23 April 2017

East Africa: Uganda, South Sudan Agree On Plan to Redraw Border

Kampala — Uganda and South Sudan have agreed on a blueprint to guide redrawing of the boundary separating the two countries, which ostensibly is expected to bring to an end the long-simmering border conflicts.

A joint technical committee from the two countries on Friday concluded a three-day meeting for the "delimitation and demarcation" of the border in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, a process facilitated and to be overseen by the African Union, the 55-member continental body.

The meeting, according to Ms Margaret Kafeero, the head of public diplomacy in the ministry of Foreign Affairs, "discussed the technical, logistical and security requirements that will need to be availed before" the exercise to delineate the 470km boundary stretch commences.

"The African Union Border Programme experts provided technical expertise and in-depth consultations and best-practice information for both delegations," Ms Kafeero revealed.

The Ugandan multi-agency delegation comprised officials from police, UPDF, the ministries of Justice, Foreign Affairs and Lands led by Ambassador Paul Mukumbya, the head of the East African Community and Ring States Department in the ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Lt Col Abel Kandiho, the head of Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).

The blue print flagged off on Friday includes, among other points, to expedite acquisition of documents like certified colonial maps from UK and others to help border demarcation, carry out continuous sensitisation of border communities, commence demarcation of the hotspots once funds are available, and urge respective governments to expeditiously open border access roads to facilitate demarcation.

Others are to acquire appropriate equipment and tools, undertake joint training of technical staff, urge both governments to accede and ratify the Niamey convention of June 2014 on border access and cooperation, and to immediately request AU border programmer to conduct a verification exercise to determine whether land mines exist in the border areas and carry out demining.

Background

Since attaining self-rule in 2011, South Sudan has had several run-ins with Uganda over ownership of some border areas in the West Nile, specifically in the districts of Moyo and Lamwo.

The border was first drawn by the British, who colonised both Uganda and Sudan, in 1914.

South Sudan leaders in Central Equatorial Province have for long accused Ugandan farmers of encroaching on their territory but leaders in Moyo District insist the contested land belongs to Uganda. Armed men from South Sudan have at times crossed to the Ugandan side, leaving behind terror; pillaging and destroying property.

Attempts to re-demarcate the border, under the AU's guidance have been on for some time now. In July last year, former CMI boss, Brig Charles Bakahumura, met officials from Juba in Moyo over the same, as part of the preparatory consultations.

Ms Kafeero, however, indicated "no dates have been arrived at" for the commencement of the exercise because the "budget is still with the AU and must undergo requisite scrutiny."

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