Kenyan fishermen on trial in Tanzania for ‘armed robbery’

Monday August 30 2021
 Kibro Beach

Fishermen at Kibro Beach protesting over harassment by Ugandan authorities in 2019. Six Kenyan fishermen are on trial in Tanzania for ‘armed robbery’. PHOTO | FILE | NMG

By Ian Byron

Six Kenyan fishermen arrested two months ago after engaging in a scuffle with their counterparts from Tanzania over ownership of fishing gear are expected in court Monday to face charges of attempted robbery with violence.

They were arrested on June 25 by Tanzanian security officers while on a fishing expedition in Lake Victoria. Kibro Beach Management Unit chairman Maulid Joel said a disagreement is reported to have erupted between the Kenyan fishermen and their Tanzanian counterparts and escalated into a fight.

It’s at that point that the Tanzanian fishermen alerted their police, who arrested the Kenyans and took them to the Sota Beach police post in North Mara District of Tanzania. Authorities seized their fishing gear and boats and efforts to have them released have so far proved futile.

Organise a fundraiser

“We sent a delegation to negotiate the terms of their release, but the Tanzanians demanded Ksh40,000 ($364) for every fisherman, an amount we could not raise,” Mr Joel said.

An outcry from the fishermen’s relatives saw leaders in Migori County organise a fundraiser at the weekend.


Mr Joel has travelled to North Mara District to attend the court session and negotiate the release of the six who are not represented by a lawyer.

Migori County Orange Democratic Movement branch chairman Philip Makabongo and Muhuru MCA Hevron Mahira said they raised Ksh120,000 ($1,092) towards securing the fishermen’s release.

“We’re considering an out-of-court settlement if the complainants are willing to soften their stance,” Mr Makabongo said.

Last week, Migori County Commissioner Meru Mwangi said there were efforts to have the fishermen freed.

“We’re closely following up on the matter with Tanzanian authorities. I’ve taken up the issue with the security committee,” Mr Mwangi said.

Nyatike MP Tom Odege said: “The territorial boundaries in the lake are not clearly spelt out and in most cases, it’s the Tanzanian security teams that end up straying into Kenyan waters.”

“Fishing expeditions are often done in the night and it becomes hectic to ascertain the exact borderlines,” he said.


Mr Mahira said he has petitioned the East African Legislative Assembly in Arusha, Tanzania, for an East African Community joint operational licence.

“The licence will ease working relations between the three countries and bring to an end the constant harassment. Our fishermen will easily work in the lake with minimum cases of arrests,” Mr Mahira said.

Fisherfolk operating in the lake complained of frequent arrests by Tanzanian security officials.

Mr Michael Ngare, a fisherman said: “For over a decade, we’ve fallen victim to arbitrary arrests and harassment by security officials from neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda. We thought the deployment of the Kenya Coast Guard would improve insecurity in the lake but we’re still being harassed and arrested.”

The fishermen said they were tortured and made to pay huge bribes before being freed. They blamed Kenya Coast Guard officers for failing to protect them.

“Kenya Coast Guard boats are grounded and only one is operational. At times, security officers from neighbouring countries force us to eat raw fish. The torture is often unbearable even when the officers find us in Kenyan waters,” Mr Ngare said.

The MP asked government to intervene and end the brutality neighbours’ security officers unleash on Kenyan fishermen.

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