The African Great Lakes are part of the International Waters, meaning these resources belong to and are shared by more than one country. However, each nation is governed by its own set of laws, which may not be convergent or with the same level of stringency in some respects with its neighboring country or countries within the African Great Lakes region. The laws governing fishing as an economic activity, for example, are enforced to varying levels from one country to another; some countries strictly enforce and implement sustainable fishing policies like licensing fishermen, registering fishermen into cooperatives and regulating the size of fishing nets used to curb overfishing more than their neighboring counterparts. Under international law, every country has the right to exercise sovereignty over its natural resources within its territorial limits. However, the exploitation of trans-boundary resources is usually associated with conflicts between nations, because they usually have different interests in these resources (Muigua, 2018). On 29 January 2022, as reported by Nile Post News, the Foreign Affairs Ministers for the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda met in Kampala to address issues emanating from fishing activities on Lakes Albert and Edward which are shared by both countries. This was because fishermen of either side were sometimes arrested by the other country for fishing in their territories. The agenda for this meeting was to establish the Lake Edward and Lake Albert Fisheries and Aquaculture Organizations (LEA-FAO) to harmonize the regulation of fishing activities on the two lakes. Within the African Great Lakes region, there exists other bodies that were formed with the sole aim of conserving and managing the trans-boundary lakes and their resources. They include the Lake Tanganyika Authority, a legally recognized institution established in 2008 to promote cooperation in the sustainable management of the natural resources and protect biodiversity. It was formed under the 2003 Convention on the Sustainable Management of Lake Tanganyika which brought together Tanzania, Zambia, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, all which share the Lake Tanganyika coastline (LTA 2022). The trans boundary governance of Lake Victoria Basin is implemented through two bodies, the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO) whose mandate is to facilitate cooperation between partner countries through the development and adoption of measures for the conservation and sustainable use of Lake Victoria's resources to maximize benefits, and the Lake Victoria Basin Commission which coordinates sustainable development and management of the Lake Victoria Basin. Both Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization and Lake Victoria Basin Commission are institutions legally established under the East Africa Community (EAC, 2022).
International waters provide waterways that support a lot of trade and commerce, but can also be used as getaway avenues by criminals and militants. For example, in March 2021, Uganda Radio Network reported that armed militia attacked and abducted fishermen in Hoima district at gunpoint and ordered them to surrender their fishing boats, sets of fishing nets and boat engines and fled to Congo through Lake Albert (Okello, 2021). In September 2017, as reported by Reuters, the Mai-Mai Yakutumba militia mounted a battle against the Congo government forces on Lake Tanganyika in the lakeside city of Uvira, which is close to the Burundi border (Ross, 2017). Since the late 1950s, disputes between the Turkana (Kenya) and Dassanech (Ethiopia) communities in the Omo delta of Lake Turkana have arisen intermittently over control of grazing grounds in the area (Agano, 2020). Peace requires that people live together in harmony, governed by existing established laws and policies, and sharing resources equitably and fairly. The nations within the African Great Lakes region are urged to come up with common trans-boundary laws which integrate the promotion of peace within the region. It is also important to establish transnational institutions that are mandated to oversee the sustainable management of trans-boundary resources and ensure that any conflicts arising from the use of such resources are amicably addressed. This is also in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
- Bartoo. V (2011 May 4th) Catalogue of Merille attacks on Kenyans: The Standard https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/busia/article/2000034421/catalogue-of-merille-attacks-on-kenyans
- Okello. E (2021 Mar 21st) DRC Militia Robs 19 More Boat Engines on Lake Albert; Uganda Radio Network: https://ugandaradionetwork.net/story/drc-militia-robs-19-more-boat-engines-on-lake-albert
- Ross. A (2017 September 28th) Reuters: Congo naval boats battle rebels on Lake Tanganyika: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-congo-violence-idUSKCN1C31DJ
- Agano, J. (2020). Persisting Transboundary Resource Conflicts in Africa- a Case Study of River Omo Delta [Thesis, University of Nairobi]. http://erepository.uonbi.ac.ke/handle/11295/154000
- Muigua, K. (2018). Managing Transboundary Natural Resources in Kenya. 28.
- Lake Tanganyika Authority (2022) https://lta-alt.org/contracting-countries
- Kazibwe K (2022 Jan 29th) Uganda, DRC Meet Over Fishing On Lakes Edward, Albert: Nile Post News https://allafrica.com/stories/202201310164.html
- East African Community (2022): https://www.eac.int/eac-institutions