Saturday, April 18, 2009



April 18 2009
By Standard On Saturday Team

Uganda has yet again declared Migingo Island its sovereign territory and says it has evidence to back the claim.

Kenyan authorities have also stuck to their guns and ODM, led by Prime Minister Raila Odinga, now wants President Kibaki to be more assertive and ensure the Ugandan troops leave the island.

Uganda’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Regional Co-operation Isaac Isanga Musumba laid the fresh claim and declared Kenya cannot claim the island simply because it is nearer to its mainland "or because majority of inhabitants are Kenyans".

He introduced a strange twist by alleging Migingo emerged from Lake Victoria in 2004 after being submerged for four decades.

He also admitted Uganda has border disputes with its neighbours, including the Democratic Republic of Congo but claimed she is motivated by a desire for clear and definite borders.

"Uganda’s constitution of 1995 is very clear on our borders. It clearly defines them and this is the biggest document we are quoting," said Musumba. He said the Migingo row is a result of lack of clear borders on the Lake Victoria.

"The Ugandan public feels this is an Island in Uganda. However if their brothers in Kenya think it is theirs we need a survey. By the way, there are more Kenyans on the Island but we are talking about ownership," added Musumba. Speaking exclusively to The Standard on Saturday after a press conference with his Kenyan counterpart Richard Onyonka, the minister said the two countries have different stages in finding a solution.

"We will resolve this matter using a technical team. The marine experts then have 30 days to submit their report to ascertain the sovereignty of the Island," he said.

Raila, who was in Naivasha, said it is embarrassing for Ugandans to continue occupying the Kenyan territory as we watch.

ODM also urged President Kibaki to take stern measures by having Ugandan military officers out of the disputed island.

"As a Head of State, Kibaki should take control and protect Kenyans from the invasion by having the Ugandan soldiers out of Migingo immediately," said Prof Anyang Nyong’o the party’s secretary-general.

Addressing a press conference at Naivasha during the party’s retreat, MPs said Uganda had no justification to claim the island. They argued maps dating back to colonial times indicate the island is in Kenya. MPs Nicholas Gumbo, Omondi Anyanga and Rachael Shebesh condemned Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua’s position that Government should be cautious in reclaiming the island.

Elsewhere, the Law Society of Kenya has opposed plans by the Government to spend Sh140 million to survey the island to determine its location. Vice-Chairman James Mwamu said a joint survey by the two countries embroiled in ownership dispute was unnecessary because coordinates for the boundaries of Kenya are already recorded.

"The Government is playing into Uganda’s game. Why spend tax-payers money on survey yet ancient maps clearly show the island is Kenya’s," Mwamu said.

A civil society group has notified the police of their intention to hold a protest in Nairobi next Saturday over the saga. Under the banner of Patriotic Kenyans, the group demands the unconditional removal of the Ugandan security officers from the island. They urged the Government to sever diplomatic ties with Uganda if its forces continue occupying Migingo.

Uganda has now threatened to move to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague if bilateral talks on the island fail.

"Until today we believe evidence in our possession indicate the island is ours and if Kenya has equal claim they should be prepared to present theirs," said Musumba.

He added: "Uganda will only withdraw from the Island when the report by two countries calls for their pulling out."

He declared the two countries would not go war over the ownership of the Island.

"We will not fight Kenya over the island and we are not party to an arrangement of war," the minister said.

Musumba advised Kenyan politicians to refrain from issuing inflammatory statements.

"Inflammatory statements will not work. Diplomatic solutions will be pursued by the two countries," he concluded.

Stories by Morton Saulo, Cyrus Ombati, Peter Atsiaya, Maseme Machuka and David Ochami.