HOIMA – Fishermen on Lake Albert in Hoima and Kikuube districts have appealed to the government to intervene into the continued attacks by Congolese militiamen.
Fishermen on shores of Lake Albert have been on tension since 2018 due to endless attacks by militia from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Several fishermen who operate on this Lake have been left jobless as the armed robbers wreak havoc and seize their fishing gears and other property.
Shalom Elderphose, one of the victims of the attackers at Kaiso landing site in Buseruka sub-county Hoima district says that militiamen have turned robbery on the lake into a business.
Elderphose who lost 12 boat engines and other fishing gears worth more than Shs 200 million to militia two months ago explained that they feel helpless since the government has totally failed to end the attacks.
He explained that every month the militiamen raid different landing sites on the lake and whenever they attack, they rob their properties which include boat engines, fish and fishing nets and even abduct their colleagues.
“After the robbery, these militiamen ask for ransom to give us back our fishing gear yet most fishermen have no money to pay. The robbers always demand between USD 300 to USD 500 for each boat engine in their hands and we have nowhere to get this money” said Elderphos.
“It looks like we do not have a government, yet we know that we have one with a powerful army, so as fishermen we request President Museveni to intervene by engaging the DR Congo government to address the rampant attacks on Ugandan fishermen,” he appealed.
He also asked security agencies in the region to deploy on the lake so that they can at least patrol the waters three times a week to scare away the robbers. This can be a temporary measure as they seek lasting solution to the problem.
Robert Mujuni, the Chairperson of the fishing community at Kaiso landing site in Buseruka, sub-county, Hoima district, said that last month armed men raided the area and robbed equipment which included 14 boat engines, fishing nets and fish among other things.
He noted that the continued attacks have turned the fishermen jobless and poor since fishing is the main sauce of their income. He added that the attackers are demanding a lot of money to return the fishing vessels.
“For them, they take it as a business, they always come and invade us, take our motorboats, and fishing nets. They later demand for a ransom of between US 300 and USD 500 yet our fishermen have nowhere to get this kind of money,” Mujuni said, adding that more than 100 boat engines are in hands of the DRC militia because the fishermen failed to raise money to pay for their ransom.
He noted that cross-border meetings have been held several times but they have yielded nothing which continues to worry them.
“Whenever we complain to security agencies in the region about the issue, they tell us that they have forwarded the issue to their bosses but since 2018 nothing has changed, actually it has become a song.”
He demanded for the deployment of security forces on lake shores to provide fishermen with security.
“They should have patrols on these waters because when the thieves know that there is security patrolling the waters, they don’t come but due to lack of patrols they take advantage knowing that people are not protected,” he said.
Byaruhanga Serimosi, a fisherman who carries out his fishing business at Nsunzi landing site in Buhuka parish, Kyangwali sub-county Kikuube district said that the security at the lake has been taken over by the DRC militiamen. Byaruhanga is one of the fishermen who survived being killed last month after the assailants raided their boat, shot and injured them.
He noted that many of his colleagues have abandoned the fishing business because of this situation, adding that the assailants invaded them more than five times a month.
“We have been left as orphans, we have cried to our good government to save us from this situation since 2018 but our plea falls on deaf ears,” he said, adding that whenever they attack, they rob their fishing gear and boat engine.
While giving the State of the Kingdom address last month, the Kingdom Prime Minister Andrew Byakutaga also expressed concern over the endless attacks on fishermen and demanded the government to intervene.
He noted that attacks and poor fishing methods by illegal entrants in the kingdom have affected the livelihood of the Kingdom subjects on the shores of Lake Albert.
“Our people have no other alternative source of livelihood for their families since all their fishing gears are always robbed by these militias. This government has the capacity to put this to an end so why should our people continue to suffer in the hands of the criminals?” he wondered.
“We have seen these attacks since 2018. Why can’t the government deploy its army to deal with these criminals if the government of Democratic Republic Congo has failed to control its army men who have turned into a challenge to the Ugandan fishermen?” he added.
He said that as fishermen they are ready to join the government if it means to attack the militiamen in their hideouts in DR Congo.
It is alleged that ruthless militiamen, after their mission, took off and crossed to Joo landing site in Bunia district Ituri Province in the Eastern part of the DR Congo.
Hoima District Chairperson Kadiri Kirungi, said that the issue of attacks is a cross border matter which needs the president’s intervention.
He said that he recently reported the issues to President Museveni who in turn, sent a team from State House who held a stakeholder meeting that took place in Hoima early this year but the team has not given him feedback.
The Hoima Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Yosam Tumwebaze says that the issue was beyond him but promised to consult his boss about the matter.
“I found this issue here; it is not new but we shall engage our marine forces to get a way of patrolling the waters to provide security to our people as we make consultations to find a way of ending this challenge,” he said.
Kikuube Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Amlan Tumusiime, condemned the continued attacks on Ugandan fishermen and expressed concern that fishermen are suffering as if they are not in their country.
He also promised to have consultations with his boss to ensure that they organize cross-border meeting with their counterparts from the DRC government to get a way of addressing the continued attacks and robberies on Ugandan waters of Lake Albert.
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