to the 1907 Anglo-Ethiopian treaty that recognised the former Abyssinia’s control over communities in the area and subsequent attempts by British colonial authorities in Kenya and Sudan to redraw the border without involving it.

In 1986, the Kenyan government published a new atlas including part of the disputed Elemi triangle within its territory. In 1988, the government invited an American company, Amoco, to prospect for oil in the disputed area.

Khartoum protested the move, believing that the then president Daniel arap Moi had made a deal with the then Sudan People’s Liberation Movement led by the late John Garang to let Kenya occupy the area in return for arms and moral support.

Maps of Kenya before 1978 showed the country’s northern boundary with Sudan as a straight line drawn from the tip of Lake Turkana westwards to the north of Lokichoggio. But the line changed later with Kenya claiming more territory in the former undivided Sudan.

South Sudan now says the territory should revert to its control because it was never legally transferred to Kenya by the 1936 undertaking that allowed the British colonial governor of Kenya to administer it on behalf of the then colonial authorities in Khartoum.