Kibaki, Museveni discuss disputed island

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By Peter Orengo and Nick Oluoch

Kenya and Uganda governments will maintain the status quo in Migingo Island pending talks, Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula has said.

The two countries have been sharing resources at the island.

Speaking to the Press in his office, Mr Wetangula said President Kibaki and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni had discussed the matter by the telephone.

Kenyan fishermen leave Migingo Island on Sunday. More than 500 fishermen have been displaced from the Lake Victoria island by Ugandan authorities. Photo: Titus Munala/Standard

He said the two leaders resolved to hold talks on the issue, which has threatened to strain diplomatic relations.

“The situation in the island is under control and so far there are no casualties,” Wetangula said.

Last week, an operation by Ugandan soldiers drove away hundreds of Kenyan fishermen from the Lake Victoria island. Ugandan authorities lay claim to the Island.

Wetangula’s assurance came after East African Community Minister Amason Kingi called on the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Internal Security to resolve the matter.

On Sunday, Wetangula said negotiation between the two countries would be bilateral.

Meanwhile, Kenyans are leaving Migingo as Ugandan authorities take charge of the disputed island.

A day after the Government withdrew police from the island, the fishermen said they had no alternative but to leave.

Abandoned lot

Speaking on the telephone from the island, Mr Walter Oyier, a fisherman who has lived on the island for a decade, said they had no choice after the Government “abandoned us”.

“By removing police from the island, the Government has literally handed the island to Uganda,” Oyier said. The Government sent ten police officers to the island on Wednesday, but withdrew them a day later.

The withdrawal elicited outrage from the fishermen, who camped on the shore and declined to let the retreating officers leave. They later used an alternative route to get out.

The Kenyan flag, which was hoisted by fishermen soon after police arrived, has since been brought down.

By Saturday, a few Kenyans, who were still at the island, arrived at Muhuru Bay with their belongings.

But yesterday, Migori DC Julius Mutula said Ugandan solders had been withdrawn.

He said an agreement was reached between Kenya and Uganda governments that the latter’s soldiers leave the island.

“Only Ugandan police are at the island,” Mr Mutula said.

On Thursday a number of Ugandan soldiers were deployed at the island as tension heightened.

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