Kenyan and Ugandan leaders have demanded an end to hostilities between fishermen and security officers in Lake Victoria.
Bondo MP Gideon Ochanda and Abbot Ouma, MP for Bukooli Island in Uganda, said growing tensions and frequent arrests of fishermen from both sides was a threat to cordial diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Two months ago, the Kenyan Rural Border Patrol Police officers arrested 19 boats and Ugandan fishermen for fishing in Kenyan waters.
The three-hour operation was seen as a retaliatory move by the Kenyan security officers following reports of arrest, torture and extortion of Kenyan fishermen by their Ugandan counterparts.
Barely a week before the operation, more than 80 Kenyan fishermen were arrested and detained at Sigulu Island in Uganda and fined Sh150,000 by Ugandan authorities for allegedly fishing in Ugandan waters and failing to pay income taxes.
On Wednesday, the two MPs whose constituencies share the lake’s waters met in Bondo where they observed the need to harmonise laws and regulations governing the management of Lake Victoria.
Mr Ochanda argued that by virtue of being a joint resource, which is shared by the three East African countries including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, Lake Victoria cannot be exploited under different laws and regulations from different countries.
“Both Kenya and Ugandan governments currently have all manner of authorities and agencies which do not correspond, we are therefore calling upon the two governments to establish a common law,” said Ochanda.
The Ugandan MP, who is also the vice chairman of the East African community in the Ugandan parliament, acknowledged that some of the two countries’ fishing laws and regulations needed to be harmonised.
“We can only achieve this when MPs from both the Kenyan and Ugandan parliaments consider the need for harmonization of the laws for the benefit of the East African community,” said Mr Ouma.
During the meeting, Bondo Deputy County Commissioner Richard Ajwang’ and his Ugandan counterpart Sylvester Opira (Namaingo) traded accusations on frequent arrests of fishermen by security personnel from both sides.
Each of them accused fishermen from the other side of being responsible for the perennial fishing disputes in the lake.
The two sides agreed to hold joint security operations and to release boats, which had been confiscated from Kenyan and Ugandan fishermen in the next three days.