‘Island is nearer Kenya but it is ours’

The Government of Uganda has laid fresh claim over Migingo Island, saying it has evidence to prove ownership.

Our reporters DAVID OCHAMI and MASEME MACHUKA exclusively talked to Ugandan Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Regional Co-operation Isaac Isanga Musumba. Excerpts.

Q. According to evidence in Uganda’s possession who owns Migingo Island?

A. The evidence we have indicates the island is on the Ugandan side.

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What does the Ugandan constitution of 1995 say about this island?

It is the most important document we have. It is a carry over from the colonial times. It says the island belongs to Uganda.

What are the feelings of the Ugandan public on this matter?

The Ugandan public feels this is an island in Uganda.

However, if their brothers in Kenya think it is theirs we need a survey. By the way there are more Kenyans on the island but we are talking about ownership.

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Why does Uganda think the Kenyan public is blowing the dispute out of proportion?

It is the major issue in the Press (Kenyan). Look at politicians. Once you allow the public to take the lead, civil society comes in and they politicise the matter. This is a technical matter.

Why do you think there is a contest now?

We have to ask that to the Kenyan people.

You have claimed the island was submerged at some point. What do you mean?

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When it rained heavily, in the 1960s, the Island disappeared. It re-emerged in 2004, when the water level went down.

From your point of view when did people first settle on the Island?

Effective occupation was after 2004. There have never been hard rules of nationality on the island.

Why are Kenyans the majority on the island?

A. Technically, the island is nearer the mainland in Kenya.

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Kenyans dock there after fishing in the lake. Being nearer to the Kenyan mainland does not mean it is Kenya’s.

Besides Migingo is there any other part of Kenya’s boundary with Uganda is dispute?

So far other than Migingo there is no other. We want to ensure no such dispute occurs.

We do not have clear boundaries. They need to be redone.

What about Remba, Sigulu, Ringiti and other [disputed] islands?

We need a survey to determine where the borders are. This survey is on course.

Why does Uganda have border disputes with its neighbours?

It is because we need clear borders marked. We need to draw borders with our neighbours. We have issues with the Democratic Republic of Congo over Lukwanzi Island on Lake Albert.

Migingo Island Isaac Isanga Musumba Uganda