NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 21 – Kenya has expressed discomfort over the unfolding row with Uganda regarding ownership of Migingo Island in Lake Victoria.
East African Community (EAC) Minister Jeffa Kingi said on Saturday that the dispute should be addressed through established EAC mechanisms, adding that the developing trend was likely to compromise the integration process of the community.
“We have a treaty that lays down procedures on how we should engage should there be a dispute,” he said adding that the treaty states that the member states should embrace dialogue in such times.
“Whatever is happening where you see armed personnel certainly that is not a way of resolving a dispute peacefully.”
The two countries are laying claim to the island in Lake Victoria with latest reports indicating that Kenyan fishermen have fled and the administration police has withdrawn even as Ugandan soldiers presence increase.
Mr Kingi said that the incidence was unfortunate given that negotiations on the establishment of a common market protocol were in top gear. The Minister said that the seventh round of the deliberations on the protocol expected to be up by 2010 had been concluded successfully.
“This incidence may be used by enemies of the community to argue that the people engaging in the negotiations are de-linked from the reality because whereas we are in board rooms the people in the ground are busy fighting,” he said.
Mr Kingi said he would raise the issue when a delegation which he is part of led by Prime Minister Raila Odinga visits Uganda in two weeks time. An inter-ministerial round table negotiation between the two countries is expected on March 12.
The protocol will allow free movement of people, labour, goods, capital and services. It will also give citizens of the member states right of establishment and right of residence. Member states include Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. It was first established in 1967 with Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania but disbanded 10 years later following suspicions between member states. Later in 2000 member states signed the treaty to ratify the present body.