State minister for veterans Hon. Bright Rwamirama has denied allegations that the national army, UPDF has been mistreating fishermen on Uganda’s major lakes in the name guarding against illegal fishing.
While presenting a statement on the floor of parliament this afternoon, Hon. Rwamirama explained that the ministry of agriculture established the agriculture police in 2014/15, but its operations were short lived and regulating services remained wanting. He added that in February 2017, president Yoweri Museveni made an intervention to revive the fish potential by creating the Fish Protection Force, which is carrying out the ongoing operations.
Fishermen have accused members of this force of extorting money from them, while others confiscate their fish and sell it at higher prices.
The minister however praised the Force for the job well done, revealing that since the commencement of its operations on Lakes Victoria, George and Edward, stocks of Nile perch have been revived and exploitation of Uganda’s water resources by foreigners has reduced.
“Certainly it is not true that the enforcers apprehend persons with mature fish. The officers confiscate immature fish as prescribed in laws where ‘any person who in any waters of Uganda captures, kills or injures any fish immature or sells, exposes for sale, or is in possession of any fish or part of a fish which is immature and was taken in any waters in Uganda commits a crime” he explained.
Hon. Rwamirama further revealed that only boats carrying immature fish or are of illegal size are destroyed.
“We therefore find it unreasonable for some leaders to judge the UPDF’s enforcement on the account of false or wrong information and unfairly generalizing the entire UPDF as brutal, extortionist in nature without any evidence” he added.
The minister further said it was absurd that their Kenyan counterparts contacted Uganda’s speaker of parliament with allegations that their fishermen had been brutalized by UPDF.
He said no such complaints have been received by UPDF. Legislators attempted to react to the statement but Deputy speaker Jacob Oulanya who chaired plenary referred it to a committee responsible for fisheries to handle it expeditiously and report back to parliament.