The island of Migingo is situated in Lake Victoria on the border between Uganda and Kenya.
It’s actually less of an island, and more of a small rocky outcrop, every inch of which is covered in corrugated-iron homes, bars, brothels and a tiny port.
The Guardian describes it as “an iron-plated turtle”, which judging from the image above, looks about right. It also has a fascinating history, and the current political tensions are surprisingly complex considering the islands’ size.
Migingo has been a source of tension between Uganda and Kenya, which have been unable to decide to whom it really belongs. The nations were once pushed to the brink of what some predicted would be Africa’s smallest war over the island.
Small as it is, Migingo is bustling with life captured in the photos that follow:
Local fishermen prepare their nets. While catches have slowly diminished over the years in fishing communities around Lake Victoria, species such as Nile Perch are plentiful in the deep waters surrounding Migingo
Isaac Buhinza, 22, of Uganda learned to fish from his father and never attended school. He 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. He added: ‘I do not know which country this (island) belongs to, I just stay here.’
A woman prepares Ugali, a typical local food made of maize flour. Migingo’s residents make the most of the daily catches by gutting the fish on rocks, frying them in cafes and stringing them up to dry on wires between rusty metal shacks
A woman cleans a bar on the island. After the tensions in 2009, Kenya and Uganda decided to create a joint commission to determine where the border is, relying on maps dating from the 1920s. Nothing has come of the commission, however. In the absence of any boundary decisions, the island is co-managed by both countries. This is a marriage of convenience that features both highs and lows
Women braid each other’s hair in an alleyway. Adams Mulabbi, the officer in charge of the Ugandan police station on Migingo, said: ‘We just want fisherman to be able to do their business in peace.’
People gather along an alley on the island. Faced with mounting complaints from their constituents, local Kenyan politicians have urged Nairobi to ask the international court of justice to intervene and make a decision on the border – to no avail. ‘What matters now is not about the claims by either side but the need to demarcate the place properly so that the border lines are clear,’ said Patrick Mugoya, a permanent secretary in Uganda’s foreign ministry
Space is at a premium on the tiny island, where people tease each other good-naturedly. ‘This is Kenya,’ said Colins Ochyeng, a local man. ‘It’s Uganda,’ replied a passing Ugandan fisherman, with a smile. Kenyan fisherman Emmanuel Aringo said: ‘I don’t know who this island belongs to. ‘These are all political issues and we just want to sell our fish.’
Locals go about their daily lives despite the tension. For fisherman Boaz Owuor, who is based in Sori on the Kenyan side of the lake, the incident proved that ‘Ugandan authorities take Migingo a lot more seriously than Kenyan authorities’
I guess no matter how small the island, people are still going to want to drink and have sex.
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