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MPs criticise discriminatory issuance of fishing licences

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Members of Parliament from the fishing communities have criticised the discriminatory issuance of artisanal licences to fishermen.

While addressing the media at Parliament on Monday, 06 June 2022, the MPs accused the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries of deliberately frustrating and denying Ugandans fishing licences to the advantage of foreigners.

“We have observed that there is discrimination by the ministry while issuing licences to local Ugandans which contradicts Article 21 of the Constitution. It is disturbing that these licences are being issued to non-Ugandans yet the owners of the country have been denied the licences,” Bbale County MP, Charles Tebandeke said.

Tebandeke, who is also the Shadow Minister for Animal Industry and Fisheries urged the agriculture minister, Frank Tumwebaze, to immediately consider licencing Ugandans who meet the requisite requirements to operate fishing vessels and fish maw businesses.

Lugazi Municipality MP, Stephen Sserubula castigated government for allowing foreigners to run most sectors of the economy, saying the resultant outcomes will be low revenue collections and incessant poverty levels.

“Government is putting everything in the hands of foreigners; now even fishing is being given to foreigners. Don’t Ugandans have a right to engage in any business that can give them money? Foreigners that are here are repatriating the profits. So we are calling upon the Government to give leeway to Ugandans to engage in businesses that can help them to better their incomes,” Sserubula said.

The MPs further complained about persistent harassment of local fishermen on water bodies being orchestrated by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and the regional coordinators who were reportedly recruited by the ministry.

Tebandeke described these regional coordinators deployed on water bodies and fishing markets as impersonators and fraudsters whose recruitment was illegally conducted to suppress local Ugandans in the fishing sector.

“The Minister of Agriculture should issue an immediate directive cancelling out these appointments of coordinators which are not clear because we do not know and understand the terms and conditions in which they operate,” Tebandeke said.

Buvuma District Woman Representative, Suzan Mugabi was dismayed about the continued unlawful arrests of fishers by the UPDF and other law enforcers saying the suspects are jailed without fairness and justice.

“There are increasing unlawful arrests of fishermen who are later taken to court even without evidence. Our people are arrested and denied bail. Fishermen also have rights and they are entitled to bail,” Mugabi said.

Nakaseke South County MP, Paulson Luttamaguzi, called for demilitarisation of water bodies in the country to allow the local community to participate in nation building.

“Being a fisherman is not a crime, it is an activity which is legally known by government. These fishermen have homes to run like us politicians; they have children to take to school. Why are most water bodies being militarised? If soldiers want to participate in fishing then let them come out clearly so that we give them licences,” Luttamaguzi said.

The MPs also called on the ministry to fast-track the assenting of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2021 by the President in accordance with Article 91 (3) of the Constitution which provides that a bill shall be assented to by the President within 30 days after it has been passed.

The Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill which was passed on 03 May 2022 provides for proper management and regulation of the fishing industry including licencing and registration of fishing vessels and fishers.



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