In Summary
  • The UPDF officers routinely cross into Kenya to arrest fishermen. It happens in Sumba island in Budalang’i and Bumbe beach in Samia.
  • Busia Beach Management Units chairman Kaywa asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to come to the aid of the more than 26,000 fishermen spread across the 20 beaches.

Rajab Daudi Ongoma had been fishing in Lake Victoria for four decades until two months ago when Uganda security officers brutally halted his only source of livelihood.

The 60-year-old resident of Port Victoria, Budalang’i Constituency, was in the company of five colleagues in the lake when he was arrested.

Men in military gear seized their boat and towed it to Dolwe Island where the six men endured torture. “They told us the punishment for engaging in illegal fishing in their waters was 100 strokes of the cane. They whipped us and left us hungry in the waters for 12 hours.

"When we complained, they made us eat raw fish after which they beat us again,” the elderly man said.

They were put on a Ugandan boat 24 hours later and taken to Budalang’i with a warning never to be seen in Uganda again “if you value your lives”.

Mr Ongoma is part of the statistics of fishermen who have been brutalised by Ugandan security officials.

They are whipped, made to eat raw fish, their boats seized, and forced to pay hefty fines while some spend weeks or months in filthy police cells.

REQUIREMENTS

In an interview with the Nation at Marenga beach in Port Victoria, Mr Ongoma said the Ugandans keep changing fishing regulations for the sole purpose of fleecing Kenyans.

“There are more than 300 boat engines and thousands of fishing nets on islands manned by Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) soldiers,” he said.

Kenyans have also gone through horrifying ordeals on Hama, Lubia, Masuria, Bwonja, Munene and Sigulu islands.

Mr Sylvester Ouro, a fisherman from Sisenye, has been detained by Ugandans twice for using an illegal boat.

According to him, Ugandan officers insist on a 48ft boat, “which [is] very expensive in terms of purchase and maintenance compared to the 28ft canoes most Kenyans own”.

Another requirement is size nine hooks, which are meant to catch big fish. “They arrested me in May and towed my boat to Munene island where I was made to kneel in the water for about two hours and forced to eat my catch,” Mr Ouro said.

“They hit me in the face, stomach and back when I refused to do as told.”

ILLEGAL ARRESTS

He added that by being whipped and made to eat raw fish, the officers said they were doing him a favour.

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