15 MARCH 1963, Page 5

Kenya's Seventh Region

THE crisis over the Somali Government's claim to the Somali-populated Northern Frontier District of Kenya is likely to be with us for some time. The Kenyan claim to keep the terri- tory, apart from a natural desire to hold land rather than to lose it, is based on the hitherto sacred principle that with the end of colonialism the old colonial frontiers must still be preserved. There is force in this; and no one, least of all the British Government, would lightly want to set the precedent in Africa of allowing tribes to determine their own boundaries, even though great trouble can be caused, as in Togoland, when tribal and geographical boundaries are in con- flict. In the Northern Frontier District, however, it has been clearly established that by far the majority of the region's inhabitants would prefer to join Somalia. The struggle for the area is not likely to have the happiest effects on Afro-Arab relations, and it is significant that President Nasser has, already lined up behind Somalia. It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that the British Government, in establishing the area as Kenya's seventh region, is simply praying hard that Kenya will have reached her independence before the trouble starts, thus absolving Britain of some of her responsibility.