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MPs unhappy with UPDF illegal fishing operations

Fishing boats on Lake Victoria 

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has summoned the Attorney General to appear in the House this week after MPs questioned the involvement of the UPDF in the fishing industry particularly on Lake Victoria.

The Attorney General is expected to explain the laws regulating the fishing industry, particularly on whether the Fisheries Act or recent presidential directives, take precedence.

In its report, the Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Committee, which is chaired by Grace Akech notes  a reduction in the exploitation of Uganda’s water resources and improved quantities of Nile perch due to the operations against illegal fishing practices.

The committee also notes that four of the 15 fish processing factories that had closed due to poor fish stocks have resumed operations. The committee commended the Fisheries Protection Unit in Buvuma district for enforcing the ban on under fishing boats locally known as “Bao tatu”.

However, the Committee criticised the officers involved in the operations against illegal fishing practices for brutalizing residents. The committee members noted that they received information from fishing communities implicating the officers for killing two people in Namayingo District.

While in Buvuma district Captain Ssebukera Joseph and Lukwago J.B reportedly beat one, Manana to death Namiti Island and no postmortem report was filed.  Grace Akech called for better training and facilitation of the officers to ensure they operate within the law.

Legal basis 

Legislators of the committee have questioned the legal basis for the involvement of the military in operations against illegal fishing on major lakes in the country.

The Jinja East Member of parliament, Paul Mwiru raised the issue in parliament during debate on a report compiled the by the Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Committee of parliament on the operations of the Fisheries Protection Unit on Wednesday.

In 2017, President, Yoweri Museveni directed UPDF to deploy officers on Ugandan lakes to combat illegal fishing practices so as to protect the fish resource that was under threat of depletion.

As a result, Uganda People’s Defense Forces-UPDF set up a Fisheries Protections Unit that is fighting illegal fishing operations on various lakes including Victoria, Edward, George and Kyoga.

The unit also operates on fish trade routes and markets to stop the sale of immature fish.  According to Mwiru, by establishing the Fisheries Protection Unit, the president usurped the powers of the Chief Fisheries Officer, which are provided for under the Fisheries Act.

The Agriculture State Minister, Christopher Kibazanga defended the president, saying it is important to understand the circumstances under which he intervened. He asked for more time to consult the Attorney General on the laws regulating the fishing industry.

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