The Chief of Defense Forces General David Muhoozi has ordered for a special probe into allegations of brutality by Uganda People’s Defense Force-UPDF soldiers against fishermen operating on Lake Kyoga.
The UPDF Marine unit under the command of Lt. Col Moses Nuwagaba is currently involved in special operations against illegal fishing practices on Lake Kyoga.
According to URN, the operations are in line with a resolution by Lake Kyoga Management Organization-LAKIMO for a fishing holiday to pave way for a cleanup exercise on the lake.
Meanwhile, several other communities have accused the army deployed on Lake Victoria to rid it of illegal fishing methods of causing widespread human rights abuses including extrajudicial killings and torture.
However, the army says some fishermen who are dangerously armed have flouted fishing regulations.
Reports indicate that some operations have seen UPDF soldiers confiscate and destroy illegal fishing gear, among others, undersize nets and boats. However, the soldiers are accused of brutality in the execution of their duties.
Gen. Muhoozi toured Bangladesh and Nalibwowo landing sites in Amolatar district on Monday, where he said he was shocked when area leaders paraded more than 50 residents with injuries reportedly sustained in the hand of UPDF soldiers.
The fishermen were allegedly arrested by Marine soldiers on May 16, 2019, while conducting what was considered illegal fishing on Lake Kyoga. They were subsequently detained for about two days at Bangladesh Landing Site by the marine soldiers.
Joel Omodo, one of the victims claimed that they were subjected to 45 strokes each day segmented into three breaks including breakfast, lunch and supper, an allegation the army has roundly denied.
Gen. Muhoozi, URN further reports, promised to set up a special committee to investigate the allegations of torture and brutality raised by the fishermen. He also ordered for investigations into the alleged involvement of some UPDF marine soldiers in illegal fishing.
Simon Peter Ongom, the Amolatar district Chairperson said whereas illegal fishing is dangerous to the Lake, marine soldiers should find better ways of restoring sanity on the lake other than brutalizing residents.
He added that the locals are excited of the development and asked the army chief to punish heavily all those involved.
Fishing on Lake Kyoga is expected to resume by November 16, 2019, after the completion of the registration of all fishermen. Only 11,000 boats shall be allowed to operate on the lake.