Katabi Town Council boss, Ronald Kalema Monday called for a thorough probe into the alleged illegal detention and charging of fishermen by the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU). Several fishermen have been arrested on charges of illegal fishing over the years.
FPU which is a section of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) is on the spot for allegedly intercepting and looting from fishermen. It’s also alleged that officers attached to the unit have on several occasions wrongfully detained fishermen and as well destroying their fishing gear.
Kalema has asked the commandant of the Unit, Lt. Col Dick Kaija to investigate the allegations. “Many fishermen across different landing sites are pinning officers of the FPU, I believe it is high time these allegations are investigated,” He said
“There sole purpose was to bring sanity back to the lake by weeding out the criminal elements, but they are allegedly operating with animosity. Considering the contribution of the ordinary fisherman to the economy, we need to regulate the trade but not hinder it. Our focus should be on how we can make fishing sustainable.” He added
Kalema furthermore emphasised the need to have people on board to support the Unit’s work saying this can be achieved through community engagement and sensitization.
However, the Katabi chairperson maintains that any accused fisherman should be arraigned before competent courts of law. “I am not against the FPU, but they need to operate in accordance with the law, let the evidence be presented and let the people go to trial.” he said
Nicholas Mukulu, a fisherman at Kasenyi Landing site told Gateway News that several colleagues have been forced to quit the trade after they were charged wrongfully. “On many occasions, fellow fishermen have been forced to withdraw from fishing after being arrested, they have been told to bribe their way out and also their stock and gear taken.” he said
Deo Ssentiba who is the FPU spokesperson said they will not relent in their efforts to deter illegal fishing practices. “We have fishermen who believe in our efforts, it is the few that are indulging in illegal fishing that do not want us to continue operating.” he said
In 2017, President Museveni instituted the FPU on all major lakes in the country in crackdown on illegal fishing practices. This followed a drop in fish stocks in the lakes.