Kenya rules out force in Migingo row

April 16, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 16 – Kenya has said it will not fight with Uganda over the ownership of the controversial Migingo Island.

Defense Assistant Minister David Musila said on Thursday that the government was not about to deploy the military to the small Island, but instead will still continue engaging in diplomacy.

“We are talking of a neighbouring country, a big trading partner; deploying the military is not an option. I don’t even think we can consider sending the military there,” he said.

He further said that there was need to maintain good relations that have existed between the two countries to build on peace and trade.

Mr Musila added that sending Kenyan forces to Uganda would trigger unnecessary fights which would most likely cause dire consequences that could have been avoided.

“It is very easy for people to say we want our forces to go and attack Uganda, there are many other consequences which could be detrimental to our security, peace and economy,” he said.

The Assistant Minister maintained that no matter how difficult it would be, Kenya would hold on to diplomacy.

He said there were many other diplomatic means such as involving the East African Community or other international countries to resolve the Migingo controversy, should the talks between Kenya and Uganda fail.

“So far we have only held talks between two countries, we have many other options, we can involve East African countries or countries from other regions,” he said.

Meanwhile, Internal Security Permanent Secretary Francis Kimemia on Thursday told politicians to keep off the ownership controversy as they were causing ‘unnecessary tension and panic among Kenyans’.

Fielding questions from reporters, Mr Kimemia called for calm over the issue saying the two respective governments were in constant contact to find an amicable end to the issue.

“The politicians need to leave the issue now to the technocrats to manage the second phase of the agreement that was reached in Uganda,” he said.

MPs from Western and Luo Nyanza on Wednesday expressed dissatisfaction in the manner in which the government has been handling the Migingo dispute and called for the immediate withdrawal of Ugandan troops and lowering of the Ugandan flag on the Island.

Mr Kimemia revealed that a technical team from Uganda is expected in the country on Monday to finalise the work plan for the border demarcation survey.

The exercise, which will review the boundaries of Migingo as well as other islands on Lake Victoria, will be concluded in two months.

During inter-ministerial talks recently the two governments had agreed to conduct a joint survey of the boundaries

He said: “We agreed to fast track the survey to be funded on a 50-50 basis, which is estimated to be about Sh130 – 140 million. Our surveys are already working on the plans they have, to do those cadastral and technical preparations.”

Mr Kimemia further dismissed reports that the Ugandan military had imposed a Sh500 resident levy on Kenyan fishermen visiting the island.

“These stories you have heard that there is a curfew or there are more men who have been deployed by Uganda are not true. Of course you know when the Ugandan boat came to pick their askaris from Uganda it sank so they have had to retrieve their boat forces,” the PS told reporters.

“There are no illegal charges that are being levied,” Mr Kimemia insisted.

The Internal Security PS reiterated that the government was keen on exploring other options other than going to war; saying there are more Kenyans living on Ugandan Islands than Ugandans.

“After one and half months it will be clear where the island falls but after that Uganda will still be our neighbour and we have the whole question of a resource sharing arrangement that has to be set in place. So the issue of peaceful and positive cooperation is very important,” the Internal Security PS said.



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