1/7 When one takes a closer look at the open source satellite imagery of the Uganda/DRC border, it seems that Rukwanzi Island is not part of Uganda. The Island appears to be 0.89 km inside DRC territory. This is according to Google Earth imagery (provided by among others, NASA). Look at the attachment to this message showing two Google Earth extracts of the Lake Mwitanzige (Albert) basin taken at different altitudes, very close to the mouth of River Semliki. The yellow line is the international boundary with DRC.
2/7 It is unfortunate that the documents that outline the alignment of the border are silent on any reference points over the lake. The only instance that would make one hope that the island is in our territory is Emin Pasha’s 1886 account of ‘…. discovery of a new [sic] river flowing from Usongora mountains.’ Pasha further noted that, ‘It is of considerable size and flows into the lake at the south…. Contains a large island near its junction with the lake.’ [Schweinfurth, G (1888), Emin Pasha in Central Africa, pp. 187, 179 and 570.
3/7 In the quote above, I underline ‘near’ to ensure that we do not interpret it as, ‘at’. Had Emin Pasha stated that the island was at the junction of the river with the lake, there would have been grounds to claim that the boundary was subsequently ill-demarcated, in light of the fact that it coincides with the thalweg of the Semliki and the Semliki opens directly into the Lake, therefore making it possible for us to have half the Island. This is the false impression that William Rwebembera of the New Vision made by distorting the map of the area in his 10th August 2007 article.
4/7 The last figure in the attachment is an extract of the map of Uganda sectioned out in 317 grids, each representing a map of scale 1:25,000.. Maps 46/4 and 47/3 available from Lands and Survey in Entebbe cover the area of our interest. They should be looked at closely to confirm whether that Island is on the Ugandan or the DRC side of the border.
5/7 There were several press reports indicating that locals in the lake basin know the island to be on the Uganda side because they have always fished there. This is only testimony to the inconveniences that Berlin borders have visited upon communities in frontier zones but not a confirmation of where Rukwanzi belongs. All of us know the Kitgum frontier zone with Sudan: it is called Ngom Orom, i.e., the land that belongs to all, or put differently, to-whom-it-may-concern-territory.
6/7 The many decades of the ineptitude of the Zairean state may have turned Rukwanzi into an Ngom Orom. The discovery of oil, and regime change in Kinsasha might be altering that state of affairs. I have read that in the Bantu dialects, ‘Rukwanzi’ means a bead, which many parents of restless toddlers know to be a choke hazard.
7/7 It may be dangerous for us to assume that Rukwanzi is in Uganda, when it may not be. We should not hope that DRC authorities will remain as sleepy as they have been for many years. If we are right, it may be advisable that, Google Maps is alerted to the extent to which it is misrepresenting the country’s frontiers: if a DRC researcher looks at that map the way it is now, it may be a source of embarrasment. A bid by Uganda to swallow that bead could easily cause severe choking.
Lance Corporal (Rtd) Otto Patrick