Ndeda : The forgotten outpost where only water, sand are free

NYANZA |

Ndeda Island in Lake Victoria, Siaya County.[Isaiah Gwengi,Standard]

As the first rays of the sun peep out of the clouds and over the hills, a group of fishermen sets off in their boat and sails out to the shore. A chilly breeze hits them and they shiver a little. As the sails fill with air, the boat moves swiftly over the water.

Soon, they dock on the shore and begin to offload their catch. The sky looks beautiful at sunrise with orange, gold, pink and blue shades.

Sounds of ohangla music emanating from drinking dens and the voices of drunkards give one the feel of a boisterous life.

There are three main bars and video show halls, complete with music.

These are backed by backstreet drinking joints that specialise in chang’aa and other second generation liquor sold in the island.

Shops, kiosks that sell cigarettes, sweets, condoms and fishing gears are abuzz with activity.

Profound connection

The locals here have a profound connection to the lake. They also have a connection to anyone visiting.

“It is very easy to identify a visitor here in the island because people are few and concentrated at the beach,” says Peter Aduwa, a resident of Central Sakwa.

The island once served as a detention camp for arrested colonial fighters alongside Oyamo and Mageta, yet it remains a forgotten territory.

The only means of transport to the island is a boat. There is no electricity and good road networks only exist in the residents’ imagination.

Residents say life here is expensive since everything, apart from water, fish and sand, is imported from the mainland.

According to Benta Atieno, a resident of the island, locals get firewood from the mainland.

“There are no forests here and the main source of cooking fuel is firewood and charcoal. A bundle of firewood sells at Sh50 while a sack of charcoal at Sh1,500,” Atieno explains to The Standard.

She adds that the staple food in the island is fish and vegetables are brought from the mainland.

A plate of fish and ugali is sold at Sh120 while a 500ml bottle of soda goes for Sh60.

Mobile money transfer, M-Pesa is the only banking facility on the island with a population of more than 5,000 people.

The island has only one primary school, a dispensary and hosts dozens of traders and fisherfolk.

The nearest boarding secondary school is Uyawi.

Area MP Gideon Ochanda says that it is difficult to build a secondary school with a catchment of only one primary school.

Even as almost all parts of the country have security apparatus among them, the entire island has no police officers.

The nearest police post is in Nango, which is in the mainland.

Eric Ochieng, a fisherman who has stayed in the island for more than 10 years, says that insecurity is only in the lake where fishermen are usually attacked by pirates and Ugandan authorities.

“Even though there are no police officers in the island, cases of conflicts and crime are few. The island is generally peaceful,” says Ochanda, the Bondo MP.

Biggest challenge

Ochanda adds that another biggest challenge in the island is sanitation since it is rocky and, therefore, difficult to sink a pit latrine.

He explains: “Establishing a foundation is very cheap on the island as compared to the mainland because of the availability of building materials such as sand and stones.”

He, however, says the cost of transporting building materials to the island is expensive.

Hardships aside, locals here face another threat of invasion by ‘foreigners’.

They claimed that the rate at which the Ugandans are arriving to settle on the Island is alarming.

“The dispute that has been experienced in Migingo Island began like this and we are not going to wait for the same to happen to us here in Ndeda,” said James Omondi, a resident of the island.

Omondi, who expressed fears that a row is likely to erupt between Kenya and Uganda, pleaded with the government to move with speed and control the number of those foreigners whose population has kept on increasing on the Island day by day.

“We are appealing to our area leadership to come in and address the situation before it gets out of hand,” added Omondi.

Kennedy Oguk, another resident, said that the Ugandans, whose population has hugely increased, always come as fishermen on transit but later reside on the Island.

igwengi@standardmedia.co.ke

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