I’ve been asked recently about the border between South Sudan and Kenya, and how recently, Eastern Equatoria officials have asked for the border to be demarcated, ostensibly to help administration and stop local disputes.
While I don’t want to step on any toes, I’d like to post up my response here, not just about the UK’s potential role in ‘helping’ with this.
Basically, all the borders of South Sudan, not just The Border, are subject to disputes. Between Kenya and South Sudan is the Ilemi Triangle, a subject of extreme dispute (and intensive raiding and local violence) for over a hundred years; land between Uganda and South Sudan is also disputed; and the borders with Ethiopia are interesting, as Gambella was loaned to Sudan for administration in the early 20th century. And obviously, the borders with CAR and DRC are extremely flexible in practice.
The obvious response to EE officials is – yes, the British Government (as well as various institutions like the Sudan Archives at Durham University, and the UK National Archives) will hold documents that will provide evidence for borders demarcation. This is exactly the same situation as happened with attempts to demarcate Abyei, and now with the North-South border demarcation issues.
Similarly, this will not be easy. While there is far more ‘evidence’ – i.e., documentary records, maps, letters, reports etc. – on the Ilemi Triangle and the broader Sudan-Kenya border area than there is on the Sudan-South Sudan border, this is still a remote region, and British officials from both the Sudan condominium and the Kenya colonial governments failed to demarcate any particularly helpful or locally adhered-to line in their time. Evidence from the South Sudan National Archives would be helpful, as long as the South Sudan government is willing and able to support the work of the Ministry of Culture and the Rift Valley Institute in ordering and preserving the fragile records there.
Basically, there is no silver bullet to any border demarcation, whether with Sudan or with Kenya: South Sudan’s borders have always been remote, sporadically and distantly administrated, badly drawn (and recorded), and sites of mass migration and dispute. The British have consistently provided all the documents on the North-South border – there’s no incentive to hold anything back! – and I think they should, and will, again; but there will be no ‘map’ of this border either.
Previous post on border resources can be found here.