How not to resolve the Migingo row

The one acre rocky Islet of Migingo in Lake Victoria has been in the news for all the wrong reasons this year.

The fish rich island located three hours away from the Kenyan shore and a six-hour trip by motor boat from Uganda is at the centre of an ownership dispute between Kenya and Uganda, which is now threatening to spiral into a regional security issue.

Kenyans are angry that Uganda is showing expansionism tendencies and are accusing the government of being meek while its citizens are being intimidated and harassed by foreigners on ‘Kenyan soil.’

A section of Kenyan MPs have been pushing the government to consider military options to resolve the dispute.

Kenyans should tone down their emotions and focus on peaceful dispute resolution mechanisms.

It’s my contention that violence rarely ends disputes effectively, and indeed, often only escalates them. Violence begets more violence.

I’m however not saying that Kenyan territory – whether ‘a rock island’ or a virgin oil field should be invaded by foreigners without a ‘fight.’ What I am advocating for here is a peaceful ‘fight.’ The era of you are either with us or with our enemies is long gone.

Talking to other parties in a dispute is not a formality; it’s imperative to the smooth running of any society. Dialogue must be given a chance.

We should also not let emotions derail regional integration on borders that soon might be done away with. Kenya stands to benefit immensely once the East African Community is established.

Kenya’s foreign policy is built upon the principle of dialogue, and assuming that the efforts of our neighbours are in good faith is a civilised way of looking at a dispute. We should for now assume Uganda is acting in good faith until it’s absolutely clear that they are not.

Kenyans should also note that their government agreed that Uganda continue providing security as an interim measure to ensure law and order in the disputed island. When you provide security anywhere in the world, then you have a right to fly your flag there.

A comprehensive report on the island by the two governments is expected in a month’s time. Military solution is therefore not necessary nor desirable at this time.

The government should ensure its stays on top of the issue. Not all disputes, even those in which skilled intervention occurs, end in resolution. The Kenyan government should stay prepared as Ugandans are not known to be caught off guard.

Kenyans should give the two governments time to amicably resolve this dispute. The use of military might has no place in this particular dispute.

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