Fishermen Struggling To Recover 14 Robbed Boat Engines from DR Congo Militiamen

Robert Ofoi, one of the affected fishermen wonders why the government has left them to suffer in the hands of the suspected Congolese militiamen who have continued to cause untold suffering to them.
Fishing boats at Kaiso landing site in Hoima districts. The boats and engines are being targeted and robbed by suspected DRC Militiamen while on the lake Albert waters.Photo by Emmanuel Okello.

Ugandan fishermen at the Kaiso landing site in Hoima district are struggling to recover 14 boat engines robbed by suspected Congolese militiamen on the lake Albert waters.  

The engines were robbed on May 20,2021 when the suspected Congolese militiamen raided the lake Albert waters near Kaiso landing site in Mbegu parish Buseruka sub county in Hoima district. The militiamen reportedly placed several fishermen at gun point before robbing the engines.  

During the attack, the militiamen also robbed three fishing boats, 10 sets of fishing nets and 10 mobile phones belonging to the fishermen. However, three fishing boats were handed back by the militiamen after the owners paid ransom.

According to available information, after executing their mission, the six-armed suspected militia dressed in Congolese military uniform immediately crossed back to the DR Congo side.

Since then, attempts by Ugandan fishermen to recover the engines have proved futile. Some of the  affected fishermen include;  Richard Okethwengu, Robert Mujuni, Henry Lameck, Robert Ofoi, shalom and Moreen, all attached to Kaiso landing site.    

Robert Mujuni, the Chairperson Kaiso landing site fishing community told Uganda Radio Network in an interview on Sunday morning that the affected fishermen do not have money to pay the militiamen in order to recover the engines. He says the militiamen are demanding for US Dollars 500 (Ushs1,850,000) to release each engine.  

Robert Ofoi, one of the affected fishermen wonders why the government has left them to suffer in the hands of the suspected Congolese militiamen who have continued to cause untold suffering to them.

Henry Lameck, another fisherman says they currently have no other alternative of looking after their families since all their fishing gear have been looted by the suspected militia. He says there is an urgent need for the government of Uganda to engage the Congolese government authorities to forge a way forward to address the rampant attacks on Ugandan fishermen on the lake.

Rose Atuhura, also a resident of Kaiso landing site says for long leaders and security operatives have been promising fishermen that they are engaging the Congolese authorities on how the attacks can end in vain.

Julius Hakiza, the Albertine region police spokesperson says currently security is profiling all the attacks that have taken place on the lake and will later come out with appropriate measures to completely eliminate the attacks on Ugandan fishermen while on the lake.  

While in Bunyoro in May 2019, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni promised to install surface radar to closely monitor all the activities being carried on Lake Albert but to date nothing has been installed and the attacks have persisted.  

Attacks by the suspected DR Congo militiamen on Ugandan fishermen have been rampant since 2018. 

In March 2021, suspected armed DR Congo militiamen raided the Lake Albert waters abducting 16 Ugandan fishermen.  The attack occurred near Kaiso landing site in Kabaale Sub County. They also robbed four fishing boats, four-engine boats and several sets of fishing nets from the fishermen.  

They were later released after each of them allegedly paid a ransom of 50 US Dollars. On March 21, 2021, the suspected DR Congo militiamen again raided the lake robbing 19 boat engines. In April 2020, two suspected Congolese militiamen were gunned down on Lake Albert in Hoima district in a fire exchange between the militia and the UPDF soldiers.  

The two, later identified as Ozelle Opio, 25, and another, only identified as Singa were part of the group that invaded the landing site near Kaiso in Buseruka sub-county where they put several Ugandan fishermen at gunpoint, ordering them to surrender their fishing gear including boats, fishing nets, engines and hooks.

But in the process, some Ugandan fishermen sneaked off and alerted the UPDF who rushed to their rescue.  The he UPDF also managed to recover three AK-47 guns with 47 rounds of ammunition that the militiamen were using at the time they were rounded up.