Kenya and Uganda will begin boundary demarcation in the latest bid to resolve the Migingo Island row.
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma said Thursday the move follows a deal reached between Nairobi and Kampala during President Yoweri Museveni’s recent tour of Kenya.
“It is a technical process, to mark the boundary. Does it mean we are going to begin renegotiating boundaries? No. That is not what it means. Our commitment is to respect the boundaries inherited at independence. That is an immutable starting point,” Dr Juma told a press conference in Nairobi during the ministry’s quarterly briefing.
“What we are talking about is really to re-clarify the boundaries so that people don’t claim what is theirs when it is not theirs either by omission or commission.”
The memorandum of understanding signed between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Uganda’s Museveni will seek to clarify the border, create more border points for legal crossings as well as provide guidelines on sharing of resources that straddle the border, Ms Juma said.
A similar arrangement had been reached with Ethiopia and Tanzania to help remove disputes over the border reach.
But between Uganda and Kenya, the focus could be on how to resolve the Migingo Island issue that has previously caused a diplomatic row between the two east African nations.
Dispute has been raging on for 15 years for the fish-rich one-acre island, closest to Kenyan shores in Migori County.
Tensions over Migingo Island — a rocky protrusion covered in tin shacks used mainly by fishermen — have threatened relations between the key trading partners.
Kenyan and Ugandan police have occupied the island at various times in recent years, with frequent spurts in tensions coming after an occupation by officials from Kampala.
Waters around Migingo are rich in fish, whereas other parts of Lake Victoria have been decimated by over-exploitation.
A pact in March 2009 by Kampala and Nairobi, both members of the East African Community trade bloc, said the two nations would determine the island’s status through a border survey within two months based on a 1926 accord when both were under British rule.
Results of the survey were however never made public.
A colonial conference in Berlin in the 1880s decided Africa’s borders, with little regard for ethnic makeup, and another meeting by newly independent African states in the 1960s confirmed those frontiers.
That has done little to stop disputes over boundaries, often in remote areas.