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Armed Ugandan police continue to ride roughshod over Migingo

Sunday September 16 2018
GINGO

Fishermen walk past Ugandan marine offices in Migingo Island. Since last week, Uganda has increased its police deployments to the contested island and lowered the Kenyan flag. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ELISHA OTIENO

Tension continued to grip Migingo Island in Lake Victoria on Sunday following heavy deployment of police officers by the Ugandan Government.

Worried Kenyan fishermen from Mugabo, Nyandiwa and Muhuru mainland beaches stayed away from the disputed island.

Armed to the teeth, Ugandan security forces cordoned off the island while plainclothed officers monitored activities in the world's second largest freshwater lake using binoculars.

Kenyans who usually travel to the one-acre island during weekends to make merry kept off.

Nightlife on Migingo island is usually exciting, with many revellers trooping there from Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya.

Local fishermen said they would monitor the "intentions of the police contingents" before returning to the island. "Scores of Kenyan fishermen have been accosted in the lake and robbed of fish. It seems Uganda has decided not to let go of Migingo," said Muhuru beach fisherman Daudi Odich.

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POLICE DEPLOYMENTS

It has also emerged that some Kenyan fishermen have been hired by Ugandan officers to collect intelligence for them.

"Most of the officers do not understand Luo. They have therefore recruited some Kenyans, at a fee, to spy for them," said fisherman Boaz Onyango.

Last week, Uganda increased its police deployments to the contested island and reportedly lowered the Kenyan flag.

Marine officers from Lolwe docked on the island using motorboats to join their colleagues manning the island.

The increased deployments come at a time when the Kenyan Government has been trying to hoist its flag on the fish-rich island.

NEW FORCES

It is not clear how long the new forces will be on the island. The number of Ugandan officers present is now bigger than that of Kenyan forces.

Mr John Obunge, chairman of Migingo Beach Management Unit, said: "We do not know what they are planning to do".

Last Thursday, Ugandan officers shut down fishing activities on receiving reports that Kenyan officers planned to plant their flag on the rocky island. Fishing and sale of fish stalled.

The special forces from Uganda wielded heavy guns and had ammunition straps around their necks and chests. Inhabitants of the island remained indoors.

The incident happened a few hours after Ugandan officers pulled down a Kenyan flag hoisted the previous day.

SHOW OF MIGHT

Kenyan security officers deployed on the island stayed put in their camp as the Ugandans put on a show of might.

The island is normally manned by both Kenyan and Ugandan forces, but only the Ugandan flag flutters to warm, tropical breeze.

The decision to jointly police the island was reached between presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Yoweri Museveni as part of efforts to reach an amicable solution on ownership.

Later in August 2016, Kenya's Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet and his then Ugandan counterpart Kale Kayihura held a historic security meeting on the island to cement the joint policing.

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