Kenya and South Sudan have agreed to form a joint border commission to help resolve ethnic conflict between communities in the oil-rich Elemi Triangle.
The area disputed by the two countries has recently seen clashes between the Toposa of South Sudan, the Turkana of Kenya and the Nyang’atom of Ethiopia.
Speaking after hosting South Sudan President Salva Kiir at State House in Nairobi, Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta said the commission and other efforts would “guide amicable resolution of disputes that may arise over the shared border.”
He added that a ministerial team had concluded an MOU on delimitation and demarcation of common borders.
“The framework will provide the necessary guidelines for engagement on boundary matters,” said President President Kenyatta,
Though the communique did not mention the ethnic clashes by name, Sudanese officials had on departure for Nairobi said the conflict was the main agenda of the visit.
The visit came a few days after lawmaker Epone Emannuel Lolimo, who represents Kapoeta State in the South Sudan Parliament, claimed that Kenyan troops had encroached into South Sudan territory,
restricting grazing of animals around the Nadapal area.
“Local communities of Kapoeta have been denied access to grazing land and freedom of movement by Kenyan troops who encroached into Nadapal,” Mr Lolimo said.
Juba and Nairobi inked a Memorandum of Understanding in 2009 to allow Kenya to temporarily set up a control border post near Nadapal but the deal did not include any action on the disputed border.
The Elemi Triangle is a mineral rich area near Nadapal and is a territory claimed by both South Sudan and Kenya, the reason for delimitation of common borders.
South Sudan Ministers General Kuol Manyang Juuk (defence), Nhial Deng Nhial (foreign affairs) and Kapoeta State Governor Louise Lobong Lojore were summoned by the National Parliament in Juba last week over the matter.
They were charged to seek peaceful engagement with Kenya authorities in order to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.
Nairobi, however, says the deployment of troops along the area was to prevent cattle raiding among the pastoralist communities of Turkana, Toposa, Didinga, Nyang’atom and Dessanach of Ethiopia, and Karamojong of Uganda.
President Kenyatta would allocate 10 acres of land for a dry port to South Sudan at the Naivasha Special Economic Zone and for a logistics hub near the new Lamu Port; the mouth of a new transport corridor, Lapsset, through Northern Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia.
South Sudan becomes the second country to be granted land at the proposed Industrial Park some 90 kilometres north of the capital Nairobi.
Through the land grants, Kenya is seeking to lock in the landlocked countries in the face of increased competition from ports in Horn of Africa (Djibouti and Berbera), Tanzania and Sudan (Port Sudan).
The Lapsset, acronym for Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport, corridor includes transnational highways, oil pipeline, rail and port services linking the two countries.
Kenya targets the first berth of the Lamu Port to be ready by August and two others by the end of 2020.
“It is important we fast-track the implementation of the LAPSSET Corridor Highway, that is, from Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo-Lokichar-Lodwar-Nadapal-Kapoeta-Torit-Juba,” President Kenyatta said.
Kenya also agreed to mobilise international support for South Sudan’s revitalised peace process between President Kiir and his rival Riek Machar.
Several memoranda were signed during the meeting including for Political Consultations and Joint Commission for Cooperation.
By The Eastafrican