Tuesday, April 21, 2009



Monday, 20th April, 2009

THE row over the ownership of the tiny Migingo Island in Lake Victoria is getting out of hand, threatening to hurt the economy of the entire region. Over 40 trains destined for Uganda and other countries in the Great Lakes region have been grounded in Nairobi after rioting youth in Kibera slums uprooted the railway line, protesting what they called Uganda’s illegal occupation the island.

Uganda depends on the railway line from the Mombasa port for its exports and imports. The railway also serves Rwanda, Sudan, Burundi and DR Congo.
Ironically, the action comes as the African Development Bank has predicted that Kenya’s growth this year will be 5.5%, mainly thanks to regional trade.

“The thing that will help the East African countries, especially Kenya, is their dependence on regional markets,” the bank’s chief economist, Louis Kasekende said in Nairobi on Friday.

Exports to the East African Community accounted for almost a quarter of Kenya’s total external trade in 2007.

As a result, Kenya and the rest of East Africa will sail through the international financial crisis better than any other region in Africa. That should be good news for a country that badly needed to polish its image after last year’s post-election violence.

It is, therefore, the more astonishing that certain Kenyan politicians and media houses are blowing the Migingo issue out of proportion, threatening force and inciting its citizens to disrupt trade.
In an inflammatory language, the East African Standard on Sunday called upon the Kenyan authorities to close the border with Uganda and suffocate the country.

Our Kenyan colleagues should have learned lessons from the Rwandan genocide, when hate media contributed to the elimination of almost an entire ethnical group, and from their own experience only a year ago.

They should act reasonably and responsibly, cool down emotions instead of fuelling them, and promote a diplomatic solution, in the interest of peace and development, the way they did last year when their country was on fire.