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South Sudan Accuses Kenya of Border Encroachment

Nakodok, along the South Sudan-Kenya border.
Nakodok, along the South Sudan-Kenya border.

South Sudan has accused Kenya of trying to steal disputed territory along their border after communal clashes left at least eight people dead.

Parliamentarians are piling pressure on South Sudanese President Salva Kiir to recall the house from recess so they can discuss the simmering border dispute. Fighting occurred last weekend in the area, in and around the town of Nakodok, a few miles from an oil field on the Kenyan side of the border.

South Sudan says Kenyan troops tried to take control of Nakodok, an area of Kapoeta East County. Abdullah Angelo Lokeno, the county commissioner, said eight people were reported to have been killed from the Kenyan side. He said the situation was now calm, and that he had urged the government of South Sudan "to return the people of Kenya to their place so that citizens can get to rest. The government should come and control the situation."

In 2009, Kenya and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement — the ruling party of what was then southern Sudan — signed an agreement to establish a temporary border control post at Nadapal to facilitate cross-border movement of people, goods and services.

The meeting was held in Nairobi with representatives from both sides, according to documents seen by VOA.

Juol Nhomngek, a South Sudanese lawmaker, said the agreement no longer holds, as it is not anchored in any legislation passed since South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011.

“Even if there were an agreement, it could not be given without the consent of the parliament that represents the people,” Nhomngek said.

On Thursday, Kiir dispatched his special adviser to Nairobi, a move seen as an effort to ease the tension between the two countries. The mission came a day after Kenya sent Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria to Juba to deliver a message from President William Ruto.

South Sudan Foreign Affairs Minister Mayiik Ayii Deng said the government hopes to use diplomatic means to resolve the impasse.

Kiir is under immense pressure to reconvene the national assembly to discuss the matter. Bol Joseph Agau, a member of parliament and a member of the National Democratic Movement Party under the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), said, "We need the parliament to be recalled by the head of the state. His excellency, the President Salva Kiir, needs to see that we have a big need for the parliament to be reopened.”

Some leaders said South Sudan would not cede even an inch of territory.

Dau Deng Dau, deputy minister for foreign affairs, said South Sudan "is called a country because of a defined territory and population, and we want to inform our youths to be calm, be patient, your country is addressing all these matters.”

The deputy foreign affairs minister said South Sudan had several other areas that, in his words, had been entered by neighboring countries, specifically Kenya and Uganda. He said South Sudan’s border commission was working with both countries to resolve the issues.