Photos: Caught between Uganda and Kenya, on Migingo Island

Updated On Oct 26, 2018 10:25 AM IST

Whether gutting fish on the rocks of the island, frying them up in greasy cafes, or stringing them up to dry on wires between rusty metal shacks, Migingo's residents generally just go about their own business. For over a decade, theisland in Lake Victoria has been a source of tension between Uganda and Kenya, who have been unable to decide to whom it really belongs. They were once pushed to the brink of what some said would have been Africa's "smallest war" over the island.

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A rounded rocky outcrop covered with metallic shacks, Migingo Island rises out of the waters of Lake Victoria like an iron-plated turtle. The densely populated island is barely a quarter of a hectare large, its residents crammed into a hodge-podge of corrugated-iron homes. There’s little else but a few bars, brothels and a tiny port. (Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP)
Updated on Oct 26, 2018 10:25 AM IST

A rounded rocky outcrop covered with metallic shacks, Migingo Island rises out of the waters of Lake Victoria like an iron-plated turtle. The densely populated island is barely a quarter of a hectare large, its residents crammed into a hodge-podge of corrugated-iron homes. There’s little else but a few bars, brothels and a tiny port. (Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP)

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Fishermen prepare their nets. For over a decade Migingo has been a source of tension between Uganda and Kenya, who have been unable to decide to whom it really belongs. They were once pushed to the brink of what some said would have been Africa’s “smallest war” over the island. (Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP)
Updated on Oct 26, 2018 10:25 AM IST

Fishermen prepare their nets. For over a decade Migingo has been a source of tension between Uganda and Kenya, who have been unable to decide to whom it really belongs. They were once pushed to the brink of what some said would have been Africa’s “smallest war” over the island. (Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP)

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While fishing communities around Lake Victoria have seen hauls diminish, deep waters surrounding Migingo abound with fish such as Nile Perch. Isaac Buhinza, 22, of Uganda said he was drawn to Migingo because “my friends who were here before used to come back home with lots of goodies” from their fishing bounty. “I do not know which country this (island) belongs to, I just stay here.” (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)
Updated on Oct 26, 2018 10:25 AM IST

While fishing communities around Lake Victoria have seen hauls diminish, deep waters surrounding Migingo abound with fish such as Nile Perch. Isaac Buhinza, 22, of Uganda said he was drawn to Migingo because “my friends who were here before used to come back home with lots of goodies” from their fishing bounty. “I do not know which country this (island) belongs to, I just stay here.” (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)

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For fisherman, living directly on the tiny island saves them fuel and also gives them direct access to wholesale buyers. It was in the early 2000s when the island was barely inhabited -- then situated within Kenya on all maps -- that it began drawing the attention of Ugandan authorities who sent officials to tax fishermen and offer protection against pirates. (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)
Updated on Oct 26, 2018 10:25 AM IST

For fisherman, living directly on the tiny island saves them fuel and also gives them direct access to wholesale buyers. It was in the early 2000s when the island was barely inhabited -- then situated within Kenya on all maps -- that it began drawing the attention of Ugandan authorities who sent officials to tax fishermen and offer protection against pirates. (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)

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Women braid hair on Migingo island. Kenyan fishermen complained they were being shaken down by the Ugandans, calling on Kenya’s government which deployed security forces in a move that nearly brought the two nations to blows in 2009. (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)
Updated on Oct 26, 2018 10:25 AM IST

Women braid hair on Migingo island. Kenyan fishermen complained they were being shaken down by the Ugandans, calling on Kenya’s government which deployed security forces in a move that nearly brought the two nations to blows in 2009. (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)

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A woman cleans her bar on Migingo island. The nations decided to create a joint commission to determine where the watery border is, relying on maps from the 1920s whose interpretation is a key contention. But nothing has come of the commission, and in the absence of any decisions on the boundary, the island is co-managed by both countries in a marriage of convenience. (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)
Updated on Oct 26, 2018 10:25 AM IST

A woman cleans her bar on Migingo island. The nations decided to create a joint commission to determine where the watery border is, relying on maps from the 1920s whose interpretation is a key contention. But nothing has come of the commission, and in the absence of any decisions on the boundary, the island is co-managed by both countries in a marriage of convenience. (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)

