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Defuse tension in islands

Tuesday June 19 2018

EDITORIAL
By EDITORIAL
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Tension has gripped some Lake Victoria islands following the arrest of some 12 Kenyan fishermen by Ugandan security forces that has rekindled the simmering ownership dispute that could sour relations between the two neighbouring countries.

Indeed, the latest incidents just underline the need to resolve the long-running dispute by clearly indicating in whose territory the islands lie.

The past two weeks have witnessed increased complaints by Kenyan fishermen about arbitrary arrests by Ugandan security officers, who often confiscate their catch, boats and other tools of trade and, in most cases, only surrender them after being bribed.

However, the situation could escalate to dangerous levels, as even Kenyan security officers have been arrested and detained by their Ugandan counterparts.

OFFICERS SEIZED

Only last week, three Administration Police officers were seized alongside several local fishermen in unclear circumstances. The officers’ guns and phones were confiscated. They were only released after Kenyan authorities intervened.

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It’s apparent that the Ugandan security personnel are taking advantage of the yet-to-be resolved row over Migingo Island. But this should not be the case.

The dispute and, by extension, establishing the borderline in the lake should be a subject of diplomatic negotiations between the two countries.

DIPLOMATIC LEVELS

It is a matter that should be handled at the top security and diplomatic levels.

Junior security operatives from Uganda, who are on the ground, should not be allowed to take the law into their own hands, as this is a matter that supersedes their mandate.

As good neighbours and members of the East African Community, there are sufficient mechanisms to enable Kenya and Uganda to amicably solve any boundary disputes between them without creating unnecessary tension and possible conflict.

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