By Deng Machol
Juba – Kenya and South Sudan have reached a deal aimed at deepening trade ties between the two neighboring countries in East Africa, including a plan for Kenya to hold a trade expo in Juba in November.
The deals which were signed on Monday in Nairobi between visiting South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his host Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta after an hour of bilateral talks, will also see the two countries set up a joint border commission for the management of the common border.
Kenyan has also agreed to allocate land for a dry port to South Sudan at the Naivasha special economic zone and for a logistics hub near the new Lamu port.
“To further ease the movement of goods consigned to South Sudan, the Kenyan government has set aside 10 acres of land at the inland container depot in Naivasha industrial park, for use as a dry port by the government of South Sudan,” said president Kenyatta, while addressing a joint press conference with president Kiir.
President Kenyatta further assured South Sudan that Kenya is fast tracking the completion of an ambitious Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPPSET) corridor project, an economic and transport corridor that stretches from Kenya’s coastal Lamu Port to South Sudan and Ethiopia, including transnational highways, oil pipeline and the Lamu Port, among others, to link the two countries.
“The first berth [of the Lamu port] will be ready this August while berths 2 and 3 are expected to be completed within the year 2020. I will invite your Excellency, with other regional leaders, to inspect the Lamu project in due course,” said Kenyatta.
Kenyatta said Kenya and South Sudan will put more efforts in completing trans-national highways including Eldoret – Lokichoggio – Nadapal – Kapoeta – Torit – Juba road.
“In pursuit of our shared vision to deepen further our cooperation, it is important we fast – track the implementation of the LAPSSET corridor highway, that is, from Lamu – Garissa – Isiolo – Lokichar – Lowdar – Nadapal – Kapoeta – Torit – Juba,” he said.
The two leaders also have initiated efforts that will guide amicable resolution disputes that may arise over the shared joint border and announced that a ministerial team has concluded an MOU on delimitation and demarcation of common borders, to help resolve ethnic conflict between communities in the oil – rich Elemi Triangle that bestrides South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia.
“The framework will provide the necessary guidelines for engagement on boundary matters, which, in the spirit of brotherhood and in recognition of the deep friendship between our States, will always be amicable,” said Kenyatta.
The Elemi dispute arose from unclear wording of colonial – era treaties which attempted to allow for the movements of Turkana nomadic herders. However, the demarcations have locked South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia in an enduring ownership dispute for than a century. To resolve the border conflict was high on the agenda for president Kiir’s two – day state visit to Kenya, but a visit continues with discussions on the peace process, including bilateral interests.
Kenyatta reiterated that South Sudan’s stability was a major concern for Kenyans and that he would use Kenya’s voice to urge more nations to support the ongoing peace process in the world youngest country. Adding that the Revitalized peace deal, if fully implemented, will benefit the entire continent and not South Sudan alone.
On his part, President Kiir said that his government was happy with president Kenyatta’s assurance that Nairobi will use its influence to support the implementation of the peace deal.
“We are delighted that you have assured us that Kenya will exert more pressure for the implementation of the peace accord,” said president Kiir, currently in Kenya for a two – days state visit.
Under the pacts, Kenya will hold a trade expo in Juba in November to help deepen trade ties between the two nations and also work as a show of confidence in South Sudan’s economy growth.
“The expo will not only showcase Kenyan products but also reciprocate by exposing South Sudan’s products to Kenyan business people,” said president Kenyatta.
South Sudan split from Sudan in 2011 after decades of scorched-earth conflict, but East Africa’s youngest country returned into another civil war in late 2013. The five-year conflict has killed 400,000 people and uprooted four million people from their homes, and further devastated the country’s economy. The September peace deal is latest deal amongst deals reached before, but plans to transitional government in May, this year were delayed after there was no funding to disarm, establish cantonments, rehabilitate and integrate militias and rebels across the country.