By Umaru Kashaka
An association of fishers and lake users of Uganda (AFALU) has petitioned the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Speaker Margaret Zziwa over several issues ranging from insecurity to illegal fishing on the waters of East African region.
They handed over the petition to the EALA Speaker Margaret Zziwa in the presence of Buikwe South MP Michael Lulume and the East Africa Legislative Assembly MP and DP legal advisor Mukasa Mbidde at Parliament in Kampala on Friday.
“We appreciate all the efforts our community countries have undertaken to ensure that Lake Victoria is sustainably utilized, but there are certain issues we think are pertinent to be deliberated upon by the regional assembly so that the governments sharing the Lake can take appropriate action,” the AFALU national chairperson, John Mubiru, said.
Mubiru decried the insecurity on the waters, saying robbery of their fishing equipment and fish mainly in Uganda waters near Lemba island of Kenya is the order of the day and in some cases, murders have been committed in the process of the robberies.
“In 2013, we received a complaint from one of our members Annet Naluggya of Lemba that four of her workmen were killed in a robbery and the highly probable suspects were Tanzanians, but all efforts to bring the culprits to justice have since been in vain,” he lamented.
He noted that although the Tanzanians are free to fish in Ugandan waters, many of their members have been dragged to Tanzanian courts for merely following up their fishing vessels and nets in Tanzania.
“This has left our members isolated and wondering the relevancy of the community that is aimed at creating brotherhood and co-existence within the region. We pray that the assembly encourages member states to provide more patrols all over the border waters and to set up mechanisms that can apprehend and bring the suspects to book,” Mubiru implored.
They also claimed that there are loopholes in safeguarding the waters from non-member citizens; something they said has left them in great losses on investments and insecurity.
“The group unleashing violence is mainly dominated by Somalis who are common at the Kenya-Uganda border stationed at Lemba Island and most of whom are armed. This makes them unruly, sometimes use the arms to scare off our debtors who supply us goods and services and worst of all, these people use destructive fishing nets like monofilaments,” the petitioners, who claimed they are over 20, 000, said.
AFALU called for more scrutiny of such entrants “because if member countries do not act quickly and effectively, we are mostly likely to lose more lives and property to this controllable situation”.
“These robberies are common because there is a weakness in controlling fire arms entering into the East African Community resulting into the possession of guns and hand-held bombs by occupiers of the community especially those from the war-torn Somalia,” they argued.
They further alleged that on the Lake Victoria water borders, several of their members are mistreated and harassed by citizens and government agencies of member states which is contrary to the spirit of the East African Community.