Government has dismissed reports that the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) has tortured and brutally assulted members of the Fishing Communities around the country in their operation to fight illegal fishing.
The matter of mistreatment of civilians by UPDF has been on the floor of the House several times and led to the adjournment of the plenary sitting last week after government through the Prime Minister failed to present a statement of the matter.
The Member of Parliament for Bukoli islands, Abott Ouma told Parliament last week that UPDF has mistreated and tortured civilians leading to the death of fisher men Othieno George ond Omondi Fredrick.
The State Minister for Vetaran Affairs, Bright Rwamirama in response today noted that one fishermen who was identified as Othieno George jumped into water to hide from the enforcers who were on patrol but never which resulted into his death.
“It is not true that UPDF led to the death of Othieno George ond Omondi Fredrick. The truth is that these incidences happened at different times,” Rwamirama said.
He clarified, “Around February 2017 at the beginning of enforcement operations, one fisherman who was identified as Othieno George jumped into water to hide away from the enforcers who were on patrol in the wee hours of the morning”.
At this point, the Marine enforcers embarked on the process of rescuing him, the Minister said.
He said that despite the fact that the soldiers got him from the waters alive and gave him first aid, he collapsed before he could reach at the health center.
After the Minister’s statement, the MPS of affected areas with fishing grounds who include the district MP for Buvuma Nantume Egunyu, MP Paul Mwiru (Jinja East), Abott Ouma (Bukolo Islands) and Idah Nabayiga (Kalangala) rejected the Minister’s statement and called for further investigations of UPDF harassment of the fishing community .
The MP for Jinja municipality, Paul Mwiru and Busiro East MP, Merdad Seggona asked for appointment of the Fisheries Minister to stop the UPDF excesses which are in violation of the law.
This prompted the Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah to order the Parliament Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Industry to investigate the alleged torture and killing of fishermen by some officers of the UPDF charged with operations against illegal fishing.
The Fisheries Protection Unit under the UPDF was created in February 2017 by President Yoweri Museveni to reduce cases of illegal fishing which was threatening the volume of fish in Lake Victoria.
According to the policy brief of February 2018 from NaFIRRI the fish biomass increased to 457,248 in 2017 from 393,353 in 2016. Part of this spike in the volumes was attributed to efforts by the UPDF intervention.