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Ssempijja differs with parliament on UPDF fisheries operations

A fish farmer drys his tilapia fish.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT  |  Vincent Ssempijja, the Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Minister, has differed with parliament on the suspension of operations by the Uganda People’s Defense Forces-UPDF Fisheries Unit against illegal fishing activities.

In December last year, parliament resolved to halt the operations of the UPDF Fisheries Unit due to complaints of rights violations by fishing communities against soldiers involved in the operations.

The unit is accused of killing more than 17 people and injuring several others, according to Idah Nabayiga, the Kalangala Woman Member of parliament and member of the consortium of Island MPs. The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga said there is need for an explanation from government especially the Security Ministry on why soldiers harass, kill and extort money from fishermen on Lake Victoria.

However, the Unit is yet to stop its activities in disregard of the parliamentary resolution. The Commandant of the Unit, Col. James Nuwagaba told Uganda Radio Network that they only stop their activities on the instruction of the president who instituted the unit.  In February 2017, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni instituted the UPDF Fisheries protection unit to curb illegal fishing on Lake Victoria.

This came at a time Uganda was struggling with dwindling fish stocks, which had led to the closure of several fish processing plants. Only 2 of the 19 fish processing companies were operating. The Agriculture Minister, Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja has thrown his weight behind the unit.

While outlining the key issues the Ministry will consolidate in 2020 on Tuesday afternoon, Ssempijja indicated that he disagrees with the resolution to halt the operations of the UPDF Fisheries protection unit, saying it has registered tremendous success in the fight against illegal fishing.

He however, says there is need to punish all errant soldiers involved in rights violations, which contravenes the law.

Willy Lugoloobi, the Kalangala District LC V Chairperson conquers with Ssempijja, saying there is need to regulate the operations of the unit instead of halting its operations.

“Yes, they are doing some good work. However, there is need to recycle the soldiers so as they do not stay in one area for more than three years because the officers get used to the people and start being corrupt,” said Lugoloobi.

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