Long history of territorial wrangles in Eastern Africa

Thursday, October 14th, 2021 00:00 |
Migingo island which has been the subject of dispute between Kenya and Uganda. Photo/File

Kenya, Somalia and Uganda have been feuding for years over disputed boundaries.

The conflict between Kenya and Somalia has mostly been over the triangular area of the Indian Ocean, an area believed to hold deposits of gas and oil.

Kenya has lately been also embroiled in a conflict with Uganda over the Migingo island.

However, in November 2019, Kenya agreed to share the disputed island with Uganda even as the government maintained the island was in Kenya.

Then Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma signed an agreement with Ugandan authorities to enable fishermen and other lake users to access either side of the boundary.

The island, a formerly uninhabited pinprick on Lake Victoria, measures about 2,000 square metres. It was until 2001 when fishermen began using it as an offshore weigh station. 

It later became famous after it was revealed that its geographical location made it ideally suitable for fishing the Nile perch.

As a result, there have been a series of aggressive encounters between Ugandan security and the Kenyan police which have brought the countries to the brink of violence.

An earlier conflict with Somalia was in July 1963 when Jomo Kenyatta, then Prime Minister, travelled to Mogadishu following reports that Somalia was sponsoring secessionists who were advocating for Kenyan Somalis to break away.

The residents of Wajir, Mandera, Isiolo and Marsabit wanted to secede and take away with them 102,000km2.

Kenyatta gave a stern warning to his counterpart that Kenya would not yield even an inch of its territory to Somalia.

Even as he said this, Somalia was trying to bring together all Somali speaking people in Ethiopia, Somalia, Somaliland and Djibouti. 

This led to the formation of the Northern Province Progressive People’s Party that later armed itself.

In 1976, there was a dramatic flare-up when the then Uganda President Idi Amin attempted to redraw the boundaries of the two countries.

Uganda wanted back all Kenyan districts that were part of Uganda before the colonial re-demarcation of the territorial boundaries that included Turkana, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Kisii, Kericho Nakuru, Naivasha, Central Nyanza, South Nyanza, Kisumu and Nandi.

Others were part of Lake Rudolf (now Lake Turkana), West Pokot, Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega, Narok, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo, Marakwet, Nyandarua, Eldoret, Tambach, Maji Moto, Maji Mazuri, Gilgil, Lake Baringo and Naivasha.

Jomo Kenyatta then threatened to block Uganda’s imports through the port of Mombasa, forcing Amin to back down.

“I advise them to go to hell and dream there. We shall not give away an inch, not even a quarter of an inch!

Our forces are ready and wananchi will use spears, simis, arrows, rungus or even blows and kicks to repel any threat,” Kenyatta warned.

He added: “There are people that are envious of our independence and sovereignty.

But whoever they are, black or white, I warn them that I am warlike, and we will not tolerate anyone playing about with our sovereignty.”

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