Which Countries Border Kenya?

The town of Namanga is divided by the Tanzania-Kenya border
The town of Namanga is divided by the Tanzania-Kenya border

Kenya is a nation on the African continent that is made up of diverse geography. Located in East Africa, the nation has a vast coastline and an inland terrain characterized by broad plains and many hills. The nation has a total area of about 224,960 square miles with the bigger part (219,750 square miles) being land while the smaller 4,335 square miles is covered by water. One of the borders of the country is the massive Indian Ocean in the coastal regions that makes up about 333 miles of the border. The total length of the land border is about 2,148 miles divided between five countries. Ethiopia’s border with Kenya is the longest with a length of about 539 miles. The other borders include with Uganda (506 miles), Tanzania (482 miles), Somalia (425 miles), and South Sudan (197 miles).

Bordering Countries


Ethiopia is located to the north of Kenya. With a length of 539 miles, the border between Kenya and Ethiopia is easily the largest one compared to the other four borders. The border between the two nations was established back in 1907 when Kenya was under British rule. In 1947, there were further clarifications that were made to the boundary with the final and official demarcation happening later on between 1950 and 1955. Upon gaining independence from the British, Kenya and Ethiopia established a joint committee that was tasked with reviewing the boundary. In 1970, a treaty to this effect was signed and made official. The two countries have always maintained a cordial relationship with each that saw the establishment of ambassadors and consulates.

However, the neighboring communities living around the Marsabit region, which is among the main borders between the two countries, have not been so peaceful. The battles have been between Kenyan fishermen and militia groups from Ethiopia. For example, in August 2017, ten fishermen from Kenya were found dead with the major suspects being Ethiopian militia. The Moyale region, which is another border town, has also seen similar skirmishes with at 12 people killed in July 2017. All these tensions and deaths led to the deployment of the Kenan military to the disputed zones in September 2017. In addition, the Kenyan and Ethiopian governments collaborated with the United Nations and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to come up with a cross-border initiative to foster peace.


Kenya is bordered by Uganda to the west. This border is almost as long as the one between Kenya and Ethiopia, which is only 33 miles longer. The border crossing between Kenya and Uganda was established in 1926. The town of Malaba in Kenya forms the international border between the two states. While the two nations have had a relatively peaceful existence, there were some problems that arose recently over a small island. Known as Migingo Island, it has an area of about 0.20 hectares and lies in Lake Victoria.

Between 2008 and 2009, both of the nations claimed that the island was on their side. Before that, since 1926, the island was deemed to be in Kenya. The reason why the Ugandan government claimed it was the lucrative fishing waters nearby. Tensions were high in that period until the government of Uganda withdrew its claim, which was deemed by many to be the right decision as the island is clearly in Kenya. A team of surveyors was dispatched in 2009 and it established that the island lies 1,670 feet in the Kenyan side of the border.


To the south, Kenya is bordered by Tanzania. In the Kenyan side, the border can be crossed at Narok, Migori, Taveta, Kwale, and Migori. For the most part, Tanzania has had some of the most peaceful relations with its neighbors. In fact, since the East African Community (EAC) decided to open its borders for free trade, Tanzania is now the biggest recipient of exports from Kenya.

However, earlier this year, the Ministry of Lands of Tanzania and Kenya launched a mission to reestablish the Tanzania-Kenya and the Tanzania-Uganda border marks. One of the reasons for the move was that the opening of the borders by the East African Community led to a hike in smuggling activity. In addition, the two nations have been involved in trade spats in recent times that led to the stoppage of trade at some of the border stations. Eventually, the issue was resolved after the two leaders had a talk and reached a mutually satisfying truce. Despite the resolution, some experts have predicted the collapse of the EAC, which collapsed once before in 1977 in nigh similar circumstances.


Somalia borders Kenya to the east. On the Kenyan side, the border between the two countries can be crossed at places such as Mandera, Elwak, and Wajir. Unfortunately, Kenya and Somalia have not had the best border relations. One of the key border disputes is the maritime one. The area of contention is a relatively small triangle in the ocean that is about 62,000 square miles. The reason why both countries want it is that it is believed to have massive deposits of oil and gas.

Eventually, the matter was taken to the International Criminal Court at The Hague for a formal ruling. Experts predict a massive ripple effect that will see disputes arise with Tanzania should Somalia win. Tensions have also been high because of the terrorist threat from Al-Shabaab like the attack that saw the deaths of 148 students in 2015. Consequently, Kenya has decided to erect a wall at the borders to defend its citizens.

South Sudan

Kenya is bordered by South Sudan to the north. Being the world’s youngest nation, there has not been that much time for many conflicts to arise between the two nations. In fact, Kenya was among the first countries to recognize the nation’s independence back in 2011. In addition, Kenya has been involved with South Sudan in forming economic partnerships such as a linkage of the two countries via rail. However, there is an existent conflict between the two over the Ilemi Triangle region, which is claimed by both nations. Currently, Kenya is the de facto controller.


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