Lake standoff as Kenya and Tanzania police tussle over fishing boats


By IAN BYRON
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There was tension along Muhuru Bay in Lake Victoria, Migori side Tuesday after authorities from Tanzania impounded 10 fishing boats belonging to Kenyan fishermen.

This sparked a chase from Kenyan officers patrolling the lake and other fishermen who accused Tanzanian officers of robbery.

The ten boats from beaches along Muhuru Bay were checking nets, hooks and consolidating their catch in Kenya waters when Tanzania officers stormed and arrested them.

According to John Maulidi, the Migori Beach Management chairperson, the 40 fishermen resisted arrest, calling for backup from their colleagues who responded swiftly, resulting in a standoff in the lake.

“We refused to board their police boats and called for backup from our colleagues. It was during the standoff that they towed the boats towards Tanzania prompting a chase from Kenyan officers on patrol in a bid to recover the boats,” Mr Maulidi said.

He noted that the 40 fishermen and Kenyan police overpowered Tanzanian authorities and managed to flee leaving behind the boats which were already in Tanzanian waters.

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“They ended up impounding ten engines from the boats leaving the boats which we towed to the mainland,” he explained.

The engines were taken to Sota Beach in Tanzania where Kenyan fishermen have been told to pay Sh35,000 each to secure their release.

The incident came barely a day after Ugandan police arrested four Kenyans in the same area in a similar standoff.

“This is an open piracy meted on local fishermen in Kenyan waters. We demand protection from the recently launched Coast Guard,” said Migori Bay MCA Hevrone Maira.

The four Kenyan fishermen were taken to Hama Beach in Uganda where they were later released after paying Sh50,000 as ransom.

On the dawn of December 5, Tanzanian officials arrested 20 Kenyan fishermen off Kibro Beach in Lake Victoria, Migori County and demanded Sh200,000 to secure their release.

The group was ambushed at dawn after a night out fishing omena.

“They were in five boats which were also impounded alongside their engines, several fishing gears and their catch,” Mr Maulidi said.

“Kenyan government has been weak in enforcing rules and policing the lake which has exposed us to harassment by Tanzania and Uganda forces,” he said.

In February this year, according to Mr Maira, local leaders from Muhuru had to pay Sh200,000 to release 26 Kenyan fishermen arrested by Tanzania after being held for six months.

Most fishermen have resorted to rice farming after facing torture from foreign authorities.


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