By Baluku Alex
A total of 25 Congolese fishermen who were arrested on Tuesday 17th by Ugandan authorities on Lake Albert in Ntoroko District were on Wednesday 18th released and handed over to the Congolese authorities.
The illegal fishers were arrested along with their gears including 2 boat engines, 2 legal boats and 2 fuel tanks while carrying out illegal fishing activities on the Uganda’s water territory of Lake Albert. Subsequently, the released group was handed over to the Congolese delegation that was led by the Advisor to the Governor of Ituri Province and in-charge of security and good governance Mr. Jimmy Banga Ryme.
The handover of the released fishers happened at Kikube landing site in Ntoroko district and was witnessed by the Commander of the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) Ntoroko Capt. Ronald Akandwanaho, Chairperson Kanara Town Council Mr. Lor David and the senior immigration officer for Ntoroko district, Mr. Sio Magomumuhama among other dignitaries.
The release of the fishers was facilitated by the Nile Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP) which is one of the two investment programs under the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) and the Lakes Edward & Albert Integrated Fisheries & Water Resources Management Project (LEAF II).
It is also noted that a second set of joint patrols to remove all illegalities on the trans-boundary Lakes of Edward and Albert begun in August after DR-Congo and Uganda signed a Memorandum of understanding on how the two states would operate and manage the sheared water bodies.
In the signed MOU, 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 Congolese authorities have since promised to take action against the people masterminding illegal fishing activities on either side of the water bodies.
Meanwhile, the Congolese authorities on Friday 20th also released 3 Ugandan fishers who were arrested on 20th in the DR-Congo Lake side with one boat and prohibited fish nets. However the captured gears are still being kept at Mahagi Port and are expected to be handed over to the owners on 27th of August.