July 3, 2013

MIGINGO DISPUTE: Kenyan MP Urges Pres. Uhuru To Claim Island

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has been urged to step in and end the row over the ownership of Migingo Island with Uganda’s government.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

Nyatike MP in western Kenya, Omondi Anyanga said President Uhuru should ensure that the Island reverts back to Kenya within the shortest time possible.

Anyanga in whose constituency falls on the Island told Kenyan media that the continued harassment of Kenyan security officers and fishermen by Ugandan security necessitated an intervention by the Head of State.

“We have an assistant chief and Administration Officers in Migingo Island which is also a polling station in Nyatike constituency and it is important that Kenya secures it from the hands of Ugandan soldiers,” Anyanga said.

Anyanga reminded President that during the pre-election presidential debate, he reiterated that the Island was in Kenya.

“It is time the President re-affirms his position that he would not cede an inch of the Kenya’s soil to neighbouring country. He should now walk the talk and engage President Yoweri Museveni on the matter,” Anyanga said.

The MP made the sentiments amid tension between Ugandan and Kenyan security forces.

Nyanza Provincial Police Officer (PPO) Joseph Ole Tito recently led a delegation to the Island on a fact finding mission after Kenyan Administration Police officers were allegedly assaulted by their Uganda Police at the island.

On Tuesday, MPs from Nyanza claimed that Ugandan soldiers guarding the Island were extorting money from Kenyan fishermen and harassing APs deployed to the area.

“Ugandan soldiers guarding the Island have been pursuing the fishermen to the Kenyan territory while armed an in full uniform contrary to existing international treaties,” said Suba MP John Mbadi.

The MPs claimed that the harassment of the Kenyan fishermen in Lake Victoria by Ugandan security forces had escalated following the recent visit by Kenyan President Uhuru to Uganda where he met with President Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda President Paul Kagame.

“The government cannot bury its head in the sand when the people’s livelihoods are threatened. This is not a Nyanza affair as it affects the whole country and the President must assure us of protection of
the country’s sovereignty,” Mbadi said.

MIGINGO ISLAND DISPUTE

It should be recalled that in 2008–09, tensions flared between the two nations as the island itself was claimed by both Kenya and Uganda. July 2009 a survey team found that the island is 510 metres (1,670 ft) east of the Kenya-Uganda border within the lake. Since 1926, territorial ownership of the island has been consistently shown on maps and in language on official documents as Kenyan.

Migingo Island that is the borne of contention between the two nations
Migingo Island that is the borne of contention between the two nations

However, much if not most of the Ugandan protests revolve around the lucrative fishing rights, mostly for valuable Nile perch, and Ugandan waters come within about 510 metres (1,670 ft) of the island. In July 2009 the Ugandan government shifted its official position, stating that while Migingo Island was in fact Kenyan, much of the waters near it were Ugandan.

On 13 March, government ministers, including the foreign-affairs ministers — Kenyan Moses Wetangula and Ugandan Sam Kutesa — met in Kampala, Uganda, and reached an agreement that the fishermen from both countries be allowed to continue conducting business as usual, until the boundary was determined by experts. They also agreed that Uganda withdraw the forty-eight policemen it had deployed on Migingo.

On 27 March Ugandan and Kenyan ministers traveled to the island where they held negotiations and addressed the residents. This ended in a row, with the former First Deputy Prime Minister of Uganda Eriya Kategaya (rip) taking issue with the Kenyan Minister for Lands, James Orengo, for calling the Ugandan delegation “hyenas” during the meeting. The Kenyan delegation demanded that Uganda withdraw its police. The Ugandan delegation insisted that they would remove the flag only after consulting the State House (the Office of the President of Uganda), and that the Ugandan policemen were there to keep law and order. Kenya’s Internal Security Assistant Minister, Orwa Ojode, replied that he would be sending Kenyan police to the island.

Amidst concerns that the dispute may affect cooperation between the two countries and within the East African Community, both Museveni and then Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki voiced confidence that the dispute, including fishing rights, will be resolved amicably.

 

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