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Uganda police harassing local fishermen

By | July 31st 2009

By Nick Oluoch

The disputed Migingo Island sagged under renewed tension after Ugandan security officers stopped Kenyan fishermen from docking on its beaches.

The policemen armed with AK47 rifles cordoned off the island and monitored movement of Kenyans on the Island.

A fisherman who spoke to The Standard from Migingo said the Ugandans had suddenly become aggressive and were mishandling them.

"They are not allowing any boat to dock on the island. They are very harsh. We do not know what is happening," said the fisherman.

Some fishermen, he said, are stranded on the waters after their boats were denied entry.

The fisherman said only a few of boats were allowed to dock after being searched by the Ugandan authorities.

Preliminary report

Last week, President Kibaki said the island belonged to Kenya and told local fishermen not to worry about it.

This was after a preliminary report by surveyors indicated the Island is 510m inside Kenya.

Yesterday, the fishermen said they were surprised by the sudden turn of events.

But sources said the Ugandans suspected Kenyan police would go to the Island since the fishermen had held a meeting with Migori DC the previous day.

According to the source, more than 50 fishermen had left the island for the meeting with DC Julius Mutula in Migori town.

"We were asked (by the Ugandans) whether the fishermen had gone to ask for help and whether they would come back with police," said the source that did not want to be named for fear of being victimised by the Ugandan police.

When contacted, the DC said he was yet to get any information Migingo was under siege again.

Fish confiscated

"We had a meeting with the fishermen just yesterday," Mr Mutula said, adding fishermen would have told him had there been a problem.

At the same time, an official of the Beach Management Unit Juma Ombori has blamed Ugandan police for what he termed "harassment over the past one week".

Speaking on phone, Mr Ombori said cases of fish being confiscated were on the rise.

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