Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has stirred the hornet’s nest with his comments on the disputed Migingo Island.
The remarks, on the same day as the joint commission formed by Kenya and Uganda to demarcate the border and make a ruling on which side the island lies started work were not only puzzling, but most unfortunate.
On the one hand, President Museveni seems to be conceding that Migingo lies within Kenyan borders, but then comes the perplexing qualification that the water around it is Ugandan.
Quite unacceptable, moreover, are his comments in Dar es Salaam that are disparaging to a specific Kenyan community, and his vow that the community will not fish in Ugandan waters.
He should understand that Migingo is not a Luo issue, but an issue between two countries. It would be very unfortunate if an antipathy towards the Luo, or any other community, clouds his judgment.
Both Kenya and Uganda have publicly pledged to respect the findings of the boundary survey team. It therefore behoves leaders from both countries to keep on hold comments that might cause misunderstanding or indicate bad faith.
Already there has been great tension stoked by leaders on both sides who have been too quick with ill-considered comments instead of waiting patiently for a just solution.
Objectionable comments from ministers, MPs and other politicians could easily be dismissed as personal views, but comments from a Head of State will always be considered very gravely.
The comments by the Uganda leader certainly raise room for concern. It is important that his government clarify the remarks and restate its commitment to a peaceful resolution to the Migingo dispute.
In the meantime, we urge Kenyan ministers and MPs from the lake region to act responsibly and refuse to take the bait.