Senate in new push to end persistent border disputes

Men armed with bows and arrows stand guard in their village in Pimbinyiet, Narok County

Men armed with bows and arrows stand guard in their village in Pimbinyiet, Narok County, at the height of inter-ethnic clashes over a boundary dispute in August 2016.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Senators have revived the push to find a permanent solution to perennial inter-county border disputes, accusing the national government of failing to end such fights by demarcating boundaries.

The move comes at a time when at least 17 counties are involved in boundary disputes, with some degenerating into deadly clashes.

Taita Taveta, Makueni, Kajiado, Kwale, Isiolo, Meru, Nandi, Machakos, Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo, Kisii, Nyamira, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Busia and Vihiga are some of the counties affected by the boundary disputes.

The latest development follows concerns by nominated Senator Esther Onyekuri over frequent border clashes between Kisii and Nyamira counties.

The MP, in a request for a statement, called for the Senate Standing Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations to inquire into the causes of the ongoing row between the two counties over the collection of revenue in Keroka town.

She said the dispute has often been fuelled by claims of double taxation of traders in the border town. Consequently, Ms Okenyuri wants cadastral maps and the exact boundary points between the two counties provided.

“We want the committee to inform the House on the interventions being undertaken by both levels of government towards ensuring a permanent resolution of the disputed boundary area,” said Ms Okenyuri.

Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah blamed incessant inter-county border disputes on politics and revenue tussles, saying, concrete action must be taken to nip them in the bud. 

He cited the row between Busia and Siaya counties over Yala Swamp, adding that he is also involved in a court battle over a similar dispute involving Kwale, Makeuni and Taita Taveta.

Taita Taveta and Makueni are feuding over the location of Mtito Andei town, while Makueni and Kwale are arguing over Mackinnon Road Town. The lawmaker said the national government has failed in its mandate to demarcate county boundaries.

“This is a serious matter and I think we should expand the statement to provide for solutions to all these other disputes,” said Mr Omtatah.

Lasting solution

Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang lamented that some of the perpetual wrangles have led to clashes and deaths and a lasting solution needed to be found.

He argued that the County Boundaries Bill — which he is sponsoring and is at the second reading stage — is the panacea to the recurring conflict.

Mr Kajwang’ urged the House to support his proposal for the establishment of a Boundaries Commission, whose mandate will be to review county boundaries whenever a dispute arises.

“I want to encourage members of this House to pronounce ourselves and make laws that can provide these affected persons and communities with a lasting solution,” said the senator.

The bill provides a legal framework and outlines procedures for the resolution of disputes.

Article 188 of the Constitution stipulates that Parliament enacts legislation to form a commission to review county boundaries and resolve any conflicts.

Machakos and Makueni counties are also fighting over the exact location of Konza City. Other border disputes include the ones between Kajiado and Makueni as well as Turkana, West Pokot and Baringo counties.

Others involve Kajiado and Taita Taveta and Taita Taveta, Isiolo and Meru, Kisumu and Kericho, and Nandi and Vihiga. 

Also caught up in the boundary disputes are Turkana, Marsabit and Samburu.

The bill, originally sponsored by former Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo (now the county’s governor), collapsed in the National Assembly after it had been passed in the Senate at the end of the 12th Parliament.