Eric Juma and Tom Rachuonyo @PeopleDailyKe
In what amounts to a new approach by Kenya, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has ruled out holding what he said are unproductive boardroom meetings with Uganda to resolve the Migingo Island dispute.
In a bare-knuckled statement, Matiang’i said the government had dropped negotiations in boardrooms on the dispute and had instead formed a comprehensive security committee to deal with the issue.
Matiang’i disclosed that the committee would craft viable strategies to deal with insecurity along the Uganda-Kenya border in particular, and Lake Victoria in general.
“We have tried to be diplomatic and held negotiations with Ugandan security team to address insecurity in the lake but it has not added any value and that is why we opted to form a comprehensive security committee to deal with the matter,” said Matiang’i.
“Soon there will be reprieve for the fishermen in various beaches who have been soft targets for Ugandan security,” he said Matiang’i.
He assured Kenyan fishermen no one would again deprive them of their right to engage in fishing.
The CS announced that a multi-agency unit was finalising measures to address insecurity challenges in the area.
“We’re jointly doing a plan with our colleagues in the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and other security organs,” he stated while meeting Kisumu County police commanders on Monday.
Matiang’i said the government was keen to address for once and for all concerns and challenges faced by lake users. Past attempts by the government to address the Migingo island issue have not borne fruit.
Attempts by the then President Mwai Kibaki administration to resolve the dispute through negotiations with Uganda and boundary surveys were unsuccessful.
Differences in interpretation of a joint communiqué on the disputed island prompted Ugandans to pull out of the process.
The stalemate arose when the Ugandans led by Justin Buogi failed to convince the Kenyan team led by Ephantus Murage to draw two lines as the boundary between the two countries, yet as experts they were to determine the correct border line.
Preliminary findings show that the disputed island is 510 metres inside Kenya. This has been determined in relation to Ilemba and Pyramid Islands as described in 1926 Order in Council. Migingo Island is 1.5 acres.
The British High Commission in Nairobi offered officials from Kenya and Uganda access to its records, which indicated Migingo lay in Kenyan waters.
Matiang’i promised deployment of more security officers to patrol the lake. Kenyan fishermen in the lake, the second largest fresh water lake in the world, have been pleading with the government to address insecurity.
Cases of fishermen losing fishing gear to robbers, harassment by police officers from neighbouring countries and boats capsizing in the lake have been common.
Accompanied by Siaya Senator James Orengo, Siaya MP Christine Ombaka, Homa Bay MP Gladys Wanga, Lilian Gogo (Migori), Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Onyango Koyoo, Matiangi said border security meetings would no longer be held in Nairobi but in counties facing with the conflicts.
“The meetings will now be devolved to counties whose boarders are facing security threats so as to act based on facts on the ground,” he added.
Six Kenyan fishermen are detained at Vuvumai in Uganda, following their arrests at Lake Victoria a week ago, as the Sh100, 000 fine demanded cannot be paid.
Zadock Kawa, chairman of Nyangwena Beach Management Unit in Migori County, said they were arrested for allegedly fishing in Uganda waters.
Among those arrested is Nelly Ochieng, a Form Four student at Kibuon Secondary School. His father, Johanes Odedo appeal to the government to intervene to enable him to go back to school.
Last week, Ugandan soldiers allegedly attacked two Kenyan fishermen George Owuor and Ezekiel Onyango, and set their boat on fire.