, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 14 – The government has said it will invite other member states of the East African Community (EAC) to the negotiating table, to resolve the ownership dispute over Migingo Island.
EAC Minister Amason Kingi told reporters on Tuesday that the row between Kenya and Uganda over the island is no longer a bilateral issue, and as such there is need to involve Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi.
“I think it should be resolved within the provisions of the Treaty (EAC Treaty) that whenever there is a problem or when there’s a dispute between member states, then a peaceful resolution ought to be looked for. I believe that is what is happening now,” he said.
Since late last year, Kenya and Uganda have been claiming ownership over the one-acre island in Lake Victoria, which has historically been part of Kenya’s territory.
Uganda has already deployed its military forces and is said to be arresting Kenyan fishermen, despite a pledge by President Mwai Kibaki and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni that they will settle the matter.
Mr Kingi however said it was unfortunate that Uganda had sent its security forces to Migingo, as the EAC Treaty does not provides for the militarization of the region’s shared resources.
He said Kenya was aware that boundaries would not matter once the EAC political federation is achieved and that is it was pushing to have the row determined amicably.
“We are journeying towards a federation and most of the things that we are fighting for, the boundaries that we are clinging on, are things that will be brought down,” Mr Kingi stressed, adding that the issue should not cause a major rift between the two nations.
Mr Kingi’s sentiments echoed those of his Permanent Secretary David Nalo, who last month expressed confidence that the various issues that are cropping up within the Community would not affect the region’s integration process.
Mr Nalo told Capital Business that the disagreements on issues such as the ownership of Migingo Island and land ownership, were mere perceptions and not deep rifts among the member states.
He reckoned that the exposure the region was now getting had enriched the integration and enabled the teams involved to genuinely address concerns raised by member states.
However, it remains to be seen what direction the Island dispute will take and how the partners will react.