Local authorities fail to solve Sudan-Uganda boundary dispute
(15 December 2009)After an attempt to peacefully solve their differences at the local level between the Sudanese county of Kajo-Keji and Ugandan district of Moyo, the boundary dispute between Uganda and Sudan has been referred back to the respective governments in Kampala and Khartoum. The decision has been taken after the Sudanese delegation from Kajo-Keji presented a report at a tense meeting in Moyo on 12 December in which the Sudanese Kuku tribe claimed ancestral rights over a 5 kilometre area along the disputed boundary, as well as additional areas in the Ugandan districts of Moyo and Yumbe.
According to Moyo’s representative, Peter Iku Dolo, clashes and tensions in the border area started rising after the 2005 peace agreement in Sudan paved the way for the formation of the semi-autonomous South Sudan government. The governor of Central Equatoria (South Sudan), Clement Wani, admitted that the SPLA (Sudan’s People Liberation Army) has contributed in the deterioration of relations between the local communities. Some three years ago, Sudanese authorities halted the construction of a road and of a MTN communication mast under Ugandan contracts along the disputed boundary and these still await completion.
On 24 November 2009, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Sudanese Vice President Salva Kiir, the leader of South Sudan, met in Moyo to discuss the border tensions and called on the district authorities in Mayo and Kajo-Keji to resolve the dispute locally. Although President Museveni was reported as saying “The colonialists drew these lines long before and were clearly written,” the reality of colonial delimitation along this section of the Sudan-Uganda boundary is much less clear.
Situated west of the While Nile between the Kaya river to the west and the Nyaura/Kigura stream to the east, this section was originally defined in a 1914 British Order in Council as following the “southern boundary of the Kuku tribe.” The neighbouring colonial administrations had different views as to the extent of the Kuku tribe and negotiations continued. In 1930, the local District Commissioners of Kajo Kaji (Sudan) and West Nile (Uganda) delimited a ‘Provisional Administrative Boundary’ and in 1936 the colonial governments of Sudan and Uganda agreed to recognise the southern limit of the Kuku tribe as delimited by the provisional boundary. While the provisional administrative boundary was depicted on exchanged maps, it was never demarcated on the ground prior to Sudanese and Ugandan independence. Since independence, there has been confusion as to the validity of the 1936 agreement and in its 1967 Constitution Uganda defined this boundary section differently than in either the 1914 Order in Council or the 1936 administrative line agreement. It is unclear if any demarcation on the ground has taken place.
A subsequent meeting of local officials has been scheduled for 16 January again in Moyo, but the heated exchange during the 12 December meeting suggests that tensions remain high between the neighbouring border communities.
Sources: ‘Sudan claims “ancestral” ownership of northern Uganda land’ BBC Monitoring Africa, 14 December 2009; ‘Uganda, Sudan border dispute deepens’ Dow Jones International News, 14 December 2009; ‘Museveni, Salvar Kiir calm tensions’ by Dradenya Amazia, All Africa, 7 December 2009; ‘Museveni, Kiir inspect disputed border area’ by Dradenya Amazia and Chris Ocowun, All Africa, 25 November 2009; ‘Uganda, Sudan resolve border conflict’ by Martin Okudi and Felix Warom Okello, All Africa, 25 November 2009.