Army involvement in fishing sector should be stopped - MPs

Crackdown. Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) confiscates illegal fishing gear on Lake Kyoga in May last year. They have vowed not to withdraw from various lakes as directed by Parliament. FILE PHOTO

What you need to know:

  • Meantime, the legislators are also urging a review in licensing processes for fishing sector players.

Members of Parliament (MPs) from the fishing communities are opposed to the continued involvement of the army in the fisheries sector, arguing that “the men in uniform have overstayed their welcome.”

Members of the fishing community and their representatives in parliament as well as activists such as Ms Rehema Namaganda, believe that “army presence in fishing areas has become a liability.”

“This is mainly because of the running battles the army are routinely having with the community members whose livelihood largely depend on fishing,” they said.

Licensing mess

Meantime, the legislators are also urging a review in licensing processes for fishing sector players.

“We would like to have one licence and not for each type of fish. Our people are complaining about this. We want government to streamline licensing. This is because as it is now it is costly and not tenable,” Kyamuswa Constituency MP Moses Kabuusu said in an interview after an engagement on Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2021 held in Kampala.

For community activist Namaganda, there are certain clauses of the proposed Bill that talk about allowing the army to use undefined ‘reasonable force’ in regulating fishing.

“We have seen brutality unfold on fishing community members. So was that reasonable?” she wondered.

Amendments

The Parliament Committee on Defense and Internal Affairs Deputy Chairperson Mr Milton Muwema noted that fishing sector compliance should not be enforced by the ministry of defence.

“I will immediately bring an amendment so that the enforcement is taken back to Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries,” said Mr Muwema who also hails from a fishing community. 

Despite the demands by the area MPs and civil society organizations, the state maintains that the “sole role of the army in the fisheries sector which is one of the highest foreign exchange earner for Uganda, is to get rid of illegal fishing.”

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