A tiny island in Africa with 131 inhabitants has caused 'Africa's smallest war'

Carl De Souza/Stringer/Getty ImagesMigingo Island on Lake Victoria.
  • Migingo Island is crowded with fishermen.
  • The surrounding waters are full of Nile perch, a valuable export.
  • Kenya and Uganda continue to dispute the ownership of the island.

Migingo Island on Lake Victoria in Africa is a fishing hub teeming with Nile perch, a profitable export to the European Union. With lots of money to be made and little space to fit all of the fisherman seeking their share, the tiny, 0.49-acre rock is covered with overlapping houses.

Ownership of the island has overlapped, as well, causing a dispute between Kenya and Uganda over who owns the valuable fishing waters.

Here’s what conditions on the island are like today.


Migingo Island is a 0.49-acre island island in Lake Victoria, one of the African Great Lakes.

Carl De Souza/Stringer/Getty ImagesMigingo Island.

A 2009 Kenya census reports a population of 131 people, though others place it at around 500.

Carl De Souza/Stringer/Getty ImagesResidents of Migingo Island.

The National reported that the island’s population was 500., much larger than the Kenya census.


The waters surrounding Migingo Island are rich in Nile perch, and the valuable fishing waters have been disputed by its neighbouring countries.

Carl De Souza/Stringer/Getty ImagesMigingo Island’s fishing waters are profitable.

Kenya and Uganda both claimed ownership of the island in what The Independent dubbed “Africa’s smallest war.”

Carl De Souza/Stringer/Getty ImagesBoats on the shore of Migingo Island.

As Daniel Howden reports, the profitable fishing waters attracted pirates, and Uganda was the first to respond. They instituted costly entry permits and arrested fishermen who didn’t have them. Kenya responded in kind by claiming the island, and Uganda sent Marines.


Foreign ministers of both countries stepped in before the conflict escalated, and the demarcation line attributing it to Kenya was set in 2009.

Google MapsMigingo Island is technically in Kenyan waters, but Ugandan forces maintain a presence there.

Kenyans and Ugandans now share space on the small rock that is less than half the size of a football field.

Carl De Souza/Stringer/Getty ImagesHouses on Migingo Island.

It’s home to four pubs, a pharmacy, a hair salon, and several brothels.

Carl De Souza/Stringer/Getty ImagesResidents of Migingo Island.

Concerns about poverty and over fishing still persist.

Carl De Souza/Stringer/Getty ImagesFishermen on Migingo Island.

Kenyan police officers reportedly raised the Kenyan flag on the island in September, reigniting tensions on the island.

Carl De Souza/Stringer/Getty ImagesTensions flared in September.

Ugandan forces on the island “pulled down the flag and warned the Kenyan police deployed on the island against making such attempts again,” Migingo beach management unit chairman John Obunge told The Daily Nation.

ODM party leader Raila Odinga announced that he would meet with Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni to further discuss the conflict, Tuko.co.ke reported.

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