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Kalangala fishermen decry increasing cross-border robberies

Kalangala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Persistent robberies and targeted attacks by criminals on Lake Victoria waters are threatening the operations of fishermen in Kalangala islands.

According to fishermen at Nkose island, Kalangala district, they have in the last two months lost at least 40 boat engines, estimated at 480 million shillings that were stolen by pirates using the specified navigation routes to the neighboring republic of Tanzania.

Emmanuel Kakeeto and Jamadah Ssekitto, both fishermen at Nkose island decry that they are too susceptible to attacks by the Tanzanian counterparts who usually target new boat engines and sometimes harvested fish and fuel from Ugandan fishermen.

Kakeeto alleges that the pirates usually attack at night and hold their victims at gunpoint before ordering them to surrender all their possessions. He adds that the situation has rendered them helpless with their income generating activities under serious threat.

Similar attacks have also been reported in the neighboring fishing islands of Ziiru, Namisoke, Nkese, and Buyange landing sites, which are located in the navigation route towards the Uganda and Tanzania border in Lake Victoria.

Despite the underlying threats, Matia Kyagulanyi, the chairperson of the local Beam Management Unit indicates that the affected islands are known for having high volumes of fish, making them inevitable to the fishermen. Badru Walugembe who owns 14 fishing boats at Nkose island says the pirates operate ahead of the Uganda Police Force Marine unit personnel whom he says are not well facilitated to conduct patrols in the identified dark spots, which makes the fishermen even more vulnerable.

Besides the demand for heightened security deployments to secure the waters, Walugembe also implores the Minister for East African Community Affairs to take up the concerns and engage all the regional counterparts such that they can generate a harmonized sustainable solution.

He is afraid that the security situation may deteriorate in the near future, as Ugandans may also resort to arming themselves with machetes to revenge against the attackers.

Muhammad Nsubuga, the Greater Masaka Regional Police Spokesperson says that their marine police personnel are trying their best to fight the robberies and secure the fishermen.

He however argues that many fishermen on islands are still reluctant at collaborating with the security teams in fighting pirates and completely stamping out criminality.

Nsubuga says that some local fishermen are known for collaborating with the criminals to smuggle in illegal fishing gear as well as exporting immature fish, hence rendering them a window through which they can continue operating.

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