Entrust Lake Victoria to East African Community, MP urges
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
The East African Standard (Nairobi,Kenya) Franklin Awori
Budalangi MP Raphael Wanjala yesterday said Lake Victoria should be managed by a single authority to end the current fishing conflict.
The MP also welcomed last week's release of 87 Kenyan fishermen from Ugandan jails.
Wanjala proposed that the lake be put under management of East African Community (EAC) to end conflict over fishing.
He said the lake's resources could only be managed effectively by a single regional authority.
The MP said this will ensure the resources are equitably shared by all the East African countries.
" The EAC is the best body to manage the lake because all the countries are represented in the organisation," he said.
He said currently, there was little regional co-ordination in the management of the lake, creating conflict in fisheries laws.
He said the freeing of Kenyan fishermen would open doors for talks to find a long term solution to the fishing conflict in Lake Victoria.
" This is a good and positive gesture from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni," said the MP.
But he challenged Ugandan authorities to stop further arrests as a solution was being worked out.
He said Lake Victoria was a shared resource and there was no point of one country harassing fishermen from another.
Wanjala also supported the initiative by the East African Legislative Assembly to find a long term solution to the conflict.
He said the fishing conflict was a threat to regional integration.
He said integration will not make sense if Kenyan fishermen were being harassed by Ugandan and Tanzanian authorities.
Meanwhile, the first fishermen-owned modern fish storage facility is under construction at Budalangi on the shores of Lake Victoria.
The Sh18 million ice production and cooling facility is being funded by the European Union (EU) through the Community Development Trust Fund.
A senior supervisor with Bunyala co-operative society, Mr Sammy Ogama, said the plant is expected to be ready by the end of the year.
Ogama said the plant will help preserve the highly perishable commodity and reduce exploitation by middlemen.
The official said fish processing companies had taken advantage of lack of fish cooling facilities at the beaches to exploit fishermen.
" We hope fishermen will have some say in pricing of fish once the plant is operational," said Ogama.
He said the plant, which is under construction at Marenga beach in Busia District, will have a capacity of storing 30 tonnes of fish.
Ogama said the local community contributed about Sh4 million towards the project, while the EU gave a grant of about Sh14 million.
A Kenya Marine Fisheries and Research Institute (KEMFRI) official, Mr John Ouko, said lack of cooling facilities had exposed fishermen to exploitation.
The ice plant, whose construction started last year, is the first of its kind to be put up by fishermen in Lake Victoria region.
A similar ice plant was constructed by the Government in Suba District but it has never been used due to lack of some vital parts.