Kenya, Uganda to withdraw from disputed island: Nairobi

Tue Mar 17, 2009 12:37pm GMT

By Alison Bevege

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan and Ugandan security forces will keep away from a one-acre island in Lake Victoria whose disputed ownership has caused a diplomatic row between the two east African nations, Nairobi said on Tuesday.

Tensions over Migingo Island -- a rocky protrusion covered in tin shacks used mainly by fishermen -- have threatened relations between the key trading partners and are a reminder of myriad disputes over colonial-era borders across Africa.

Acrimonious comments from politicians in both nations have subsided since a meeting in Uganda last week, where they agreed to let geography experts study historical records.

"We agreed and we signed a communique that all forces will withdraw from the island, and they are withdrawing," Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula told reporters.

"The issue ... is extinguished as far as I'm concerned."

Kenyan and Ugandan police have occupied the island at various times in recent years, with the most recent spike in tensions coming after an occupation by officials from Kampala.

Waters round Migingo are rich in fish, whereas other parts of Lake Victoria have been decimated by over-exploitation.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, embarrassed by the fuss on both sides of the border, urged a brotherly spirit.   Continued...

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