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FPU on The Spot Over Torture, Extortion

Edward Kyambadde displays some of the torture wounds sustained after being caned by soldiers attached to the Fisheries Protection Unit-FPU.

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Uganda People’s Defense Forces-UPDF soldiers attached to the Fisheries Protection Unit-FPU in Mayuge and Jinja districts are under the spotlight for torturing and extorting money from fishermen.

The fishermen accuse the soldiers of setting up tortures cells at their military detach at Namugongo landing site in Mayuge district where they batter those who fail to pay money in exchange for their freedom. 

According to the fishermen, those found with illegal fishing gear on Lake Victoria are charged Shillings 400,000 while those transporting immature fish pay Shillings 600,000.  

The fishermen claim that instead of prosecuting them in courts of law, the soldiers have resorted to battering them in front of their family members and friends, which deprives them of their dignity. 

They claim that their pleas for help to police and local leaders fell on deaf ears as the FPU personnel are only accountable to president, Yoweri Museveni.  

Edward Kyambadde, a resident of Wanyange lake village in Northern division in Jinja city was arrested while fishing along Lwabitooke Island on July 05th, 2020.         

According to Kyambadde, the soldiers who were sailing at a breakneck speed dumped him in their boat as they patrolled the lake in search of other fishermen. 

He says the by 5:00am the following day, the soldiers had arrested eight people who they detained in a grass thatched cell and directed each of them to call their relatives for money.  

He says two of his colleagues were released after their relatives bribed the officers while the rest were caned 250 strokes each for two days before they were released on July 09th, 2020.

 

//Cue in: “eli teeka…  

Cue out…okwo,”.    

Kyambadde, who is treating wounds on his buttocks following the torture, says the incident has traumatized him.  

//Cue in: “obulumi…  

Cue out…mu’atanu,”.

 

Esteri Mulondo, a fish monger at Namoni landing site in Mayuge district, says that she was caned 100 strokes in May even when her relatives had made a down payment of Shillings 250,000.

Mulondo says that she was caned and undressed before unknown men who were locked up together with her in the same cell at Namugongo landing site.

 

//cue in: “Webakwagana…

 

Cue out…wakola otya,”.

 

Christopher Mbode, a fishmonger from Bwonda landing site in Mayuge district, says at least four fishermen from their area drowned in 2019 while fleeing from FPU personnel.

He says most of their victims have remained silent despite the torture for fear of reprisal from the implicated officers.

//Cue in: “ekisinga…

Cue out…banaiffe,”.

Ronald Akandwanaho, the FPU commandant in Jinja and Mayuge districts promised to investigate the torture claims and declined to comment further. This isn’t the first time soldiers attached to the FPU are being accused of using excessive force and brutalizing fishermen. 

Last year, 68 fishermen sued government through their lawyer, Abwang Otim of M/S Abwang Otim, Opok and Co Advocates, demanding Shs1.2 trillion in compensation for alleged torture by Uganda Peoples' Defense Forces (UPDF) soldiers.  

The applicants who were drawn from Amolatar district submitted to Lira High court horrifying images of their colleagues being tortured on the shores of Lake Kyoga, Amolatar District. 

In December last year, the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga directed the Fisheries protection unit to halt its operations on all water bodies in the country for alleged mistreatment of fishing communities.  

Relating to the conducting of UPDF against the citizens of Uganda, this House directs that the operations of the Fisheries Protection Unit be halted with immediate effect..." Kadaga said.

The directive followed a heated debate in Parliament on the conduct of the UPDF Fisheries Protection unit. 

Legislators noted that officers attached to unit have on several occasions been implicated for harassing, torturing and intimidating fishing communities.

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