Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Saturday defended his decision to send soldiers to Migingo and other contested islands on Lake Victoria, even as Kenyan fishermen complained of harassment.
He spoke in Busia where he and President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the one-stop border post.
Mr Museveni said “corruption” in the police and fisheries departments forced him to send Special Forces Command to the islands to protect the fish as their numbers were dwindling.
“The fish was getting finished. I had left the work of protecting the fish to the police and the Fisheries people but they failed. So I decided to use my bush tactics. Now I am told the fish numbers are growing again,” he said.
The Ugandan leader was responding to pleas from Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong, who had accused Ugandan security forces of mistreating Kenyan fishermen.
“Some of them have been forced to eat raw fish,” the governor claimed.
“We believe the open border will help the millionaire traders but there are smaller issues affecting the smaller traders and we may have to sit down and see how to solve it.”
But the Ugandan President accused the governor and the Samia community of “stealing my fish.”
“These Samia People are eating the fingerlings and the Governor is keeping quiet about it,” Mr Museveni said.
However, he said his earlier actions were no longer necessary and he would hold talks with Mr Kenyatta and Tanzanian President John Magufuli to agree on a better way of managing the lake’s resources.
He suggested the use of boat monitoring systems.
“I will speak with Presidents Uhuru and John Magufuli so that we can agree on a more modern way of protecting our fish.
“We need eyes to see what is happening on the lake all the time,” Mr Museveni said.
President Kenyatta urged local fishermen to catch only mature fish and stick to regulations.
He promised to hold regular talks to iron out persistent conflicts between the security forces and fishermen.