Water and Environment

Uganda deports 36 Congolese fishermen.

By Baluku Alex

36 Congolese fishers who illegally entered Uganda to carryout fishing activities on the shared Lake “Edward” have been deported.

The release of the fishermen follows a bilateral meeting that was aimed at discussing the previous Joint Patrol on the shared Lakes Edward and Albert by D.R Congo and Uganda at Kyavinyonge landing site (Nord Kivu) Lake Edward.

Coordinated by the Lakes Edward and Albert Integrated Fisheries and Water Resources Management Project LEAF II, which is managed by the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program NELSAP, the discussions were led by D.R Congo’s Admiral Ngoy Egide, Commander of the 33rd Naval Group in charge of security on Lakes Edward, Albert and Kivu and Uganda’s Colonel Dick Kiirya Kaija, the Head of Uganda Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) who was leading the Ugandan delegation.

NELSAP is one of the two investment programs under the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).

In March and 2019, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces-UPDF attached to the marine unit arrested the released Congolese fishers on separate occasions.

The released fishermen were the last batch to be released out of 181 fishermen who were arrested for crossing to Ugandan waters of Lake George, Edward and Kazinga channel and subsequently engaged in illegal fishing activities on the water bodies an act that sparked serious attention amongst the Uganda authorities.

The Ugandan Ambassador to DR Congo Mr. James Mbahimba noted that the release of the fishermen was also as a result of diplomatic efforts between President Museveni and Felix Tshisekedi.

He also added that local organizations of fishermen working on the two water bodies had earlier on several occasions requested for the releases of detained fishers. The Ugandan Ambasador however warned the Congolese fishermen from accessing the Uganda waters without permission stressing that the rules governing Ugandans might catch them and face further arrests.

He requested the DR Congo government to also release more than 40 Ugandan fishers who were arrested and are being detained in the DR Congo’s prisons.

In July, seven Ugandan fishermen from Lake Albert in Kasese District were arrested by suspected Congolese operatives and detained in DR Congo.

In his remarks, Brig Gen Michael Nyarwa, the Commander of UPDF marine, revealed that Uganda will continue to maintain good fishing practices on its water bodies and warned that the continued conflicts on the lakes might block marketing opportunities between the two countries.

He said in their previous operations, they have been confiscating illegal fishing gear from Congolese fishermen and later giving them back but they (Congolese) still use them which will not end conflict on the lake.

On 8th July this year UPDF marine arrested 13 Congolese fishermen and impounded 6 boats and subsequently burnt 625 fishing nets along Kayanja, Katwe, Kazinga, and Rwashama landing sites on Lake Edward in Kasese district. This was during a two weeks operation mounted by the UPDF marine commanders.

The Kasese Resident District Commission Lt Joe Walusimbi, said Congolese fishermen released will all get their fishing gears within two weeks, warning that any other Congolese fishermen who will be arrested again in Ugandan waters will be taken to court.

The RDC also said that security across the border would remain tightened to ensure the district is safe.

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