Kenya has initiated talks with Uganda and Tanzania over the frequent harassment of its fishermen in Lake Victoria in an effort to introduce free fishing.
The move comes against a backdrop of increased mistreatment of Kenyan fishermen by the security forces from the neighbouring counterparts, which have imposed strict restrictions on fishing in the lake.
Barely a week goes before Kenyan fishermen are arrested by Ugandan authorities in the and treated harshly for flouting fishing regulations. Fishermen from Busia and Homa Bay counties are the most affected.
In the latest incident last Friday night, six Kenyan fishermen from Remba Island in Suba North Sub-county were arrested and detained in Hama Island in Uganda.
Remba Island Beach Management Unit Network Chairman Semekiah Mamra, said the Ugandan security officials confiscated the Kenyans’ fishing gear.
"They confiscated their nets and two boats. We are yet to find out exactly why they were arrested but we believe it could have been because of trespass," he said.
Mr Mamra said fishermen are now scared of going fishing for fear of being arrested.
"Barely a week passes before one of us, or a group of fishermen, is arrested and detained or tortured and left in the water,” he said.
Foreign Affairs Chief Administrative Secretary Ababu Namwamba said the government is engaging high-level government officers from Uganda and Tanzania in an effort to end the restrictions.
“I am optimistic that the engagement will be supported by the three governments,” he said in Homa Bay County.
“President Uhuru Kenyatta and his counterparts John Magufuli of Tanzania and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda support the free movement of goods and people, so they should also support free fishing,” he said.
Many fishermen have been arrested over accusations of trespass and using illegal fishing gear.
But Mr Namwamba said movement on the lake should not be restricted.
“Fishermen depend on the entire lake as means of earning a living. They should not be restricted on their areas of operations,” he said.
He pointed out that the regulations of the East African Community recommend sharing of resources.