Hoima, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Hundreds of fishermen operating at the shores of Lake Albert have appealed to the government to stay the impending closure of illegal landing sites until after the COVID-19 lockdown.
The government, two weeks ago announced plans to close more than 200 illegal landing sites on the shores of Lake Albert in the districts of Hoima, Kikuube and Buliisa. According to the government, the landing sites are facilitating the illegal entry and exit of Congolese Nationals into the country, many of whom have settled on the sites without any control.
The move is also intended at restocking the lake resource and put an end to the increasing illegal fishing activities on Lake Albert. According to the government, 61 landing sites will be closed in the first phase of the drive.
Some of the ungazetted landing sites earmarked for closure in Hoima district are Buhuma, Pentye, Nana, Kabanda, Kiryatete, Kisege and Kacuru. Those in Kikuube are Bulinga, Wangjok, Kiina, Kachunde, Busigi, Nsunzu and Ususa, among others while those to be closed in Buliisa are Kawaibanda, Tuugo Mbili, Chula, Masaka, Katonge, Wankende, Kigagaizi, Bubwe and Kololo among others.
But some of the fishermen say that the government should allow the closure of the illegal landing sites to take place only after the elimination of the COVID-19 pandemic to give them ample time to organize themselves. Gilbert Ajoba, a fisherman at Rwentale landing site in Buseruka sub-county says that closing the landing sites now will leave them hopeless.
Charles Cwinya, a fisherman at Fofo landing site in Hoima wonders how they will move to another place amidst the lockdown which affected the movement of people across the country. He too calls on the government to give the fishermen enough time to relocate.
John Munguriek, the vice-chairman of Fofo landing site local council in Buseruka sub-county says evicting fishermen at the moment could contravene the government guidelines of controlling the spread of COVID-19.
Yakobo Byalero, a fish trader in Hoima town says that it is suicidal for the government to close the illegal landing sites during this period of COVID-19 where people are restricted from any movement yet the government does not even have any resettlement action plan for the fishermen.
Buseruka sub-county councilor Geoffrey Komakech cautions against rushing to evict the fishermen in the absence of an appropriate measure of relocating the fishermen.
Lake Albert employs approximately 56,000 fishermen who harvest more than 100,000 tons of fish every year. There are over 400 landing sites on the Lake Albert in Bunyoro sub-region stretching up to Ntoroko district. Overall, fishing supports the livelihood of more than 1.6 million people in Uganda.