Tension has gripped Lake Victoria islands in wake of persistent arrests of Kenyan fishermen by Ugandan authorities.
An inter-state agency has been proposed to manage Lake Victoria in a bid to end perennial border row pitting Kenya and Uganda.
East African Community and Northern Corridor Development Cabinet secretary, Mr Peter Munya, said an inter-state body should be created, bringing together agencies from the neighbouring countries, to jointly manage Lake Victoria.
“We know the challenges bedevilling the lake users. When we have one agency managing the lake, it is easier to control it, including dealing with illegal fishing,” said Mr Munya.
Mr Munya said such an agency would reduce inter-state conflicts whose casualties include Kenyan fishermen who face routine arrests by Ugandan security officers over claims of illegal fishing.
The national government, Mr Munya said, has already initiated bilateral talks to deal with the border row following recent arrest of Kenyan police officers and fishermen by Ugandan soldiers.
Mr Munya, who was accompanied by his Cabinet Administrative Secretary, Mr Ken Obura, was speaking at a forum for ward representatives in Kisumu on harmonisation of laws and regulations.
Trans Nzoia County Assembly Chief Whip, Mr Bernard Wambwa, had demanded to know what was being done to protect Kenyan fishermen and police from persistent harassment by Ugandan authorities in Lake Victoria.
“We keep talking about integration of East African Community yet member states do not trust each other. How will we continue integrating if other countries torture our police and fishermen? This is disrespect,” said Mr Wambwa.
Last week, 12 Kenyan fishermen were arrested in Lake Victoria by Ugandan authorities a week after Kenyan officials secured release of three police officers.
The Uganda authorities last Saturday also seized two fishing boats in another raid in Nambo Beach, Siaya County.
Kenyan fishermen now live in constant fear of arrests and confiscation of their fishing gears.
The ward representatives also reignited the debate about the Migingo Island ownership row.
Mr Munya’s proposal received backing from the Lake Basin Development Authority managing director, Dr Evans Atera, who said laws governing the lake should be harmonized to boost regional integration.