Uganda has lowered its flag on the disputed Migingo Island in Lake Victoria to pave way for the demarcation exercise.
At the directive of President Yoweri Museveni, the flag came down at 6:30pm on Monday in a ceremony led by the assistant Police superintendent, Agapitus Ecotu.
Museveni, who is in Arusha for the East African Community Summit, said the lowering of the flag was done in the spirit of regional co-operation and integration.
â€œIn taking this decision, the President also considered the need for flag neutrality on the island during the border verification exercise,â€ read a press statement from the Uganda Media Centre.
â€œThis is not a climb-down by Uganda, just a gesture whereby, in terms of visibility, the process starts on neutral ground,â€ commented Fred Opolot, the Governmentâ€™s spokesperson at a press conference yesterday.
â€œThe flag has been an issue of contention, now that the flag is down, it will calm the nerves of the Kenyan public.â€
He, however, said the Government will not withdraw its Police officers deployed on the island to maintain law and order. Their presence was agreed during an April 2 meeting by the Police chiefs of both countries.
A joint technical team from Kenya and Uganda will start the demarcation process tomorrow, Opolot announced, adding that he is optimistic the May 14 deadline will be met.
He further said a Ugandan team had travelled to London to collect maps and relevant colonial documents and were expected to return last evening.
The Ugandan government has said it will accept the results of the remarking exercise.
On taxes that were being levied by Uganda, Opolot said a technical team was yet to discuss the way forward.
Museveni and his Kenyan counterpart Mwai Kibaki are slated to discuss the Migingo issue at the summit Arusha as the tiny island and a new border dispute are threatening relations between the two countries.
Kenyans have come up with fresh allegations, accusing the Ugandan military of having encroached 15km into its border area with Karamoja, a claim Uganda denies.
â€œThe problem is that the beacons were stolen because they contain some mercury. There is absolutely no truth in that claim. The military are on the Ugandan side,â€ said Opolot.
In a positive development, the repair of the railway line was completed yesterday afternoon and a Ugandan wagon was able to cross Kibera slums, where rioting youth had uprooted the track a fortnight ago, protesting what they called Ugandaâ€™s occupation of Migingo.
The train, which arrived in Nairobi at 3:20pm, opened the floodgate for 450 cargo wagons that had been grounded in Nairobi.
â€œThis is good news for us and our business partners in Uganda and other countries in the Great Lakes region,â€ said Judy Achar, the public relations officer of Rift Valley Railways (RVR).
â€œAll wagons destined for Uganda that had been detained in Mombasa have now been allowed to proceed.â€
Uganda is a landlocked country that depends on the Mombasa Port in Kenya for its imports and exports.
Uganda removes flag on Migingo