IT took Godfrey Mugobi six months of treatment at Jinja Hospital and his wife could not tolerate it and she deserted him
By Betty Angatai
FAMILIES of people who were killed or maimed by crocodiles in Mayuge district are seeking for compensations from the Government.
Over 200 of those maimed by the beasts inflicting injuries that have made them lame and those whose relatives were killed by the animals, are asking for over sh500m from the Government.
They say government is liable to pay compensation because it is the owner of the deadly man-eaters.
Sam Opio, the area LC1 chairperson of Kitumbezi village in Bukabooli sub-county where crocodiles attacked and killed over 20 people, said the money is to be used to compensate the lives lost and those who sustained disabilities.
He said since 1900 to date, the beasts have continuously attacked people but there are no interventions by the Government to support the affected families.
"The crocodiles bear the sole responsibility of the numerous widows and starving orphans living miserable lives in the shoreline villages in Mayuge district after the bread earners were eaten by the beasts," said Opio.
He added that in those villages it is also common to meet one or two 'lucky' survivors who though permanently disabled escaped being completely devoured by the crocodiles.
Mugobi's treatment was lengthy and his wife deserted him before he could fully recover. He has since quit fishing. Photo by Betty Angatai
Godfrey Mugobi, a former fisherman of Busui village in Baitambogwe sub-county said he will never forget the night he was attacked by a crocodile when he had gone to cast his fishnets in the lake. He said his life has never been the same since he was attacked in 1999.
"Just in a blink of an eye, a crocodile grabbed my left hand and it started pulling me very fast deeper into the water," said Mugobi, adding that he used to cast his nets while standing in the chest-deep water on the shoreline since he could not afford a fishing boat.
"I fought with the beast under the water for about seven minutes without breathing. We later emerged out and it tossed me over. I realized one of my hands was gone and before long, the crocodile followed me and was eating the lower parts of my body, which were still in the water," Mugobi said while displaying several scars on his body.
He said it took him six months of treatment at Jinja Hospital and his wife could not tolerate it and she deserted him before he could be discharged from hospital.
In another incident, 25-year-old Patrick Omoit of Musoli village got his stomach ripped open by a crocodile as he dived into the lake to retrieve his net.
"The crocodile grabbed my stomach and pulled me deep into the water whereby I could not breathe. It kept dragging me with its teeth deeply rooted in my stomach until it went with a big chuck of flesh," Omoit narrated.
He was taken to Jinja hospital and later transferred to Mulago hospital where he was admitted for two months.
Father of three, Patrick Omoit, had his belly ripped open when he was attacked by the deadly reptile underwater. Photo by Betty Angatai
Married and with three children, Omoit has the responsibility of catering for his family though he still experiences a lot of pain.
"I appeal to government to give me some compensation because right now I can't do any work after the attack," he said.
John Okumu,a resident of Kitumbezi village who lost his brother when he had gone to draw water from the lake asked government for financial support to help the orphans.
"Am overburdened, I have to cater for my own children and ten children of my brother who was killed by a crocodile," said Okumu.
Though Mayuge is the most endowed district with islands and landing sites in Busoga sub-region, it has unfortunately created a conducive habitat for dangerous species, which have turned into a menace to the residents.
The Bunya West MP Vincent Bagiire said lack of marine Police in the area has rendered the landing sites and islands risky for the people.
Waira Kiwalabye Majegere, the Bunya East MP acknowledges that the man-eating crocodiles are a constant threat to the residents of Bukabooli, Malongo, Wairasa, Kityerera, Kigandalo and Baitambogwe sub-counties bordering the shores of Lake Victoria.
Majegere said he knows of at least 50 people eaten by crocodiles in Buyugu, Musubi, Bugoto, Makooma and Kitumbezi landing sites.
Omoit has soldiered on through the pain barrier to for his family. Photo by Betty Angatai
Lake Victoria waters bordering Mayuge have long been infested with crocodiles.
"Most vulnerable to the attacks in the recent past are the fishermen who use hooks to catch fish in the shallow waters along the shoreline without using boats," said Majegere.
The Mayuge district vermin officer Alufunsi Ongom said Malongo is the most vulnerable area in the district given that it is composed of six islands and has many landing sites, which are good breeding grounds for crocodiles.
Over the past three years, government has been transferring the crocodiles from Mayuge to Adjuman district where it constructed a ranch for rearing them.
In 2011, Majegere presented the crocodile issue to Parliament asking the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife to give financial support to the families of those who were killed and those maimed by the beasts in Mayuge.
The executive director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority Andrew Seguya, when contacted, acknowledged having received complaints from crocodile victims.
"We received a communication from the MP (Majegere) and we requested him for more information to enable us reach out to the crocodile victims," he said.
Seguya said adding it should not be limited to victim's current health status, circumstances under which the person was attacked, date when the attack took place and evidence of medical treatment.
‘I watched a crocodile eat my body parts’