BY: Molana Deng, USA, Human rights/Criminal Law, MAR/22/2015, SSN;
Named after an Anyuak-chief, Ilemi (Elemi), the Triangle piece of land which now is being claimed by Kenya, belongs to South Sudan because of its people, geographically, economically and socially. The imaginary line which are red, blue and yellow lines are all in South Sudan.
The ownership of the land has been for South Sudanese since 1902, 1907, and 1972 treaties.
Though Kenyan authorities claiming it theirs, this claim has no any legal ground whether red and blue, the validity of the unilaterally-imposed blue-line, which would seem to imply their clear and enduring breach of South Sudanese territorial integrity.
As history is concerned, ownership of the Ilemi triangle has been for Sudan since creation, when Mr. Archibald Butter and Captain Philip Maud (Royal Engineers) surveyed Ethiopia’s border with British East Africa in 1902-3 and marked the “Maud line” which was recognized in 1907 as the de facto Kenya-Ethiopian border.
Addis Ababa renounced Britain’s attempt to rectify this border through a survey by Major Charles Gwynn (Royal Engineers) in August 1908 for excluding Ethiopian surveyors. Make no mistake to know those Surveyors where not Africans to know the border of Sudan.
In 1907, the Ethiopian emperor Menelik laid claim to Lake Turkana and proposed a boundary with the British to run from the southern end of the lake eastward to the Indian Ocean, which was shifted northward when the British and Ethiopian governments signed a treaty.
In December 1907, Anglo-Ethiopian agreement treaty was signed between Ethiopia and British East Africa. Though vague on the precise details of where the border was located, it clearly placed the entire Ilemi on the Sudan side of the Ethiopia-Sudan line, which still gives the ownership of Elemi triangle to Sudan.
In 1914, Uganda-Sudan Boundary Commission that did the survey agreement to allow Turkana nomads access to Sudan land with plenty grass via the now-dry Sanderson Gulf at the southeast corner of the Elemi triangle.
In 1918, the Ethiopians armed the Nyangatom and Dassanech peoples, who are Sudanese to protect themselves from their neighbor in the event of cattle raiding.
In 1928, the Sudan government who were against the South Sudanese agreed to allow Kenyan military units across the 1914 line to protect the Turkana against the Dassanech and Nyangatom.
Make no doubt that South Sudanese didn’t have power to protect themselves and Khartoum was controlling their land without knowing who are the inhabitants to the land and was supporting anything that will kill South Sudanese.
In 1929 Kenya began subsidising Sudan to occupy the territory, which it did not wish to continue because of the perceived uselessness and not their land. By 1931 Sudan agreed to subsidise Kenya to occupy the territory.
The Red Line was drawn by then to represent the limit of boundary where Turkana people can graze their cattle. This was in series of agreements from 1929 to 1934, by the Governor-General of the Sudan and the Governor of Kenya.
They agreed that this Red Line should be accepted as the boundary on the grazing limits of the Turkana peoples as required in the 1914 agreement. This was also done to replace the provisional straight line of 1936 when Italy invaded Ethiopia and briefly claimed the area of the Elemi triangle which still can be questioned.
Kenyan-Sudan agreement, in 1938, there was a joint Kenya-Sudan survey team, that demarcated the “Red Line which is very close to the delimitation a few years earlier of this Red Line, marking the northern limit of grazing of Turkana.
This line, to replace the provisional straight line of 1914 as required by that treaty was carefully mapped and demarked with stone monuments. While Egypt and Britain agreed on this, Italy did not, which still gives South Sudanese de-facto rights because Egyptian, British and Italian aren’t the inhabitants of Elemi triangle.
Although the Dassanetch and Nyangatom had suffered because of the Italian occupation, and wished to recoup their losses by making a raid against the Turkana. Several hundreds Turkana people were killed in the raid.
Following this incident, Italy gave up the claim of Elemi subsequently, which allowed the British to respond with a raid on the Nyangatom and Dassanech.
By 1941 British troops of the King’s African Rifles (KAR) occupied Elemi during World War II. The KAR passed through Elemi on their way to southwestern Ethiopia. Again in 1944 the Britain’s Foreign Office surveyed a “blue line” which was further northwest than the “red line.”
But it didn’t last long because in 1950 Sudan established their own patrol line even further northwest into Sudan where they prohibited Kenyan and Ethiopian pastoralists from moving west of it, giving up policing and development to the area east of it.
