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Namayingo fishermen want FPU disbanded over human rights violations

The chief of staff of UPDF land forces, Maj. Gen. Leopold Kyanda engaging a survivor of alleged brutality.

Namayingo, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT | Residents of Lolwe and Sigulu islands in Namayingo want the UPDF leadership to disband the Fisheries Protection Unit-FPU for alleged gross human rights violations. 

This came up during a public meeting alias Baraza organised by the Chief of Staff of Land Forces Maj. Gen. Leopold Kyanda and Mary Mutesi, the Coordinator of special operations for presidential candidate, Yoweri Museveni campaigns in Busoga sub-region on Wednesday.

During the meeting, fishermen said that they have lost a sense of livelihood because of the stringent enforcement measures by FPU, which has forced them out of the lake. 

Patrick Ochieng, a resident of Singila village accused some FPU officers of conniving with their civilian counterparts to confiscate their fishing nets and charge them between 200,000 and 300,000 to recover them.  

Raymond Mukisa, the Namayingo district National Resistance Movement-NRM chairperson, who doubles as a fisherman at Bukaana landing site, said the brutal operation by the FPU has rendered many fishermen homeless as their houses are often destroyed during operations in the search for illegal fishing gears.  

Mukisa says FPU sides with rich businessmen who use illegal fishing gears on the lake at the expense of small scale fishermen who can’t pay the officers for protection. 

Juma Tereza, a resident of Laboro landing site says the FPU destroyed her seven boats even when they met the required standards.  

Mutesi said the alleged human rights violations have undermined the support for the ruling NRM party in Busoga region. She said the ongoing inquiries are aimed at soothing the survivors’ hearts to consolidate support for Museveni, whom she says detests brutal acts against innocent civilians. 

Maj. Gen. Leopold Kyanda assured the fishermen that investigations are ongoing into their complaints, saying the implicated officers will face individual charges for their excesses, saying the rights violations were never sanctioned by the army.  The FPU protection was deployed by President, Yoweri Museveni on Uganda’s water bodies to stop illegal fishing practices and protect the dwindling fish stocks.

Although the team has managed to reduce illegal fishing practices and therefore boosted the fish stocks, the unit has come under sharp criticism for using brutal methods, which have in some instances cost lives and level several fishermen nursing injuries. 

There have been repeated calls to the government from local leaders, parliament, civil society activists and fishermen to disband the unit for the rights violations. However, the army has declined to disband the unit. 

Last week, the army appointed Lt. Col. Dick Kirya as the overall commandant of the FPU replacing Lt. Col. Moses Nuwagaba, Capt. FS Mwonda replacing Capt. Favorite Rugumayo as Buyende district FPU commander, Capt. Andrew Nayebare has been replaced by Capt. Benon Namanya as FPU commandant in Nakasongola district and Capt. JM Sserwaniko was sent to Greater Masaka. 

Gen. Kyanda said the changes were made by the CDF following numerous complaints of corruption leavied against the officers.

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