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Uganda police ‘make us eat raw fish’

Friday June 21 2019

Fishermen in Lake Victoria on September 29, 2016. Nine Kenyan fishermen in Lake Victoria have been detained and their fish worth Sh350,000 confiscated by Ugandan security officials. FILE PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Fishermen in Lake Victoria. Busia fishermen have narrated how Ugandan marine policemen arrest them and force them to eat raw fish at gunpoint. FILE PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Busia fishermen have narrated how Ugandan marine policemen arrest them and force them to eat raw fish at gunpoint.

The officers accuse them of crossing boundaries in Lake Victoria and using illegal fishing gear in Ugandan waters.


They then take them to a camp on an island on the Ugandan side and force them to eat their catch. They confiscate the boats, engines, fishing gear and harvest.

Sometimes they are ordered to carry luggage on their backs and forced to go up and down the island hills several times.

The fishermen are left with no option but to board passenger boats back to the Kenyan side.


But Kenyan fishermen argue that there are no boundary markers in the waters, and many times they cross the invisible borders.

The fishermen, from Budalang’i and Funyula constituencies, have urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to initiate a dialogue with his Uganda counterpart Yoweri Museveni to end persistent harassment.

“It is inhumane for Ugandan officers to subject us to eat raw fish at gunpoint,” a fisherman complained. “They also take away and destroy our boats and nets yet we have spent a lot of money to purchase the gear.”

Mr Sylvester Kaywa, the Busia County Beach Management Unit chairperson, on Thursday urged the President to intervene and rescue them from what they say are huge losses.

“We appeal to President Kenyatta to dialogue with Mr Museveni for a lasting solution to this matter already rendering residents jobless,” Mr Kaywa told the Nation.


The fishers have also urged the county government to install solar-powered security lights along key shores and landing zones to enhance safety. They said security lights will improve fish productivity, which has been declining, and extend fishing times.

“Security lights will make us feel safer at night and also allow us to take advantage of the calmer night-time waters of the lake,” said Joseph Odour, a fisherman at Port Victoria.

Another fisherman, Mr Stephen Odhiambo, pleaded with the devolved unit to help them buy modern fishing gear like fish cages to beef up productivity.

“Many of our boats and nets are old-fashioned and thus fragile,” he said. “If we had engines and long-lasting boat materials, we may be able to modify our canoe designs to be safer and efficient in the lake.”

ODM leader Raila Odinga has previously called for harmonising fishing regulations to end the perennial clashes between Kenyan fishermen and Ugandan authorities.


Speaking at the Marenga beach in Budalang’i in December, Mr Odinga said harassing Kenyan fishers defeats the spirit of the East Africa Community.

He said limiting fishermen’s interaction in the lake was uncalled for and said he was ready to speak to Mr Museveni to address the issues affecting the lake and residents of the two neighbouring countries.

Meanwhile, in Homa Bay, Rachuonyo North Sub-County Beach Management Unit chairman Ibrahim Kasere has urged stakeholders in fishing to join hands in the war against illegal fishing gear.

The officer in charge of patrols in the area, Mr Samuel Osendo, also issued a warning to beach leaders against engaging in illegal fishing. “We need to work together as a way of doing away with the illegal gear and unlawful fishing practices in Rachuonyo North,” he said.