George Orina, Kenya’s nominee for the ambassadorial post in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, faced rigorous vetting by members of parliament to determine his suitability for the position.
As a career diplomat currently serving as the Director-General for Political and Bilateral Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Orina was questioned about significant events during his tenure.
One of the prominently discussed issue was the Ilemi Triangle conflict, a region rich in water and oil that has ignited multiple interstate border disputes involving Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.
Orina was queried on why Kenya, as a regional hegemony, had been unable to resolve the conflict, which has recently led to clashes between the Turkana of Kenya, the Toposa of South Sudan, and the Nyang’atom of Ethiopia.
The China School of Foreign Affairs graduate emphasised that one of the guiding principles of Kenya’s foreign policy is the sanctity of its territory: “not an inch more, not an inch less.”
He assured the committee that Kenya is committed to ensuring the integrity of its territorial boundaries and continues to engage with the involved countries to resolve the issue while respecting each nation’s sovereignty.
The conflict has caused diplomatic tensions in the past. In February, South Sudan summoned the Kenyan envoy to protest what they claimed was an encroachment on their territory.
The South Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed its desire for a diplomatic solution but called for both countries to address the dispute.
In 2019, Kenya and South Sudan agreed to establish a joint team to demarcate the border inherited from Sudan.
Another issue raised during the vetting was the case of 41 Kenyans from pastoralist communities who were imprisoned in Uganda.
Gilgil legislator Martha Wangari questioned Orina on why these individuals were still incarcerated and whether Kenya had failed in negotiations with the Ugandan government.
Orina explained that it was an unfortunate incident where Kenyan herders had crossed into Uganda while armed, leading to their arrest.
They were prosecuted under existing Ugandan laws and tried by a court-martial, resulting in their imprisonment.
He stressed that the most appropriate action would be to seek a pardon from the highest authority in Uganda to resolve this specific case.
Due to the sensitivity of the matter, Orina refrained from disclosing further details.
But President Museveni in May issued a demand letter that Kenya hand over for trial Turkana herders, who allegedly killed five Ugandans in the volatile northeastern Karamoja region in March 2022.
Through an executive Order No.3 of 2023, issued on May 19, to end illegal guns making their way into Uganda, the veteran leader gave the Turkana a six-month ultimatum to comply with the directive, short of which he would expel all Turkana and their herds from Uganda soil.
Those killed in the raid by suspected Turkana cattle rustlers included three geologists from the Ministry of Energy, one Uganda People’s Defence Forces officer, and one soldier.
President Museveni described the Turkana issue as “another destabilizing factor” in his efforts to disarm the Karamojong warriors and keep secure the region that borders Kenya to the northwest.
The issue remains a source of diplomatic concern between Kenya and Uganda.
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