Wanzalla Okechi, one of the affected fishermen who is still pursuing the release of his boat engine, fishing boat and 14 sets of fishing nets told Uganda Radio Network in a telephone interview this morning that the militiamen are demanding US$ 500 to release his fishing gear.
According to Aweera, the deceased who is believed to be in his 50’s isn’t known in the area. Julius Hakiza, the Albertine Region police spokesperson, says the body is lying at Buliisa general hospital pending postmortem and positive identification. .
John Kato, a fisherman at Sebigoro landing site in Kikuube district, says the fate of the fishermen is unknown since they haven’t heard from them since Saturday. He wants the government to immediately intervene and compel the Congolese government authorities to set the fishermen free.
Henry Irumba, the LC 1 Chairperson Kaiso Landing site, says the families of the affected fishermen are experiencing untold suffering since they can no longer afford proving for their families.
The boats and Engines were confiscated in April this year after the boat owners defied a night-time ban on fishing activities on Lake Albert occasioned by the outbreak of COVID-19 Pandemic.
Before the lake is reopened for fishing, the unit has announced that only boats with the interior overall length of 28 feet will be registered as recommended by the fish act. But fishermen and their leaders are protesting the guideline which they say, does not apply to Lake Kyoga, on the basis of its water levels and cost of acquisition.
The government announced plans to close more than 200 illegal landing sites on the shores of Lake Albert in the districts of Hoima, Kikuube and Buliisa. According to the government, the landing sites are facilitating the illegal entry and exit of Congolese Nationals into the country, many of whom have settled on the sites without any control.
John Bamuturaki, a fisherman at Kabolwa landing site in Buliisa district, says closing the landing sites will negatively impact on their livelihoods, adding most of them have established permanent settlements on the landing sites and have nowhere to go.
Last week the District Security Committee in Hoima and Kikuube districts suspended all fishing activities on the lake Albert waters, as a measure to control the spread of Corona virus disease COVID-19.
The security committee unanimously resolved that fishing on Lake Albert be suspended for 32 days, in line with a partial lockdown that was announced by Presidet Yoweri Museveni last week. The commitee observed that some Ugandan fishermen cross to the Democratic Republic of Congo and mix freely with communities on the other side, before crossing back to Uganda, which posses a risk of contracting the virus.
The deceased drowned in the lake on Sunday when a group of militiamen raided the lake to rob fishing gear from Ugandan fishermen at Kijangi landing site in Buseruka Sub County, Hoima district. It is alleged that the militiamen approached the group of fishermen and ordered them to surrender their fishing gear.
The fishermen only identified as Okello, Jawia, Onen and Osaga were abducted on 31 October 2019. They had gone out to fish on Lake Albert when they were attacked by suspected militiamen who then crossed with them to the DR Congo together with their fishing gear including a boat, engine and 16 sets of fishing nets.
Kikuube Councilors have raised a red flag against the officer accusing him of extorting money from fishermen operating on the lake Albert in Kyangwali sub county. They are also demanding for his immediate transfer from the area.