Monday, May 18, 2009

Migingo is a Kenyan issue, not a "Jaluo" one

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni says Migingo is Kenya’s island, but he adamantly and arrogantly asserts that the waters surrounding it are Uganda’s.

Museveni goes further and says there is actually no dispute between Kenya and Uganda over Migingo, but that it is Jaluo who are causing trouble. No, he is not done; he is just warming up. The Ugandan leader puts the boot in: He says he will not allow Jaluo to fish in Uganda’s waters.

When I heard Museveni’s interview on BBC radio, I was pretty upset. When I got to the office I found it was the matter my colleagues were discussing. I joined in the animated discussion with the following contribution: “Museveni’s remarks were calculated and meant to annoy; the man wanted to offend, and I think he has succeeded admirably in that. I am pretty offended.”

Alas! As if the man had not offended enough, he issued a statement in which he said that his statement had been quoted out of context and that he did not mean to offend anybody! So what will he say when he sets out to offend?

Jaluo is derogatory. The people are called Luo, and their language is Dholuo. The Luo are among the best fishermen in East Africa. It is just natural that they should be fishermen for their environment includes Lake Victoria. They exploit their environment to survive, and in this they are geniuses. God would be proud of them for it was He who commanded: “Let man be master.” Mastering the lake is what the Luo have always endeavoured to do.

Therefore the Luo are not causing trouble over Migingo. They have always known that Migingo is in Kenya. What will trouble them now is to try and figure out what it means for Migingo to be in Kenya and for the waters surrounding it to belong to Uganda.

This will trouble the Luo because while they are great fishermen, they are not cartographers in the mould of Museveni. The Luo would not understand where the border would be if water levels rose and part of Migingo was submerged. They would not understand because if water is to determine borders, then borders would become elastic. But then again, the Luo are not blessed with this Abunuwasi-style cartography to argue with Museveni.

Museveni's offensive remarks only serve to isolate the Luo from their countrymen.

What will trouble the Luo is that in Abunuwasique thinking at which Museveni is evidently adept, pots and pans give birth and therefore die. According to Abunuwasi, the owner of the apartment on the ground floor may declare that he is bringing down his house, and so the people above must devise ways of keeping theirs intact!

Oh no! The Luo cannot begin to argue that most of the water in Lake Victoria comes from Kenya. That cannot be an issue because what the Luo want to see is that the water level in Lake Victoria is always high. This is so because the Luo want to see that East Africans have fish and electricity and the River Nile always has enough water to ensure the survival of many African peoples all the way to Egypt.

The Luo will be troubled that Museveni appears to be out to isolate them from the rest of the Kenyan people. The Luo have not said that Migingo is a Luo island; they are saying that the island is Kenya’s. The people of Kenya, this blogger included, are not saying that Migingo is a Luo island. They are saying that it is a Kenyan island which happens to be in what is Luoland. So, why is Museveni speaking so derogatorily of the Luo and isolating them from their countrymen?

These remarks are at variance with what Museveni has said before when there has been friction between Nairobi and Kampala. When Museveni had disagreements with former President Moi, his position was that the people of Kenya and Uganda had no disagreements. It is the leadership, he correctly said, that had problems with each other. Museveni was correct in the sense that the leaders of Kenya and Uganda were out of touch with what their people wanted or that the people were running ahead of their leaders. This time round, Museveni is arguing that only the Luo are causing problems for the Kenya and Uganda governments and the peoples of the two countries.

What troubles me is that Museveni appears to be reading from a propaganda text scripted in Kenya. Former President Moi told us that "A Luo could be bought for Sh5,000." It was Amos Kimunya who told ODM luminaries that "The stock exchange is not a fish market!" After he was scorned and stoned in Kisumu in 1969, founding President Kenyatta never set foot in Luoland again. Hopefully, President Kibaki has not outsourced (to Museveni) the business of insulting and isolating the Luo from their sisters and brothers.

Is Museveni closer to President Kibaki than he is to Prime Minister Raila Odinga? Perhaps that is the case.

The Prime Minister has been hawkish on the matter of Migingo whereas the President’s silence has been thundering in our ears. Museveni was the first (and so far, the only - the US quickly withdrew theirs when they realised they were swimming in murky waters) head of state in Africa to recognise President Kibaki after the infamous 2007 presidential poll.

Now, given that Museveni has already determined the boundaries as regards Migingo, should we have this survey?

What will Museveni do to neighbours when oil revenues flood in? Pray he does not discover oil near the borders...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The conflict over Migingo may be politically motivated by some forces in Kenya and Uganda. It might also be as a result of bad blood between the Luo-related communities and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

When President Kibaki was declared winner of the supposedly bungled election in 2007, only Mr Museveni congratulated him at a time when political temperatures were very high.

This might have been meant to frustrate Mr Raila Odinga who had been in a deadlock with President Kibaki in the contest. Can someone explain how Mr Odinga, the prime minister, failed to be part of a Kenyan delegation seeking to resolve the dispute despite earlier reports that he was to lead it?

There is a correlation between what the Ugandan president said and an obviously sour relationship between him and the Luo community (See

The death of Southern Sudanese leader John Garang, who belonged to the larger Luo community, on his way from Uganda raised eyebrows. In northern Uganda Joseph Kony has given Mr Museveni sleepless nights for more than 15 years during his autocratic rule...