The disputed Migingo island. PHOTO/COURTESY
Authorities in Uganda have replaced police officers who have been providing security at the disputed Migingo Island with the military elite brigade.
Uganda Police Force spokesman Felix Kaweesi revealed that Uganda has withdrawn its Marine police replacing them with Special Forces Command (SFC) and have been assigned to provide security.
He says the elite military force will work in collaboration with Kenyan Police Forces and that they would be in charge of the one-acre island that has been a centre of conflict between Uganda and Kenya.
It’s not yet clear whether Kenya will also deploy the military instead of police since their counterpart Uganda has deployed the army.
Kaweesi says police would give support to SFC in case there was need; adding that the marine officers accused of engaging in criminal activities. The marine police officers have been withdrawn following allegations that they indulged in criminal activities. The police mouthpiece said they would be investigated and possibly reverted to other police units after undergoing refresher courses.
The police force never divulge the exact number of the affected police officers, however, a senior source from within police circles said more than 100 police marines have already been recalled from the island and are undergoing refresher course so as to be deployed in other units.
In a bid to end the hostilities at Migingo Island, both Kenya and Uganda agreed to form a joint taskforce that saw police in the two countries patrol the disputed island in Lake Victoria and the entire common border.
At the time of deploying these marine police officers in 2013, the Inspector General of Police Edward Kale Kayihura while at Kenya’s police headquarters at Jogoo House in Nairobi said the taskforce would look into allegations of human rights violations, address cross-border terrorism, cattle rustling, contraband goods and also delve deeper into border policing issues.
In 2013, a lobby group wrote to the International Criminal Court requesting for investigations into claims that Uganda forces were violating the rights of the people living on the Island.
However, Chris Magezi, the Special Force Command (SFC) spokesperson, said SFC was only going to be part of the UPDF marine force that shall be deployed on all Ugandan national waters to combat illegal fishing as directed by President Museveni.
The SFC spokesman downplayed the deployment of the military at Migingo Island saying SFC does not man security on national waters but he was quick to add that, “SFC will only be part of the Uganda People’s Defence Force marine brigade that is going to be deployed on waters as directed by the president.”
Magezi says police marine unit that was deployed at Migingo Island had failed to control illegal activities on national waters like Lake Victoria, Albert and Kyoga where foreigners from East and West Africa countries were taking advantage.
“There have been a lot of aliens on Ugandan waters. Some fisheries from Senegal have also been carrying out illegal fishing on Lake Victoria. These are the challenges UPDF and SFC are going to address,” says Magezi.
He dismissed claims of President Museveni fearing rebels taking advantage of an Island dominated by Kenyan and Tanzanian nationals. He also refuted allegations of UPDF preparing for the likely violence as Kenya heads for national elections on 8th August.
In 2008 – 2009, the island itself was claimed by both Kenya and Uganda. In July 2009 a survey team from both countries found that the island is 510 metres (1,670 ft) east of the Kenya – Uganda border within the lake, a finding supported by openly available Google Earth imagery.
According to the findings, it indicated that since 1926, the territorial ownership of the island has been consistently shown on maps and in language on official documents as Kenyan. However, much if not most of the Ugandan protests revolve around the lucrative fishing rights, mostly for valuable Nile perch, and Ugandan waters come within 510 metres (1,670 ft) of the island.
In July 2009, the Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni shifted the official position, stating that while Migingo Island was Kenyan, much of the waters near it were Ugandan.
The island had been claimed by the Ugandan government in 2008-2009 till when Ugandan President Museveni conceded that the island is in Kenya, but continued to point out that Kenyan fisherman were illegally fishing in Ugandan waters which lie to the west of Migingo,
The president’s remarks forced Ugandan flag to be lowered and Uganda withdrew its military troops, agreeing that all its police officers would leave the island.
A joint re-demarcation line of the border was launched then in 2009 to recover and to place survey markers on land, making delineation of the boundary on the lake more precise, with results released in late July 2009 confirming that the island falls 510 metres (1,670 ft) on the Kenyan side of the line.
SOURCE: AFRICAN INDEPENDENT