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Fisher folk worry over border dispute

By Philip Mwakio | March 17th 2021
Fishermen at Old Port Beach Management Unit in Mombasa loading 20 liters jerrycans of diesel that will be used to fuel fishing boasts. Fishing industry is among the sectors that has been effected by the rise of fuel prices. [Robert Menza]

Fishermen in Lamu have said the Kenya and Somali maritime border dispute should have been first subjected to the council of the elders before escalation to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

At the same time they protested the Government’s decision to pull out of the maritime border dispute before ICJ.

Lamu Beach Management Unit (BMU) Network member Somo bin Somo said they have been fishing in the disputed boundary waters even before Kenya attained independence.

“Waters around Kiunga area next to the common border with Somalia are our preferred rich fishing grounds. It is this area that is the disputed maritime border,” he said. 

Mr Somo raised concern that the Government decided to handle the dispute without their involvement despite being directly affected by the case.

He urged the Government to spare no effort to defend the case at The Hague based court in the Netherlands.

“We have no other means of eking a living here. Our only source of livelihood here is fishing in the vast ocean waters. There are no factories where we can turn to for jobs,” he said. 

“In the event that Kenya loses the case then we are finished as a coastal community dependent on fisheries,” Somo added.

He said the fisher folk is anxious and waiting with bathed breath as the case progresses.

Most local fishermen moved to Kiunga, Kenya’s border town with Somalia, after their traditional fishing grounds in Kililana were affected by dredging in the Indian Ocean in the ongoing construction of the Lamu Port.

“If the tide turns against us then we can kiss goodbye to the the fishing grounds in Kiwayu, Kiunga Mwambore, and Ishakani with the risk of attacks due to the dispute as had been the case previously until Kenyan security forces intervened to secure the territorial waters,” Somo stated.

Is’haq Abubakar, a Save Lamu organisation activist, hinted that they are seeking to pull resources for legal representation of the fishermen at court in a bid to have them enjoined in the case.

“Despite us being a marginalised and down trodden poor community, we are seeking to raise resources to have some representation of over 10,000 Lamu fishermen and have our say even if not our way,” Abubakar said.

Abubakar Mohammed Twalib, a Lamu fish dealer who is also Lamu BMU organising secretary said the interests of the two states should transcend the Kiunga waters, which he noted are rich in oil and gas rich.

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