Four journalists from the Nation Media Group were arrested and briefly
locked up by Ugandan soldiers as a dispute over an island on Lake
Victoria continued between Kenya and Uganda, writes Dennis Itumbi for

The four were covering developments on the tiny island, which has been occupied by Ugandan military who have hoisted their country’s flag as a mark of ownership.

The team, Nyanza-based correspondents Patrick Mayoyo, Ouko Okusa, Jacob Owiti and Elisha Otieno, had set to sail to the island on Tuesday, but were intercepted on the way by the Uganda Marine Police who bundled them into a patrol boat.

They were then taken to a temporary detention camp at the island where they had their cameras, notebooks and cash confiscated before being interrogated for over two hours. The journalists were later released without charge.

The journalists say eight marine officers armed with shotguns and AK 47 rifles were in the team that intercepted them.

They were freed after a telephone call from a senior police officer in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, who ordered that the crew be set free and allowed to go about their work.

The journalists said the Ugandan officer in charge on the island, Richard Balenzi, told them they had no problem with the Kenyan journalists, but claimed that they had reports that a group from Kenya was planning to confront the Ugandan soldiers.

"The soldiers were rough during the arrest and acted with preciseness during the interrogation, but they maintained they had no problem with us,” said the journalists in a phone interview

The Nation team is the latest victim of the row that has caused bad blood between the two East African countries. Several Kenyan fishermen have been held and accused of trespass.

Uganda has sent its military to the Island, but Kenya withdrew police officers it had sent there after tensions heightened and has instead resolved to handle the dispute through diplomatic channels.
Ugandan authorities have ordered that the Kenyan fishermen and traders in the island apply for work permits.

Representatives of the two countries are expected to meet later in the week in Kampala to iron out the differences.

But that is in doubt after the Kenyan Parliament demanded that the government sends its troops to reclaim the island claiming colonial maps indicated that the island was in Kenya.

A report in Daily Nation late on Sunday said the two countries had agreed to carry out a survey to determine where the island belongs.