Kasese, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Security is holding 58 Congolese fishermen in Uganda for alleged violation of the borders at Lake Edward.
According to Josué Mukura, the Executive Secretary of the Federation of Individual Fishermen of Lake Edward (FECOPEILE) in North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the fishermen were arrested by Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) Fisheries Protection Unit soldiers between October 21-22nd while fishing on Lake Edward.
Mukura says that after the arrest, the fishermen were taken to an unknown prison in Uganda.
Warrant Officer 1 Deogratious Ssentiba, the UPDFG Fisheries Protection Unit Spokesperson confirmed to our reporter today that the 58 Congolese fishermen were arrested while fishing in Ugandan territory while using illegal fishing gear.
Ssentiba says that the suspects who are already on remand in Mubuku Government prison Kasese were found with illegal fishing nets and boats. He says that the suspects are again appearing before the court this month on October 26th.
But, Mukura argues that with this unfriendly situation, the cross-border management of the fishery resources of Lakes at the border “is far from being peaceful” between the DR Congo and Uganda, despite the program of joint patrols by sailors from the two states.
Mukura pleads for a bilateral solution between the two countries to definitively resolve the problem. The Lakes Edward and Albert Fisheries and water Resources Managemnet project (LEAF II) is supported DR Congo and Uganda to develop a Fisheries Management Plan to guide sustainable fisheries and aquaculture management on both lakes.
LEAF II facilitates the harmonization of fisheries and aquaculture policies and legislation for Lakes Edward and Albert. LEAF II facilitates the drafting of a bilateral agreement for sustainable management of fisheries resources and aquaculture for the shared Lakes Edward and Albert, which was signed by Governments of D.R. Congo and Uganda on October 20th, 2018. LEAF II supported joint surveillance of the transboundary lakes Edward and Albert by providing four (4) equipped patrol boats to D.R. Congo and Uganda (2 per country) and trained 23 coxswains and patrol boat operators from both countries.
However, Ssentiba insists that Congolese fishermen must know that Uganda is currently very strict in the observation of proper fishing methods as a way of protecting its waters bodies and aquatic life. Ssentiba faults Congolese fishermen for remaining adamant in observing fishing guidelines. Ssentiba warns that in case fishermen remain adamant, Ugandan authorities will have no option but to suspend fishing activities at the affected lakes after this year’s Christmas festivities.
Congolese fishermen and leaders have been at loggerheads with Uganda security authorities over proper fishing methods on border lakes. In July this year, Noe Mbusa Kavasya, a fisherman who is a member of the KyavinyongeI Individual Fishermen’s Association at Lake Edward accused Uganda security authorities of crossing to Congo and arresting 12 fishermen Kyiavinyonge landing site in Beni territory, North Kivu Province, a claim Ugandan security strongly rubbished.
In the same month, Noe Mbusa Kavasya, a fisherman who is a member of the KyavinyongeI Individual Fishermen’s Association in Beni territory accused the Ugandan marines of arresting 12 Congolese fishermen but UPDF strongly denied it.
In 2018, the DR Congo government accused Uganda of shooting dead 12 Congolese fishermen, something Uganda’s army also denied.