× Business BUSINESS MOTORING SHIPPING & LOGISTICS DR PESA FINANCIAL STANDARD Digital News Videos Health & Science Lifestyle Opinion Education Columnists Moi Cabinets Arts & Culture Fact Check Podcasts E-Paper Lifestyle & Entertainment Nairobian Entertainment Eve Woman Travelog TV Stations KTN Home KTN News BTV KTN Farmers TV Radio Stations Radio Maisha Spice FM Vybez Radio Enterprise VAS E-Learning Digger Classified Jobs Games Crosswords Sudoku The Standard Group Corporate Contact Us Rate Card Vacancies DCX O.M Portal Corporate Email RMS

Battle for Migingo island still rages

By | March 11th 2010

By Joe Ombuor

Is Migingo Island in Lake Victoria, Kenyan territory? President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga declared so, publicly.

But their words do not carry much weight on the inhabited rock, about 90 minutes by motorised boat from the nearest Kenyan mainland.

Kenyans claim they are virtual slaves in their own land.

Measuring just above an acre, the bread-shaped island is dotted with iron-sheet constructions, including the few pay toilets that belong to Ugandans. Incidentally, the makeshift building housing Ugandan marine authorities and police was allegedly forcefully taken away from a Kenyan, Dalmas Otieno, 74, the first fisherman to settle on the island.

Kenyan fishermen say they still have to part with Sh4,000 per boat every month to Ugandan authorities when they venture into waters perceived to be Ugandan.

Juma Ombori, the Beach management Union (BMU) chairman says: "We initially paid Sh3 to the Ugandan authorities per kilogramme of fish. We owe it to our own struggle that the tax has lightened a bit.

But islanders still have had to contend with Uganda’s full military force at times reinforced with helicopter surveillance to intimidate Kenyans.

Uganda police

Kenyan fishermen land fish at Migingo island. Kenyan fishermen complain of harassment by Ugandans.

Uganda’s Commissioner General of Police has been to the Island on a number of occasions, although his Kenyan counterpart has not set foot there.

The Sh140 million survey commissioned by the Kenya and Uganda was abandoned midway.

No sooner had The Standard photographer James Keyi and I arrived in Migingo after a turbulent one and a half hour boat ride from Nyandiwa beach on the mainland than we tasted the power of the Ugandan forces.

Keyi was frog-marched to the makeshift Uganda police patrol base to state why he was taking photographs without prior clearance. Both of us had to state what business we were transacting on Ugandan soil, nay, rock. After some pitched argument and the intervention of Ombori, we were released, but with a caution never to enter the island incognito in future.

Crawl on knees

Ours was but a party compared to what many Kenyans have gone through. Many have been made to crawl on their knees on the rough rock and whipped mercilessly if they dithered, bleeding profusely from cuts and lacerations so inflicted.

Many claim to have incurred huge, paralysing losses after their boat engines, fishing nets and fish catches are confiscated. To retrieve the engines and fishing gears that cost as much as Sh20, 000, the victims arrested for allegedly straying to Ugandan waters have to part with as much as Sh60, 000. Those taken to Ugandan courts and jails in Bugiri District eight hours away endure more suffering before relatives and friends raise money to release them.

Such was the case late last year when 10 Kenyans were arrested for allegedly kidnapping a Ugandan national after a spat over mobile phones.

Their release from a Bugiri District police cell where they were detained on tramped up charge after being subjected to all sorts of inhuman treatment cost their friends and relatives a whopping Sh470,000 per person.

Clifton Juma Ojuki, 30, was arrested while fishing in perceived Ugandan waters and subjected to all manner of mistreatment that have left him with life long injuries.

The father of three says the injuries he suffered in his private parts have left him partly impotent.

Father of five Paul Odhiambo is another victim of brutal beating. He has lived with pains in his loins since 2004.

"We were arrested while fishing off the island on July 8, 2004, and robbed of everything. The Ugandan soldiers then subjected us to beatings that left some of us hospitalised for days" he narrates.

Ombori says Kenyans outnumber Ugandans by three to one.

There are 1,500 Kenyans compared to 400 Ugandans and 50 Tanzanians.

Fishing boats

Kenyans own the majority of the fishing boats. "We own about 100 boats. Ugandans have 40 to 50 boats," says Mbori adding, "But Ugandans run the shops, bars, lodgings, brothels and practically all the businesses," he adds.

Business is strictly transacted in Kenyan currency with no Ugandan shillings in sight. One wonders how the Island is Ugandan.

Uganda’s Migingo Beach Management chair Joseph Nsubuga denied Kenyans were being mistreated. He insisted the island was in Uganda.



Share this story
Beauty for a good cause
Youthful contestants took to the podium and straddled the catwalk to try and outdo each other in a rare show that culminated in winners being crowned.
Survey: Why 40 pc of workers want to quit their jobs
More than half of 18 to 25 year-olds in the workforce are considering quitting their job. And they are not the only ones.