A group of fishermen under Uganda Fish Maws Traders Association has petitioned the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga demanding the suspension of the UPDF operation on Lake Victoria handling illegal fishing activities.
The fishermen accuse the soldiers under the commander Fisheries Protection Force of torturing fishermen and stealing their merchandise.
While presenting their petition to the Speaker, the secretary of the Uganda Fishmaws Traders Association, Charles Tebandeke said many of their colleagues have been tortured by the people who are supposed to protect them.
Tebandeke said majority of them took loans to invest in their fishing ventures but are jobless.
They want Kadaga to intervene and an investigation instituted into the operations of the UPDF officers on the lake.
Kadaga promised to facilitate a meeting between the President and affected fishermen.
Terror on the lake
Since February 25, 2017, when the army’s marine section imposed a ban on irregular fishing methods and began patrolling the lake, fear and trepidation have engulfed the islands, a report carried by Daily Monitor said.
This were words of Maj James Niwagaba, where he ominously warned fishermen: “The law gives us leverage to charge you as an economic terrorist. If you are caught, you will be treated like Kony.”
At this home, emotions run like a fickle stream. Their son, Fredrick Omondi, was in secondary school when he was killed. He died with his colleague Otieno, another student. At Omondi’s freshly-dug grave, his father, Mr Amos Ouma, cannot hold back his tears.
“He was killed and one of his eyes gouged out,” says Mr Ouma. “We remained three people on the boat. We were beaten on the boat and at the last minute, we were removed and taken to Golofa. One of us was weak. He is called Otieno. Every time we tried to get out of the boat, he would fall. Two of us were beaten, handcuffed and taken away,” reveals a man who was with Omondi.
Across Masaka, Bubinge and Namit landing sites in Mayuge District, Ssenyondo and Nabyewanga landing sites, and Lufu Islands in Buvuma District, deaths have been recorded as a result of the brutality.
We recorded about 10 deaths through interviews with relatives and friends. One of the deaths in Mpigi District involved a young man, John Kafeero.
Museveni apologies over killings
President Yoweri Museveni said the UPDF were trained to fight wars but after ‘unpatriotic fishermen’ resorted to fishing young fish, he was forced to take another step, he told voters on April 14 2018 at Isakabusolo Primary School playgrounds in Bulida Sub-county, Bugiri District, at a thanksgiving ceremony for Bukooli Central Member of Parliament Solomon Silwany.
“I decided to deploy army officers because the marine police was defeated by fishermen and had become fish thieves. But it is very sad because I hear complaints that soldiers are caning you but the canes came after resistance from fishermen to stop fishing young fish, which was killing the country’s economy,” Mr Museveni said.
“The army killed him and left him in the water. He even had gun-butt marks on his body,” says his uncle, MrCharles Busuulwa, who recently retired from the army.
The mother, Ms Teopista Nagaddya, says: “The soldiers told us that he jumped into the lake and died. I asked that if that was the case, how come his body was not swollen?”
Ms Nagaddya adds: “When the sibling of the deceased was asked by a soldier how he was, he responded that he would not be fine because his brother was buried in the grave. Those words prompted the army to come and cause the arrest of Seguya. I was warned that if I don’t caution my children, I would cry.”
At Nakaziba in Mpigi district, another death of a young man, Yosef Male, is reported. His body was reportedly tied to a stone and later plunged into the waters so that he could not be found.