Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Marine police operating on Lake Victoria are on the spot for extorting money from travelers to Buvuma district. The travelers claim that the police officers stop them in the middle of the lake to extort from them, which is criminal and exposes their lives to danger.
According to information obtained by our reporters, marine police often stop the boat operators to check on their life saving equipment such as life jackets, overloading and enforce the COVID-19 preventive measures. However, a boat operator told URN on condition of anonymity that the intention of the officers isn’t to maintain order on the lake but to extort money from them.
“It is on a rare occasion that they charge us for doing contrary to what is required, maybe when we carry passengers without life jackets but their intention is getting money. They can charge you between Shillings 20,000 to 50,000 depending on the nature of crime they slap on you. Sometimes they also charge travelers about Shillings 5000 for not wearing face masks,” he said.
Sarah Nabirye, a resident of Buvuma faults the marine police for stopping the boats in deep water, saying it can result into deaths. “Towards the landing sites, they make us walk into water from the boat in our shoes, sometimes order us to immerse into water so they torture us and also extort money,” she said.
James Sitibwakuno, another resident says the practice is getting out of hand and calls on the government to address the challenge appropriately. “It is very challenging to spend hours on water over minor issues yet we travel with a lot of goods which by any slight mistake we may lose. Marine police should set clear guidelines for passengers to follow before getting to any boat,” he said.
The Ssezibwa Regional Marine Police Commander, Godfrey Luiga said he wasn’t aware of the complaints. He has promised to investigate the matter. The Buvuma Residents District Commissioner-RDC, Juma Kigongo says his office has received similar reports and started making inquiries into the matter to ensure that whoever is involved is brought to book.