No respite in Migingo Island dispute


Published on 31/03/2009

By Nick Oluoch

Four days after talks on Migingo collapsed, Uganda has beefed up security on the disputed island.

Senior Kenyan and Ugandan officials failed to resolve the issue and tension is high on the island.

Yesterday, Kenyan fishermen walked out on a meeting called by Ugandan security and fisheries officers meant to reportedly to introduce tough new taxation rules.

The meeting came a day after a Ugandan police boat docked at Migingo with heavily armed police officers.

Migingo Beach Management Unit chairman Juma Ombori said Ugandan fisheries officers called a meeting to inform them of the new charges.

Ugandan flag on Migingo, Monday. Efforts by the Kenyan officials to have the flag lowered have fallen on deaf ears.

[PHOTO: TITUS MUNALA/STANDARD]

“We immediately rejected the move even before they announced the amount of money they wanted us to pay,” he said.

Mr Ombori added: “Kenyans working and living on this island are now confused and do not know where to turn for help.”

Confusion surrounds the Migingo saga after last Friday’s meeting on the island ended in disarray after a member of the Ugandan delegation confronted Lands Minister James Orengo over alleged incitement.

What map shows

The meeting failed to solve the row and Uganda continued to tighten its grip on the island, which maps show belongs to Kenya.

Uganda sent more troops on the island and declined to lower its flag as requested by the Kenyan ministers.

Yesterday, Kenyan fishermen complained of harassment from Ugandan security officials.

“The Ugandan security officials have taken a very radical and firm position. They are telling us to obey their rules and pay taxes or leave,” said a fisherman, Mr Michael Oriko.

On Friday, Orengo’s speech was disrupted by an official who accused the minister of inciting the residents using Dholuo.

“Why are you cheating your people? What you are saying is not what we discussed. We cannot work that way,” the official shouted.

Orengo responded: “You got me wrong. I have used Dholuo to emphasise some issues to the residents because majority of them are Luos.”

Ugandan flag

The residents were angered by failure by Uganda officials to lower their flag hoisted on the island, despite the two countries agreeing that it be brought down.

They turned down pleas by Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula to allow Ugandan authorities to lower the flag within five days.

“The issue of lowering the flag cannot be decided now. Give the Ugandan authority five days to do so,” he said.

They also questioned why Ugandan soldiers were not withdrawn from the island.

Others in the Kenyan delegation included, Fisheries Minister Paul Otuoma, Internal Security Assistant Minister Orwa Ojode, Nyanza PC Paul Olando, his Western counterpart Abdul Mwasserah and Migori DC Julius Mutula.

Ugandan had Third Deputy Prime Minister for Internal Security Kivinda Kivejinja and ministers Sam Kuteesa (Foreign Affairs), Asumani Kiyingi (Lands) and Fred Mukisa (Fisheries).

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