Following the coming into force of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the National Congress Party (NCP) of the Sudan and the Sudan's People Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) of Southern Sudan in 2005, and a return of relative peace in the Southern provinces of Sudan, many Kenyans thronged to the country for work, business, or residence.
The number grew exponentially following the independence of South Sudan in 2011.
The Kenyan Mission in South Sudan estimates that approximately 30,000 Kenyan nationals were residing in the country by December 2013.
As a direct consequence of the December 2013 and July 2016 political conflicts that engulfed parts of the country, including Juba, an estimated 20,000 Kenyan nationals fled South Sudan.
Many of them decided to permanently relocate from South Sudan, especially following the deterioration of the economic situation in the country.
At the height of the crisis, in both instances, the government evacuated a total of 4,500 Kenyans who were in desperate situations and could not flee the country on their own.
In spite of the dire economic situation and the volatile security situation, many Kenyans continue to work, live and do business in South Sudan with some operating in the most remote places of the country.
The differences in customs, traditions, standards of living, levels of development and democratic practices between South Sudan and Kenya is wide and affects the level of protection Kenyans can obtain in South Sudan and which they would otherwise take for granted in Kenya.
The perceived harassment and dissatisfaction with the treatment Kenyan nationals (as all foreigners do) receive in South Sudan is a reality the Foreign Affairs Ministry is constantly grappling with through the Kenya Embassy in Juba.
The government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Embassy in Juba, employ a wide range of strategies to protect the lives and property of Kenyans in South Sudan. These include intense and persistent diplomatic engagement with the Transitional Government of National Unity, stakeholders and partners with a view to clear the path for Kenyans to operate in South Sudan or to extricate them from difficult situations.
For example, in February 2018, after intensive diplomatic efforts, two pilots who had been detained in Akobo safely landed in Nairobi signalling the end of their month-long ordeal.
Earlier in November 2017, four Kenyan nationals who had been sentenced to life imprisonment were released and reunited with their families in Kenya.
In addition, the Mission constantly promotes interactions among Kenyans and their host population in places where they work and live.
Many lives and property have been saved through the strong personal relationships that exist between South Sudanese and Kenyans.
Almost on a daily basis, the diaspora section at the Mission mediates and resolves numerous disputes between Kenyans in South Sudan on the one hand, and between Kenyans and South Sudanese on the other.
It also leverages on high-level bilateral visits made by high ranking government officials from Kenya to South Sudan.
The Mission works closely with the Kenya Diaspora Association in addressing issue-specific matters affecting Kenyans in South Sudan. Inspired by the spirit of harambee, Kenyans in South Sudan and staff of the Mission pull their resources together to address urgent and emergency matters such as deaths, distress, police or medical cases.
It provides a wide range of consular services, including helping visiting Kenyans who find themselves in prison, providing them with travel documents, facilitating compliance with residency requirements, speedy authentication of their documents required for registration of business or residency, resolving labour disputes, and intervening to minimise arbitrary arrests.
The Mission is constantly providing and exchanging information on the current situation in South Sudan. The Mission liaises with Kenyans, partners and stakeholders across South Sudan in sharing information, which serves as early warning in cases of simmering crisis in the country.
The travel advisory issued after the Akobo incident was just one of the many exchanges of information between the government and Kenyans in South Sudan.
As a long-term measure, Kenya supports the peace process in South Sudan. It is only through peace that a normal business environment guided by principles of international trade such as the EAC, COMESA and WTO Treaties can be achieved.
In addition, Kenya and South Sudan are working on concluding agreements and instruments on Promotion and Protection of Investments and Avoidance of Double Taxation.
The Mission provides technical assistance in key sectors of the economy such as training of air controllers and seconding experienced officers across several sectors.
All these efforts are aimed at building the capacity of institutions in South Sudan to provide services that meet regional and international standards, which have been proven to go a long way in protecting every business operating in a country.