Uganda and Kenya officials will “soon” revive talks to address the perennial row between Uganda police and Kenyan fishermen that has often heightened tension on Lake Victoria.
Busia County Commissioner Michael Tialal said the meeting whose specific date will be communicated later aims at finding a lasting solution over the tussle that has seen a number of Kenyan fishermen harassed and their boats confiscated by Uganda security personnel, Business Daily reports.
“This is an urgent matter that the government is keen to see solved once and for all. I can assure you that this problem will be handled; we have decided to engage the Ugandan government at a very high level. We believe outstanding issues that have not been handled well will be tackled,” he said.
He urged fishermen from the two countries to be patient as the two governments move to find a lasting solution.
Fishermen have been urging the government to protect them from harassment, claiming the Ugandan officers were extorting them and forcing them to eat raw fish.
Specifically, the issue of who owns islands such as the one-acre Migingo will be addressed. A previous session of talks led to a joint survey to map the exact location of boundaries between the two sides.
But the survey’s findings were not published even though Ugandan authorities continued to police the island.
In 2016, Inspectors-General Joseph Boinnet of Kenya and Kale Kayihura of Uganda agreed to jointly secure the island. But Kenyan fishers claim only Ugandan police have been manning the island, and continue to extort.
However, the administrator warned Kenyan fishermen who have been using banned fishing gear to stop as it affects all countries sharing the Lake.
“Stern action will be taken against fishermen who will be found violating fishing regulation. Let them also adhere to the laws governing fishing in the neighbouring countries to avoid trouble,” he said.
Save Fish in Lake Victoria Association chairman Joseph Odongo appealed to the county government to purchase fishing equipment for fishermen because majority of them can’t afford them.
“Our people are falling prey to the hands of Ugandan officers because they lack these equipment. They need financial support to acquire recommended fishing gear.”
The matter of fisher’s harrassment has often been political with leaders representing lakeside constituencies demanding urgent response from the national government.
Last week, Budalangi MP Raphael Wanjala called on Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to intervene while appealing to Kenyan representatives in the East Africa Legislative Assembly (Eala) to table a bill on ways of finding a lasting solution to the row as first item on their agenda.
In Homa Bay, 17 fishers were detained by Ugandan authorities last December, forcing the Foreign ministry to intervene.
But the men were only released, they claimed, after paying fines.