However, that Kenya-Sudan agreement specified that this patrol line in no way affected sovereignty; that it was not an international boundary, and money continued to be paid to Kenya to patrol this Sudanese territory. This also gave South Sudanese the ownership of the Elemi triangle.
There was also a little fight between 1949 and 1953 as Sudan attempted to keep the Nyangatom behind this line but it didn’t last long due to the fact that the land was far away from Khartoum and Khartoum were interested in Nyangatom people.
By 1967 President Kenyatta’s administration had made an attempt to seek an opportunity from to the British to secure support for the occupation of the Triangle by Kenya. However, the British were unresponsive and the results amounted to little.
The matter was sidelined and successive Kenyan administrations have been seemingly willing to accept the territorial status quo and their de facto territorial control, even if the Kenyan influence did diminish after the relocation of the Sudanese People Liberation Movement- SPLM to Sudan in the 1980s-90s.
In 1964 Kenya and Ethiopia reaffirmed their boundary, confirming Kenyan sovereignty to Namuruputh, which is just south of the southeastern point of the triangle.
The 1972 Addis Ababa peace accord and Sudan-Ethiopia boundary alteration did not solve the Elemi issue because it did not involve Kenya, but they confirmed that Ethiopia had no claim to the Elemi Triangle.
However; in 1990 Ethiopia armed the Dassanech with Kalashnikov automatic rifles, perhaps in response to Kenyan government action in 1978 in arming the Turkana.
Without any legitimate evidence, many Kenyans marked the Red Line as the official boundary of Kenya since 1960’s, without a proper claim and more recently, most Kenyan maps depict the 1950 patrol line, the furthest northwest, as the boundary.
Following the 2011 South Sudan independence, not only should we have claimed the ownership of Elemi Triangle but the national government in Juba by de-facto, should have revisited the treaty that allowed Turkana’s grazing land rights in South Sudan land.
Although, in 2012, Salva Kiir administration opened a case against Kenya over the popularly known Elemi triangle Land of South Sudan, this case should not only claim the right of Elemi triangle but also addressed the grazing land rights of Turkana people.
It will be so shameful for Kenyan to claim the ownership of the land since Turkana are not South Sudanese but they do travel to South Sudan for pasture only.
It will also be so shameful for Kenyans to invade Elemi triangle because there is oil in that area knowing that Turkana were only given the right to bring their cattle to that area but not to take oil.
This right can also be denied if the regulations are not met. Where would Kenyans get their legitimacy of invading Elemi Triangle stand since they can’t claim in de facto this land?
There might be something behind this action and South Sudanese should ask their leadership why are Kenyan Defense Force in Elemi triangle… what are they doing?
(EDITOR’S COMMENT: It should be poignantly recalled that on South Sudan Independence in 2011 when Kiir’s government re-drew the new map of South Sudan to include the Elemi Triangle, Kenyan foreign ministry immediately protested.
What happened next surprised every South Sudanese. Cowardly and slavishly, the Kiir’s foreign affairs ministry in Juba and his ambassador in Nairobi, all quickly made apologies to Kenya.
The map was redrawn with ‘Elemi triangle’ once more ceded back to Kenya.
As a reminder to all, it’s speculatively presumed that Dr. John Garang, besides offering the Kenyan’s several ‘tin-containers’ filled with gold captured from Kapoeta Arab traders, secretly ‘sold’ off the Elemi Triangle to then Kenya’s president Daniel Arap Moi, allegedly in exchange or as a reward for Kenya’s open diplomatic and military support to the SPLM/A that included free access to importation of arms.
Kenya also built Lokichokio airport in the north near the Sudan-Kenya border for the unfettered and enhanced transport of SPLA soldiers, arms and food to rebel-controlled areas that included the Nuba Mountains, Darfur, Kordufan and Blue Nile rebel-controlled zones.
Regarding the oil and minerals availability, it was long known that that area of what was then known as Kapoeta district was potentially rich in gold since colonial times, hence the Kenyans had always coveted ownership of this area.
The irony now is that despite the more plentiful availability of oil we physically have in Upper Nile, Jonglei, Unity and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states, the Kiir junta has terribly misused the money and now destroyed or severely hampered the exploitation of these areas, only reinforcing the truth that now independent South Sudan nation henceforth is a typical ‘resource cursed’ nation.
After the current civil war in the country, will Kiir, assuming he survives the fight, embark on another war with Kenya…. your guess?)
Country: USA: International Human rights Criminal Law Student