March was the month when the first case of Corona virus was confirmed in Uganda. A returnee from Dubai tested positive upon arrival at Entebbe International Airport. What followed was anarchy as the country was put on total lockdown.
While everyone was crying over the negative effects of lockdown, some government officials took the advantage to loot the country. Several high-profile people from the Office of Prime Minister were put behind the bar for looting what belong to the marginalized.
The case is not different with Uganda People Defense Forces (UPDF) deployed around Lake Albert, the boarder of Uganda with Democratic Republic of Congo.
UPDF were deployed to protect the border from the illegal entry from Democratic Republic of Congo but this turned into huge business opportunities for the men in uniform. Upon deployment, UPDF declared all night fishing activities illegal. This they urged was inline with the curfew rule. They also urged that some fishermen were using the opportunity of night fishing to smuggle illegal immigrants from the neighboring DRC a clam the fishermen denied.
Night fishing accounts for over 90 percent of fishing on Lake Albert, and the ban resulted into loss of jobs for millions of residents with several people going for days without food as the only source of livelihood was closed down.
As the living condition of the fishing community was getting worse, the UPDF decided to ease the restriction around April but at a cost. The residents were to pay before being allowed to fish. Lake Albert comprised of over 200 landing sites right from Wansenko in Buliisa to Ntoroko landing site.
A resident from Sebagoro landing site in Kikube district told info256 on condition of anonymity that, UPDF also charges between 50,000/= to 200,000/= for anybody who want to move to and from DRC. He added that UPD also charges UGX500,000 for each boat that crosses to DRC
The situation is not different from the rest of landing site including Runga , Walukuba, Kijangi, Kaiso and Bugoma with Runga being the hardest hit.
When our reporter visited Runga landing site in Kiganja Subcounty, Kigorobya county, Hoima district, we found fishermen who were stressed wondering how they would live to see the next day since they have nothing to eat
“The fishing activities is now for the rich”, Bosmick Juko (not real name) told our reporter. He asserted that those without money are not allowed to step on water
According to the residents, UPDF through their agents collect 175,000 Uganda shillings monthly per boat. The landing site has a total of 272 boats which translate into 47,600,00 Uganda shilling monthly.
On top of the monthly charges, UPDF also collects one basin of silver fish (Mukene) worth 30,000 shillings from each boat daily translating into 900,000 shillings per boat monthly.
The resident further told us that, the illegal collection of money is being carried out by Rwandese nationals appointed the UPDF. We later found out these alleged Rwandese nationals are Bafumbira from Rwanda who are also fishermen within the area.
The agents include Banga Cipriano, Bony Bangiire and Alex who works hands in hands with Runga village LC 1 General Secretary Uromo Luzira Ashraf.
The operation is being commanded by 13th battalion Commander LT Col. Opira, Butiaba Marine UPDF commander Lt Ojok, Captain Amule Simon OC police Runga Owosingire Robert among other top UPDF commander.
“We would like to request the CDF, General Okoding, IGP and the Commander in Chief of armed Force General Museveni to come to our rescue,” a resident told us.
Early this month, State minister for Fisheries Hellen Adoa visited the area and directed the UPDF against collecting money from fishermen but her directive was ignored.