Illegal fishing: MPs disagree with Museveni on key proposal

KAMPALA-The Members of Parliament have rejected a proposal by President Museveni to include the Uganda People’s Defence Force [ UPDF ] in the Fisheries and Monitoring Unit, under the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2021 to prevent illegal fishing in the country.

Parliament had initially passed the Bill in May 2022 but Museveni declined to sign it into law, returning it to parliament for reconsideration.

While sending back the bill to parliament, Museveni noted that given the need for continuous surveillance and sophisticated ways employed by people engaged in illegal fishing, the supportive role of both the UPDF and Uganda Police Force [UPF] was required.

Parliament reconsidered the Bill on Wednesday, 28 September 2022 but the MPs adopted an amendment which instead mandates public service to appoint the surveillance unit, comprising persons with fisheries sciences.

The amendment was moved by MP Asuman Basalirwa [Bugiri Municipality] following a debate in which MPs were divided on the President’s proposal and the report of the Committee on Agriculture.

“The issue of the skills now becomes part of the regulations, led by the Minister of fisheries in consultation with the Minister for Internal Affairs. I get comfort with the Minister of Internal Affairs because now I know we are dealing with the Police,” said Basalirwa.

The Attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka, agreed with Basalirwa, saying that mandating Public Service Commission to recruit the surveillance unit will ensure inclusiveness.

Agriculture Committee Chairperson, Janet Okori-Moe, said that the Committee agreed to maintain the earlier position passed by Parliament, which domiciled the surveillance and training under the UPF, saying police is mandated to protect the life, property and other rights of individuals.

“In the event of any sophisticated ways employed by people engaged in illegal fishing as cited by the President, the UPDF may be deployed in accordance with the provisions of the UPDF Act and the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda,” said Okori-Moe.

Budadiri West MP, Nathan Nandala Mafabi said that since the army was deployed to monitor the lakes, the majority of the locals in fishing communities have been prevented from fishing, thereby depriving them of their main source of livelihood.

The legislators however agreed with the president on the proposal to give powers of licensing of fishing to the Chief Licensing Officer.

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