In Summary
  • In Homa Bay County, fishermen say they have been detained several times by Ugandan police for allegedly fishing in foreign waters.
  • The row between Kenyan fishermen and Ugandan security officials has triggered accusations against the Jubilee government of laxity in protecting its territory.
  • Last month, 17 Kenyan fishermen were arrested in Lake Victoria and detained in Ugandan islands by security personnel.

Kenya and Uganda consider themselves as “friendly nations.” But for a long time now, there has a low-profile diplomatic tiff pitting nationals of the two countries, especially over the waters of Lake Victoria.

In Homa Bay County, for instance, fishermen say they have been detained several times by Ugandan police for allegedly fishing in foreign waters.

The row between Kenyan fishermen and Ugandan security officials has triggered accusations against the Jubilee government of laxity in protecting its territory.

Last month, 17 Kenyan fishermen were arrested in Lake Victoria and detained in Ugandan islands by security personnel. The fishermen, who were in six boats, were taken to two different islands.

Nine fishermen were detained on Riabana Island and eight on Kalangala Island, which are both located in the Ugandan side of Lake Victoria.

ARRESTED

According to Lake Victoria Beach Management Unit Network chairman Edward Oremo, the fishermen were arrested by armed Ugandan security personnel a few kilometres from Remba Island. They were hounded into one boat.

At the local level, politicians led by Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo and her Suba South counterpart John Mbadi have accused the national government of failing to provide security to fishermen.

“It is sad that the government is watching as Ugandan security officials harass our hard working fishermen,” said Ms Odhiambo.

Mr Mbadi argued that the State might be uninterested in offering security to Lake Victoria fishermen because the region largely supports the opposition.

“The government is ignoring the harassment and arrest of Kenyan fishermen because the region is pro-opposition,” said Mr Mbadi.

Other MPs from the region who have accused the police of laxity in protecting fishermen include Tom Odege (Nyatike) and Gideon Ochanda (Bondo).

POLITICAL HEAT

The fishermen were released after the issue created political heat. Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohamed reportedly intervened and placed a call to her counterpart in Uganda.

But Police Inspector-General Joseph Boinnet said fishermen from both sides must respect local laws. “The law is very clear on fishing in the lake. The arrested fishermen must face the law if they are found to have broken it,” he told reporters in Mombasa.

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