Ethiopia and Kenya share a border of over 860 kilometres. Moyale is one of the areas on the border that is divided between the two countries. Diverse communities constitute the inhabitants of the border area, including the Borana, Garri, Gabra and to some extent the Burji. Similar to other African border areas, the Ethiopia-Kenya border in Moyale is a promising borderland region, with great potential to advance mutually beneficial integration between the two countries, as well as among the countries in the Horn, due to already developed trade and social connections across border. However, the borderland has long been a source of inter-communal conflict that can constrain cross-border socio-economic activities. Low intensity conflicts between the communities along the Ethiopia-Kenya border have existed for centuries. Nevertheless, since the beginning of the 1990s, the inter-play of internal (cultural values and beliefs such as raiding and cattle rustling, shortage of land for pasture and scarcity of water, politics of ethnicity and election) and external factors (drought and climate change, proliferation of fire-arms, the presence of armed opposition groups, and political change and reform of administration boundary), owing mainly to changes in the political systems in both countries, have altered the dynamics of inter-communal conflict in Moyale region
In April 2016 the Ethiopian government accused the Murle community in South Sudan of staging a brutal cross-border attack into Gambella province of Ethiopian territory which resulted in numerous deaths, injuries and displacement. This led to Ethiopian forces crossing into South Sudan to recover children and cattle alleged to have been taken by the Murle community. This was an extraordinary attack on several fronts – the Murle community does not border with the locations attacked, and the brutality of the attack was not in keeping with usual cattle raiding patterns in the region. While some question whether the attack was indeed carried out by the Murle community (or factions within the community), others suggest possible political motivations behind the attack. However, official rhetoric has insisted on portraying this attacks as apolitical – and the result of ‘primitive and destructive forces driving the Murle community.’ Regardless of the ethnic affiliation of the perpetrators, absent security provision on both sides of the border create a lawlessness that hampers human security, enables impunity, resulting in loss of life, disruption of livelihoods, food insecurity, and mass displacement on both sides of the border.
Imagine that you are a stranger to the town as well as to the country, sitting at a table on the terrace of a café on a sidewalk along a narrow but bustling street. Amid the relaxed atmosphere, your eyes capture suddenly a strip of black square brick tiles with interspersed white crosses on them, running on the ground and passing underneath your table. You sense that what you are looking at is strange, but you do not know yet what it is that makes it strange. Your eyes follow the line, scrutinising it backwards and forwards, and you take notice that it runs right up to the front wall of the café behind you. Just in front of you, the black strip runs across the street, crosses over the opposite sidewalk and goes up to the closed door of a multi-story apartment building. A closer look around brings to your notice, just a few steps before you, letters of the alphabet painted in white on either side of the line: ‘B’ and ‘NL’. You do not need to ask anyone what this whole combination of things is all about, because the idea ultimately sinks in: You are just sitting right on the border between Belgium and the Netherlands.
Such is, nowadays, the reality of the border phenomenon one is likely to encounter within the European Union (EU). The case is intended to illustrate how far personal attitudes and behaviors, government philosophies and policies, and organisational systems and practices can possibly evolve and stretch with regard to borders if people are willing to let them. That borders are where they should be only to serve ultimately – not to encroach on or work against – the common interests of the people who put them there by common consent demonstrates itself in an unambiguous manner.