This is a scholarly work with 270 footnotes and references. Its author.
Dr Nene Mburu, a former Kenyan soldier and a PhD in War Studies from Kings
College, London, is uniquely qualified to write what is likely to become the standard
textbook on this subject.
The Ilemi Triangle, at up to 5,405 square miles in area depending where its boundaries
are drawn, is larger than some African countries, and is at the point where the frontiers of
Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Sudan meet. Its present economic value is as a seasonal grazing
area to which five ethnic communities, the Turkana, Didinga, Toposa, Inyangatom (or
Dongiro) and Dasseneh (or Merille) can lay some claim. When the European powers
started to draw lines with a ruler on the map of Africa at the Berlin Conference of 1884-5
it was of little interest to any of them. But it had not escaped the gaze of the Emperor
Menelik II of Ethiopia, who was then consolidating his boundaries against the claims of
various European powers and also the Muslim world. In 1896 Menelik decided to claim
for his empire a chunk of the land of the Turkana, which he would deny to the Europeans.
At the time his main European ally was Russia which had missed out in the scramble for
Africa. In 1897 he launched a three-pronged invasion with the assistance of Russian
officers. Within four months Ethiopia had conquered an area of over 18,000 square miles
where it raised the Ethiopian flag in the fashion of its European competitors. In 1899
Lake Turkana was reached and a column penetrated south of Lodwar and Mt Kulal
towards Loiyangalani. British flags were removed and the Ethiopian flag was planted
near the mouth of the River Omo. The British too saw the strategic value of Turkana and
signed treaties with the local people, playing a cat and mouse game with the Ethiopians.
The Anglo-Ethiopian agreement of 1902 eventually gave to the British land to the West
of the River Kibish and to the Ethiopians all land to the East of this river. There is no
evidence that any of the border tribes were consulted or have seen this document.
With the partition of Africa by the European powers there was no urgency to delimit
the Kenya-Sudan-Uganda boundaries as Britain administered all three countries - and
right up to the time of Kenyan and Sudanese independence the British District Officer in
Lokitaung was being gazetted as a magistrate in both Nairobi and Khartoum to ensure
his jurisdiction. Another chapter of the book describes how Pax Britannica was gradually
imposed in the land of the Turkana, and further chapters describe the desultory attempts
that have been made from time to time to delineate the boundaries and to settle disputes.
A final chapter considers the future of the Ilemi Triangle, which to this day is being
mostly administered by Kenya. Its potential economic importance has greatly increased
with modern communication and transport facilities and the discovery of substantial
quantities of oil in both Northern Uganda and the Southern Sudan. Traces of gold have also
been found in the Triangle. Provided that the Merille tribe and the Ethiopians retain control
of the River Omo, and Ethiopia and the Sudan can resolve the problem of the Bayro salient,
the problem is essentially one to be resolved between Kenya and the Sudan. There would
appear to be every possibility of solving this problem amicably by negotiation.
There is an editorial error at page 161 where the Kenya boundary representative on the
Kenya-Ethiopia boundary commission is referred to as "Leslie Walters" instead of
Dr Mburu deserves our congratulations for writing so knowledgeably and clearly
about a complex situation.