Migingo: Strained relations portend ill for EAC

By The Standard | Wednesday, Sep 5th 2018 at 00:00
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Migingo island on August 9, 2018. [Photo by Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

Actualizing ideals of the East African Cooperation (EAC) depends on harmonious existence. This is, however, threatened by some outstanding matters like the impasse between Kenya and Uganda over the Migingo Island.

The two East African nations lay claim to this tiny 1.5-acre island, yet maps in the possession of Britain, a former colonial master in the region, show that Migingo belongs to Kenya. Even Uganda President Yoweri Museveni once acknowledged that the island was in Kenya, but added that the water was Uganda's.

While negotiations between Kenya and Uganda have been going on for a long time, they have largely not borne fruit. In the meantime, Kenyan fishermen in Migingo have endured constant harassment from Uganda’s security personnel, who patrol the water around the island. In most cases, the fishermen end up not only losing catches and fishing gear to Uganda’s security personnel, but sometimes also end up in Uganda’s jails.

This having gone on for so long, questions have arisen regarding Kenya’s apparent lethargy or inability to protect its borders against foreign aggression. That notwithstanding, Kenya’s Internal Security Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, having appreciated the futility of unproductive negotiations, recently called off further meetings.

Instead, Dr Matiang’i has formed a security team, intensified police patrols around the island and promised fishermen there would be no more harassment or confiscation of their fish by Uganda policemen. This, however, should not end up straining diplomatic and trade relationships between the two countries. Settling the dispute amicably is the way forward for EAC.

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