WHEN Okwaare Wasi-wasi, a fisherman, went missing from his workplace at Musubi landing site in Mayuge district last year, his colleagues established a search team.
When Okwaare Wasi-wasi, a fisherman, went missing from his workplace at Musubi landing site in Mayuge district last year, his colleagues established a search team. To their horror three days later, a rotting torso was discovered on a papyrus islet and rumour went around about the presence of a giant crocodile.
Earlier this year, Zephania Achim, 18, with his two younger brothers Abdullah Mumbya and Adam Mutalya had just cast the fishnets into lake Victoria when disaster struck. While Mumbya and Mutalya were bathing at the lakeshore, Achim was whisked away as they looked on defencelessly. A leg was later discovered in the papyrus and the bereaved family had to bear the misery of burying only a limb.
â€œI saw my brother scream for help. He raised his hands thrice but we could not rescue him. The crocodile had held him tightly in the jaws and had taken him to the deeper waters. We did not see him again but discovered his leg in the papyrus,â€ recalls Mumbya, as tears roll down his checks. Similar incidents have occurred. People who have visited the lake shore have gone missing and only bones or parts of their bodies are discovered later. Police has warned the now horrified residents against killing the reptile lest the water gets polluted.
But one moving tale in Musubi village is the story of how Pascal Emokele, a fishmonger grabbed his son from a crocodileâ€™s jaws. One may dismiss the story as fiction until she or he has seen Vincent Okongoâ€™s scars.
It was in April 1999. Okongo accompanied his father Emokole to fish. At the lake, Okongo stood at the shallow end of the water while his father cast nets a few metres from him. It was about 6:30pm. It was like any other normal day in his life.
Suddenly, the 16-year- old Okongo, felt a grip on his left leg, followed by a forceful pull into the deeper end of the cold water. He let out a yelp, when he realised that his assailant was a giant reptile. From a distance, his father waded through the water and dramatically snatched his son from the jaws of the crocodile.
The crocodile too, remained unwilling to let go of its prey. It pursued Okongo and Emokole to the shore with unequalled determination and mauled at Okongoâ€™s stomach and the intestines peeped out. With intent to have him for dinner, the crocodile could not let go. The scuffle continued on land. But after another strong resistance from Emokole, the reptile parted with some of Okongoâ€™s abdomen flesh. Okongo was rushed to Mayuge hospital about 20 kilometres from the lake.
Today, Okongo, has a slightly curved hand. He has two big scars on his stomach and another bigger one on his left hand. He says he now hates going to the lake. â€œIt reminds me of the past days when I nearly lost my life,â€ says the dark-skinned slender youth.
Emokole says he used his bare hands to battle the reptile. â€œMy son was thrice hauled to the deeper waters and thrice thrown back to the shore as I held his hands tightly to restrain the crocodile from taking him.â€
Okongo is just one of the few victims who have survived the marauding crocodiles, which have been terrorising residents for the last seven years.
Thirty-eight-year-old Aziza Nangobi is another survivor. She was saved from a crocodileâ€™s jaws by her dog in September.
Nangobi lay in pain in a dimly lit small clinic at Nawampongo trading centre in Kigandalo. Her knee was swollen and had crocodile tooth marks.
She says she had gone to the lake to collect water at about 6:00pm when disaster struck.
â€œI was carrying my nine month-old-baby on the back. After I had placed the jerrycan on my head, I heard a strange bite on my leg. It was a crocodile. I threw the jerrycan down and yelled for help, but there was nobody to come to my rescue.
My dog, which had escorted me, immediately barked at the crocodile while attempting to attack it. Suddenly, it left my leg and went for the dog, which ran away. It tried to follow me as I crawled to safety with my baby but the dog returned and barked at it.
The crocodile then roared loudly, opening its mouth wide. This scared off the dog but I had also crawled to a nearby rock. It then headed for the deeper waters,â€ she narrates with a shiver as her husband Robert Sande looks on in bewilderment.
Damiano Sabunyo, the Musubi LC1 chairman, says the marauding crocodiles often roam around the villages at dusk, in the early hours of the morning and during the blazing mid day sun.
He says they killed 29 people last year. Seven have so far been killed this year. Sabunyo says Musubi village has recorded the highest number of deaths in Kigandalo sub-county. Other villages are Bukabuli, Nawampongo, Muyanzi, Kitubemzi and Namatu. Sabunyo says only two people, one Moses Bogere and Nangobi, have survived being eaten by the crocodiles this year.
Sabunyo says in most cases only an arm, a hand, a leg or just bones are discovered for burial once some body is declared missing.
â€œEverytime somebody is missing, we go straight to the island and get the remains there. Sometimes we have found a giant crocodile guarding the remains but when it spots us, it dives into the water,â€ he explains.
â€œThese reptiles are very many but we have identified some big ones. They often surface at the lake shores probably waiting for someone to grab,â€ says Aramazan Walyendo, a fishmonger.
James Kubeketerya, the Bunya East Member of Parliament, acknowledges that the reptiles have turned very aggressive towards the people, especially those residing close to the lake.
â€œI have appealed and written several documents to the Ministry of Wild Life and Antiquities but they have not responded. Instead they are handling the animals with soft gloves yet they harassing my people all the time.â€
Kassim Katura, the vice-chairperson of Kigandalo sub-county and the area LC 3 councillor says the crocodile problem is an alarming issues in the villages. â€œWe have been calling upon the government to come to our rescue but no one from the top circles has come to us yet,â€ he says.
Mayuge district CID police officer Mr. Agic says he heard similar complaints from Musubi village when he visited the area but could not verify the information because nobody has reported to them yet.â€
James Muwanga, the Movement vice-chairman in Mayuge district says people have been advised to avoid the lake till a solution is found. But Sabunyo says people cannot abandon the lake because of poverty.
â€œThis lake is our sole source of food, income and water,â€ he says.
A statement by Jonino Akaki, the state minister for tourism, wildlife and antiquities says poor communication between the affected communities, the district and Uganda Wildlife Authority has made it difficult for the affected people to be given timely assistance.
From The Crocodileâ€™s Deadly Teeth