, ENTEBBE, Uganda, May 15 – Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni called a rare press conference on Friday and maintained his country owns the waters surrounding Migingo Island.
He said he fully stood by his remarks aired by the BBC earlier this week and offered no formal apology for angering a section of Kenyans and politicians who even debated the issue in Parliament.
“I said Migingo Island is in Kenya but the waters surrounding it are in Uganda, that is where the border is,” he told a press conference largely attended by Kenyan journalists who were airlifted to Entebbe from Nairobi.
Many expected Mr Museveni to use the press conference to publicly apologise and withdraw his remarks but he still maintained what he had previously stated.
He explained that his remarks were based on colonial maps for both Kenya and Uganda which clearly showed the island was Kenyan and waters Ugandan.
Both governments have funded a survey to map out the boundaries between Kenya and Uganda.
“As for now, let us wait for the survey and we shall know where Migingo belongs,” he said and appeared to soften his stand during the interview with the Kenyan journalists at Entebbe international airport.
He also accused Kenya of levying taxes on Ugandan fishermen in Lake Victoria yet Kenyan fishermen are never charged when fishing in Ugandan waters.
“In Uganda we have been very liberal, we don’t stop Kenyan fishermen fishing in Ugandan waters, but Kenyans don’t allow our fishermen in their waters despite the Lake Victoria Organisation regulation,” he wondered.
In an interview aired on the BBC on Monday, President Museveni vowed that no Kenyan fisherman will be allowed to fish in the waters surrounding Migingo Island and even singled out members of a Kenyan community living in Kisumu and Migingo.
“Mpaka inazunguka kisiwa (the boundary surrounds the waters), one foot in the water is in Uganda, so I am telling those jaluos who were rioting na wanang’oa reli (uprooting the railway). I want to go there and discuss with them. If we implement this, hakuna mjaluo atavua samaki (No Luo will fish) in this water here,” he said in the Monday interview.
The remarks were not taken lightly by a section of Nyanza MP’s who even took the issue to the floor of Parliament from where they urged President Mwai Kibaki to act decisively “to ensure Kenyans are not assaulted by a foreign President.”
Asked to explain what he meant when he referred to a particular Kenyan community by name, he said “I was not tribal, on the madness I was talking about the uprooting of the railway line; I was not talking about the community. No.”
“I am totally against tribalism,” he insisted.
President Museveni said his government fully supports the border survey process and vowed to respect its outcome.
“The joint survey process will go on as scheduled and we are very much supporting it,” he said.