By Baluku Alex
A second set of joint patrols to remove all illegalities on the trans-boundary Lakes of Edward and Albert begun in earnest in August 2021 after the two neighboring countries, D.R Congo and Uganda met and signed joint communique on the modus operandi of the joint patrols.
This phase comes three months after the extremely successful first ever joint patrols by the two countries that nabbed 20,000 illegal gears, with the two countries exchanging 237 illegal fishers.
The two countries met in Mahagi, on Lake Albert (D.R Congo side) on 3rd August 2021 and at Kyavinyonge on Lake Edward (D.R Congo side) on 9th August 2021 for the entry meetings where rules of engagement during the joint patrols were discussed and agreed upon.
During the sharing meetings, the two countries agreed that the patrols would be conducted on the entire lakes including landing sites and the adjacent areas up to the maritime international boarder.
They also agreed that Uganda would deploy three teams to operate in three sections of Southern of Rwanganjo to Senjojo, Central Senjojo to Kijonji and the Northern part of Runga to Panyimur. They resolved that the teams would be supported by the fisheries technical team in handling of illegal persons and exhibits.
Among other agreed on action areas for the second joint patrols, hours of operation would be during the night and day.
The heads of D.R Congo delegation to the two meetings were Admiral Egide Ngoy John, Commander of the 33rd Naval Force responsible for security on Lakes Edward, Albert and Kivu and Mr. Jimmy Banga Ryme, H.E the Governor of Ituri Province’s Council on Security while Ugandan delegation were led by Lt. Colonel Dickson Kiirya Kaija the Head of the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU).
Speaking at the forum in Kyavinyonge, D.R Congo’s Admiral Egide Ngoy noted that both countries have recorded a steep decline in illegalities since the first joint patrols were undertaken in March 2021 stressing that this would lead to fishermen getting bigger fish catch.
“This act of joint patrol and good regulations being carried out is a gift for the present and generations who will remember this team that fought for preservation and existence of fish species on the two lakes,” Admiral Egide added.
On his part Uganda’s Col. Dick Kaija said, “Without LEAF II, these joint meetings between DRC and Uganda and these joint patrols might not have taken place.” He added that he was optimist that the patrols will enhance coordination and cooperation between the two countries, for the benefit of the common fishers.
The Secretary General of the Fishers Association of Lake Edward Mr. Kambasu Katsuva Mukura Josue on his part said, “As fishers we fully support the patrols, because through them we will get more fish eventually, especially if we protect the fish spawn zones.”
He described the Lake as a gift from God the reason to why he said it must be cared for. H said if the lake is well protected, it will in return feed them and the future generations.
The joint patrols are supported by the LEAF II Project of NELSAP-CU/NBI that is financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
Uganda further announced that it has commenced research and consultations aimed at suspending permanently use of solar lights for fishing, a practice already banned in the D.R Congo.
The two countries agreed on modalities of the joint patrols including dates and hours, and also set up a multi-lingual communication command center through which direct formal communication would take place once every three days.
They further agreed on handling of illegal gears and illegal fishers arrested in each other’s waters, collection points and processing points for illegalities, exchange of confiscated engines and boats, as well as dates for the exit meetings to take stock and compare notes on the operation.
As a sign of goodwill the two neighboring countries agreed to release all jailed illegal fishers from the opposite country and as a follow-up to this promise, Uganda, on 10th August 2021 released 36 illegal Congolese fishers previously caught in its territory.
The following day D.R Congo also released the seven illegal Ugandan fishers it had in its jails.
The released Congolese were received at Kyavinyonge landing site by Admiral Egide Ngoy while the Ugandans were released at Kasindi Port by the Regional Military Commander of Benni Territory of D.R Congo Colonel Ehuta Omeonga.
Addressing the media during the closure of the 7th Nile Journalist Media Training in mid June 2021 at the Entebe NBI Secretariat offices in Kamplala, Uganda’s Director of Fisheries and Resources Dr. Joyce Nyeko reported that the First ever Joint patrols in March 2021 arrested and exchanged 237 illegal fishers from the two lakes and subsequently destroyed 889 monofilaments.
She added that a total of 15,465 hooks, 1,165 gillnets and 237 beach seines including 1,697 silverfish undersize gears, 4 tons of immature fish and 1,356 boats and 79 boat engines were confiscated and destroyed.