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Map out Lake Victoria to stop abuse of Kenyans

By Alexander Chagema | September 5th 2021

Migingo Island. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Kenyan fishermen in Lake Victoria continue to bear the brunt of aggression by foreign police officers. For the longest time, fishermen on Migingo, a tiny 1.5-acre island, have been harassed, beaten up and imprisoned by Uganda security forces.

The fishermen often end up losing everything; their catch, nets and boats. In some instances, there have been reports of deaths after merciless beatings. The latest case is that of four Kenyan fishermen who were arrested by Tanzanian police officers, beaten up, and detained in Tanzania.

Such acts of aggression in the shared Lake Victoria natural resource are not acceptable. They defeat the spirit of East African integration and cooperation by enhancing mistrust.

A dispute between Kenya and Somalia over their maritime border in the Indian Ocean is before an international court for arbitration. Of greater concern, however, is the unresolved maritime border issue between Kenya and Uganda at Migingo Island. 

With Tanzania police officers having joined their Ugandan counterparts in harassing Kenyan fishermen, the Kenyan government should act to protect its citizens.

A clear demarcation of its maritime borders in Lake Victoria is a prerequisite to sparing Kenyan fishermen such ordeals. Granted, fishermen sometimes stray because there are no visible border marks over water. 

A good starting point would be a relook at President Uhuru Kenyatta's report first tabled in Parliament in 2015 titled 'Progress Made in Fulfilling the International Obligations of the Republic' that emphasised the need to agree on our common borders with our neighbours.

The revival of the Joint Border Commission set up in 2016 between Uganda and Kenya to map out the maritime border would go a long way in solving the long-standing dispute.

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