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- Mr Moses Bwire, a fisherman, however, says the Kenyan Coast Guard officers returned 13 out of the 14 boats; and three were vandalised
Fishermen at Maduwa Landing Site in Majanji, Busia district, have accused Kenyans of vandalising their boats which they returned, months after they were stolen.
In September, the fishermen woke up to 14 of their transport boats, fishing nets and boat engines missing, and immediately suspected their Kenyan counterparts of being behind the crime.
Mr Moses Bwire, a fisherman, however, says the Kenyan Coast Guard returned 13 of the 14 boats; and three were vandalised.
“Some of the boats had their number plates removed, while others had their sideboards missing and replaced with old timber,” Mr Bwire told this publication in an interview on Monday.
According to Mr Bwire, a functional boat is supposed to maintain its buoyancy, but three of the returned boats have sunk and are of no use until they are repaired.
Mr Kennedy Bwire, the Maduwa ‘B’ Village LC1 chairperson, wondered who was to foot the bill for replacing the missing number plates from the boats, while most Ugandan fishermen want their Kenyan counterparts to be held liable for the loss.
Mr William Oguttu, the Maduwa ‘B’ Beach Management Unit chairman, says those implicated in the alleged theft of the boats be arrested and made to pay for the damaged boats.
“Our boats have been kept in Kenya for over a month, we have not been working and feel we deserve compensation for that period,” Mr Oguttu said.
The alleged theft of boats from Ugandan fishermen at Maduwa Landing Site appeared to have been in retaliation after they reportedly impounded illegal fishing gear and arrested some Kenyan nationals during an operation.
Mr (Kennedy) Bwire says he earlier led an operation and arrested 14 Kenyans, confiscated 3 boats, 3 tanks of fuel and several illegal nets, which he handed over to Police at Majanji Landing Site.
Mr Bwire added that this was the third time Kenyans had raided the landing site in a period of one year, recalling a time they abducted Mr Oguttu and held him hostage in Kenya.
In another incident, Mr Bwire said Kenyans allegedly stole three boats at the landing site and took one Evans Bwire hostage at Busebe Beach, Budalangi Division, Busia County, in Western Kenya.
Maduwa Landing Site is close to Kenya, with its fishermen belonging to the Samia community, who occupy the Districts of Namayingo, Bugiri, Busia, and Busia County in Western Kenya.
Kenya controls the least part of Lake Victoria (5 per cent), while the rest (95 per cent) is shared by Uganda and Tanzania.
But despite controlling the least of Lake Victoria, Kenya has employed a liberal policy which has allowed illegal fishing to thrive, nearly leading to total depletion of their fish stock.
This is unlike Uganda which has employed stringent measures to curb illegal fishing, including the deployment of the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU).
Mr Julius Wandera, a resident of Majanji Town Council, says the fights on the lake have pitted brothers against each other over control of the scarce fish resource.
In 2009, Uganda and Kenya were locked in a bitter dispute over the control of Migingo, a rock-barren island nearly the size of a football pitch.
Migingo, which is neither the largest nor most resourceful of the many Islands on Lake Victoria, is surrounded by part of the lake which is rich in fish resources.
Also, a lack of a marked boundary on the lake between Uganda and Kenya has continued to fuel the disputes.