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Borders to be drawn on Lake Victoria

Tuesday November 4 2008

A fisherman at Ogal beach in kisumu shows a

A fisherman at Ogal beach in kisumu shows a container they use as a floater in case of an emergency in the waters. Kenya and Uganda have finally agreed to draw boundaries in L. Victoria to forestall fishing - related conflicts. PHOTO/ FILE  

By ELISHA OTIENO

Cross-border fishing conflicts on Lake Victoria are set to end now that Kenya and Uganda have agreed to draw their boundaries.

The two countries will demarcate the lake using bright beacons so that fishermen can tell their country’s borders.

The matter was resolved during a meeting attended by fisheries ministers from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Kenya and Uganda will be the first to draw their boundaries following recent conflicts over the ownership of Migingo Island, which have led to arrests and harassment of Kenyans.

Surveyors from the two countries will also put to an end the row over who between them owns the island.

Ugandan flag

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Ugandan security officers evicted more than 400 Kenyan fishermen from the one-acre rocky island, claiming non-payment of Sh50,000 “annual operation fees”.

Uganda seized the island in 2004 and has hoisted its flag there.

Migori county council workers who were sent to the island to collect fish cess were also kicked out, making the county hall to incur heavy losses.

The council Finance committee chairman Tobias Warentho said workers would only return to the island when the Ugandan police are removed from Migingo.

A few weeks later, 15 Kenyan fishermen were arrested for trespass into Ugandan territory.

Uganda police had claimed that the Kenyans entered their territory and started fishing without authorisation.

Border crisis

Uganda’s fisheries minister Fred Mukisa dismissed reports of a cross-border crisis, saying it was an issue of fisheries irregularities.

Fisheries minister Paul Otuoma, Nyanza Provincial Commissioner Paul Olando and Migori District Commissioner Julius Mutula represented Kenya at the conference in Kampala.

The meeting was called to discuss sustainable resource management in Lake Victoria.

“We were discussing how to properly use the fisheries resources, roles of the beach management units and illegal fishing practices. How to protect the endangered species also featured prominently,” said Mr Mutula.

Attended by experts from England and Ireland, the meeting also discussed ways of standardising products from the lake for improved marketing.

“Participants underlined the need for good neighbourliness in East Africa for the region to attain faster socio-economic development.