What you need to know:
- They claim that ever since GEDDO Limited set up cages at the landing site, local fishermen were denied access to part of the shoreline, which has paralysed the traditional fishing business in the area.
Local leaders in Buikwe District have asked the government to prevail over managers of a private firm, which set up fish cages at Kiyindi Landing Site.
They claim that ever since GEDDO Limited set up cages at the landing site, local fishermen were denied access to part of the shoreline, which has paralysed the traditional fishing business in the area.
“The Ministry of Fisheries gave a go-ahead to the investor to carry out fish cage farming at the landing site without involving local leaders, now the investor says that he is in-charge of the entire landing site from the other side of Buyomba up to ferry docking area ,where do our local fishermen going to work from?” the Kiyindi Town Council Mayor, Mr Fred Kaggwa, said during an interview on Wednesday.
He said some fishermen, who attempt to sail near the fish cages, are arrested by security guards deployed in the area.
“Our people are no longer allowed to sail near the cages and once they are caught, their fishing nets are confiscated, others are arrested and taken to the camp where the investors’ workers stay,” he added.
Mr Jimmy Kanaabi, the Buikwe District chairperson, wondered why the Ministry of Fisheries did not consult the local leadership before authorising the investor to set up fish cages at the landing site .
“As local leaders, we even do not know what is in their memorandum of understanding. So, we want the Ministry officials to come on ground and explain to us where exactly the investor is supposed to conduct his work without frustrating the local fishermen,” he said.
He said more than 400 fishermen have been deprived of their livelihoods as they are unable to derive income from fishing.
“To access the fishing grounds on the lake,the fishermen have to use a different route where they consume 40 litres of fuel instead of five litres and given the high fuel prices ,very few fishermen can afford this,” Mr Kanaabi said.
Mr James Karemera, a fisherman at Kiyindi Landing Site, said they are tired of being harassed by private security guards deployed by GEDDO Company Ltd .
“I have more than 30 workers and pay for a licence like the foreign investor, but is he being given more favours than us –the local investors,” he said.
Mr Ronald Kayondo, another fisherman said one time he was ambushed at night by the security guards manning the cages and narrowly survived drowning .
“When they [security guards] saw me sailing closer to the cages, one of them cocked his gun, I had no intention of fishing from that site, I was just passing,” he said.
Mr Ben Famba, the head of security at the landing site, declined to comment about the allegations levelled against his company.
“Please, don’t drag me into those things, I am not the official spokesperson of the company,” he said before hanging up on phone
State Minister for Fisheries Hellen Adoa said she was not aware about the fishermen’s predicament, but promised to follow up the matter.
“What I know any one authorized to set up fish cages is not supposed to infringe on the rights of others to utilise their lake; I am going to investigate that matter and get the truth,” she said.
Ssezibwa regional police spokesperson Hellen Butoto said none of the complaining fishermen has reported a case to police.
“As police, we do not know about any detention place for fishermen at Kiyindi; if it really exists whoever is manning it, is doing so illegally and must close it immediately,” she said
She advised the affected fishermen to petition responsible authorities if their rights are being violated.
In 2010, four-time presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye claimed government had leased out some water bodies to investors to carry out fish cage farming. But government dismissed Dr Besigye’s statements as baseless and unfounded. But later, the then Fisheries Minister Fred Mukisa (now deceased) clarified that the policy was there but only applies to small crater lakes not bigger ones.