Maps of the South Sudan published recently indicate the new republic’s borders include a large chunk of Kenya territory. The maps are likely to cause tensions between Kenya and the newest country in the continent. Lands minister James Orengo yesterday attempted to downplay the situation when he told a parliamentary committee that the issue of the boundary between the two countries is “sensitive” and being urgently addressed by his ministry as well as those of Defence and Foreign Affairs.
Orengo told the Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations that the government is aware of the new map which indicates that parts of Kenya have been hived off to be in South Sudan territory. Orengo declined to give the committee more information about the annexation unless they held the meeting in camera.
He said Defence minister Yusuf Haji and his Foreign Affairs counterpart Moses Wetang’ula should also be involved in the discussion. “If we are not careful, we will be losing territories every day,” Orengo told the committee. The committee has already commenced investigations into the encroachment by government of South Sudan and is expected to table its report once Parliament resumes.
Wajir West MP Adan Keynan said the border with Southern Sudan is one of the key reasons why his committee had summoned Orengo. “We have been on the receiving end from the Meriles of Ethiopia to foreign fishermen in the Lake Victoria,” said Keynan.
Committee member Raphael Letimalo, Samburu East MP, said he noticed GOSS had encroached upon Kenyan soil on a map he saw in Juba during the country’s independence day in July. “I was there during the celebrations of independence in Juba and that is when I saw their map which has encroached into our territory, and I raised the issue there,” Letimalo said.
The accusations are likely to cause friction between Kenya and its northwestern neighbour which has over three decades looked to Kenya to provide sanctuary to hundreds of thousands of its people. Kenya played a critical leadership role in the negotiations that led to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended the protracted civil war and culminated in February’s referendum when South Sudan overwhelmingly voted to secede from the North.
Orengo told the committee that Kenya faces territorial problems with Somalia and Uganda since the boundaries are not clearly demarcated. Orengo said only the Ethiopian border was clearly demarcated through the initiative of President Jomo Kenyatta and Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie.
Orengo said the long-running dispute between Kenya and Uganda over the ownership of the Migingo Island may have to be referred to the International Court of Justice — the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Orengo said resolving the Migingo dispute requires political will and not just surveys by technocrats. He maintained the island is squarely in Kenya. “On Migingo, what is required is a political solution failure to which we will go to a tribunal or the International Court,” said Orengo.
The minister was accompanied to the committee meeting by Commissioner of Lands Zablon Mabeya, the Director of Land Adjudication and Settlements Esther Ogega among the senior ministry staff. Orengo told the committee that public land allocated to the Department of Defence had been hived off and sold to private developers and cited examples of land in Karen, Embakasi, Langata, Eastleigh and the Eldoret bullet factory.
He said the land had been sold off with the connivance of some military officers. He said land where the residence of the Vice President is being built was illegally acquired from the military. While the residence will not be demolished as it is for use by a public officer, Orengo said he had initiated the process of recovering the adjacent plots where palatial homes have since been built.