Serere, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The fishing community in Serere district is struggling to survive following the suspension of fishing on Lake Kyoga.
The communities argue that they have been deprived of their livelihoods from the lake.
Simon Okwi, the Parish Councillor of Kagwara says the suspension has been worsened by the COVID-19 lockdown. He notes that some families have separated leaving children to fend for themselves.
He also noted that domestic violence and defilement are on the rise as households have slipped into extreme poverty and suffering.
At Ajuba landing site, David Ocan roasting says that he begged for cassava tuber from a neighbour who had just returned from the neighbouring village to buy food.
Ocan says that both his wife and other siblings fled soon after hearing about the army operations on the lake. Ocan now living in one of the houses spared by the raving water levels says life has lost meaning after the suspension of fishing.
The operations against illegal fishing have not only left the residents starving but also nursing psychological and physical torture.
Joseph Elimu, a resident of Abata village in Kadungulu sub county says that he was allegedly beaten by the soldiers in March over illegal fishing nets.
“When they released me after a week in detention, my wife had already left home with our three children. I have tried to plead with her to return home but she fears that the soldiers might come back to beat all of us. My life is in a mess since I can’t support myself”, the teary Elimu says.
“If it wasn’t for this virus, I would go back to my father’s house in Kumi but am now trapped here. This life is more than imprisonment because we can’t find food to eat or move to any other place to seek help”, he said.
Sam Ogoda, a resident of Amiem Cell in Kadungulu town council says the soldiers broke into his house at 2:00 am and beat him to comma before taking him to Kagwara landing site for detention. He claims that much as he abandoned fishing last year, he was accused of using illegal fishing gears.
Ogoda revealed that he was charged 250,000 shillings by the Fish Protection Unit Soldiers at Kagwara to have him released after spending three days in detention. The frightened resident explains that even after destroying his house and confiscating the motorcycle, the soldiers remained adamant to his pleas for pardon.
The soldiers found at Kagwara Landing Site, which hosts the headquarters of illegal fishing operations declined to comment on grounds that they were not allowed to speak to the media.