Kenya: Senators Denounce Joint Administration of Migingo

22 November 2019

The Senate has dismissed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the governments of Kenya and Uganda that provides for the joint administration of Migingo Island on Lake Victoria.

Angry senators said on Wednesday that the MoU is unconstitutional as it amounted to ceding of Kenyan territory to a foreign power, and warned Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma that the MoU amounts to treason.

"It is high treason to surrender an inch of our territory to any other sovereign. CS Juma is surrendering Kenya's sovereignty on Migingo to Uganda in violation of clear constitutional provisions," said Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula during debate over the matter.

The lawmakers were reacting to reports attributed to Dr Juma in which she announced that the two countries had signed an MoU to enable fishermen and other Lake Victoria users to access either side of the boundary.

"Kenyans should know that these boundaries are shared by communities across the countries and we have to find a way to make them soft," said Dr Juma.

"My message to Kenyans is that we have their interests at the top of our minds and this can be realised by reducing the risks they face in accessing the trans-boundary resources," she added.

GOVT COWERS

The senators accused the government of pussyfooting and shacking its obligation to defend Kenya's territory whenever it is threatened by neighbouring countries.

The debate arose after Mr Wetang'ula asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to explain the mechanism of joint administration as captured in the MoU, and whether it was subjected to public participation and approval by the parliaments of the two countries.

He further wanted an explanation as to why the outcome of the joint survey of the boundary that was commissioned by presidents Mwai Kibaki and Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) has never been made public.

Besides Migingo, the legislators cited the maritime dispute with Somalia and South Sudan's claim of the Elemi Triangle as some of the instances where the government had acted soft.

"Kenya is showing weakness on the Migingo issue," Minority Leader James Orengo protested.

PRECEDENCE

Mr Orengo served as Lands minister between 2008 and 2013 and was a member of the joint survey team.

He said colonial maps and all records submitted to the team had shown that the island is in Kenya.

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja said issues of Kenya's territorial integrity have been treated casually by successive post-independence governments, something that has given Kenyan neighbours the impetus to demand more of Kenyan territory.

The senator urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to show his strength as the commander-in-chief.

"This is the time that Kenya needs its C-I-C to show up. It should not be recorded that it was during your tenure that Kenya lost its territory," he said.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr challenged lawmakers to draft a bill to operationalise Article 5 of the Constitution, which would detail the extent of Kenya's territory.

Vihiga Senator George Khaniri said the statement by Dr Juma was unfortunate and demanded that she should withdraw it. "A government that cedes an inch of its territory has no business in governing," he added.

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