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Whether gutting fish on the rocks of the island, frying them up in greasy cafes, or stringing them up to dry on wires between rusty metal shacks, Migingo’s residents generally just go about their own business. But “sometimes there are tensions”, admitted Collins Ochieng, a young fisherman who moved to Migingo to “make money”. (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)
Updated on Oct 26, 2018 10:25 AM IST

Whether gutting fish on the rocks of the island, frying them up in greasy cafes, or stringing them up to dry on wires between rusty metal shacks, Migingo’s residents generally just go about their own business. But “sometimes there are tensions”, admitted Collins Ochieng, a young fisherman who moved to Migingo to “make money”. (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)

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The latest flare up came in mid-September, when Kenya tried to raise its flag on the island -- which had long had the Ugandan flag fluttering. He said the Ugandans “wanted to flex their muscles” and began patrolling in uniform. On the Ugandan side, a policeman concedes there were tensions but said the issue was quickly resolved. “We decided no flag would be hoisted,” he said. (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)
Updated on Oct 26, 2018 10:25 AM IST

The latest flare up came in mid-September, when Kenya tried to raise its flag on the island -- which had long had the Ugandan flag fluttering. He said the Ugandans “wanted to flex their muscles” and began patrolling in uniform. On the Ugandan side, a policeman concedes there were tensions but said the issue was quickly resolved. “We decided no flag would be hoisted,” he said. (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)

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For Boaz Owuor, a fisherman based in Sori on the Kenyan side of the lake, about 15 kms from Migingo, the incident proved that “Ugandan authorities take Migingoa lot more seriously than Kenyan authorities.” The co-management agreement stipulates there should be equal numbers of police from both nations but “there are more Ugandans”, said a Kenyan officer based on the nearby island of Ugingo. The Ugandan side denies this. (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)
Updated on Oct 26, 2018 10:25 AM IST

For Boaz Owuor, a fisherman based in Sori on the Kenyan side of the lake, about 15 kms from Migingo, the incident proved that “Ugandan authorities take Migingoa lot more seriously than Kenyan authorities.” The co-management agreement stipulates there should be equal numbers of police from both nations but “there are more Ugandans”, said a Kenyan officer based on the nearby island of Ugingo. The Ugandan side denies this. (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)

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The loss of Lake Victoria’s fish life has raised the stakes for millions in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Around Migingo, Kenyan fishermen complain about Ugandan officers harassing them. Rejecting the accusation, the Ugandan policeman said, “The deep waters where fishermen fish are more on the Uganda side, and the shallow waters where fish breed are more on the Kenyan side. We all need to work together.” (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)
Updated on Oct 26, 2018 10:25 AM IST

The loss of Lake Victoria’s fish life has raised the stakes for millions in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Around Migingo, Kenyan fishermen complain about Ugandan officers harassing them. Rejecting the accusation, the Ugandan policeman said, “The deep waters where fishermen fish are more on the Uganda side, and the shallow waters where fish breed are more on the Kenyan side. We all need to work together.” (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)

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A Kenyan flag is seen at the base of Kenyan marine police on Usingo island overlooking Migingo. On the island, some taunt each other good-naturedly. “This is Kenya,” said Colins Ochyeng. “It’s Uganda,” fired back a Ugandan fisherman passing by, with a smile. “I don’t know who this island belongs to,” said Kenyan fisherman Emmanuel Aringo. “These are all political issues and we just want to sell our fish.” (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)
Updated on Oct 26, 2018 10:25 AM IST

A Kenyan flag is seen at the base of Kenyan marine police on Usingo island overlooking Migingo. On the island, some taunt each other good-naturedly. “This is Kenya,” said Colins Ochyeng. “It’s Uganda,” fired back a Ugandan fisherman passing by, with a smile. “I don’t know who this island belongs to,” said Kenyan fisherman Emmanuel Aringo. “These are all political issues and we just want to sell our fish.” (Yashuyoshi Chiba / AFP)

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