Ruth Nankabirwa, the state minister for fisheries has rejected a resolution by Nakasongola and Amolatar districts to sack a team of fisheries law enforcement officers deployed on Lake Kyoga. Recently, officials in both districts passed a vote of no confidence in the fisheries law enforcement officers and halted their operations. They petitioned the minister to sack the officers for alleged extortion, brutality against fishermen and corruption.
They particularly singled out Denis Bataringaya, the leader of the fisheries law enforcement officers, Yusuf Kakembo, Isaac Kalunda, Dan Ssemyalo and two others only identified as Odoi and Meddie.
However, Nankabirwa has declined to fire the officials saying the evidence brought against them is false. Nankabirwa says some political leaders in both districts are opposed to the operations by the law enforcement officers because they are also engaged in illegal fishing practices. She says that some of the leaders are in possession of illegal fishing nets, which is frustrating her efforts to combat illegal fishing.
Amran Tumusiime, the head of Fisheries Enforcement team for Lake Kyoga-North Region says that they resorted to force after the fishermen became unruly.
The refusal by the minister to sack the fisheries law enforcement officers has drawn angry reactions from the local authorities. They accuse Nankabirwa of neglecting her duties and driving her personal agenda. They have vowed to block the operations of the enforcement officers until government streamlines their mode of work. Simon Peter Ongom, the Amolatar LC 5 chairperson insists that the activities of the fisheries law enforcement officers are a security threat, which could trigger violence in the district. He claims that the ministry has failed to manage the enforcement officers because it doesn’t have funds to pay them, which has forced them to resort to extortion and brutality for survival.
James Wandira Muruli, the Nakasongola LC V chairperson says the district councils has mandate to protect resources on behalf of residents and Central government. He says that they have formed local joint committees comprising of Resident District Commissioner, Police, and Local leaders to ensure the enforcement officers operate within law or else they will petition the office of the president. James Rwomushana, a fisherman at Ninga landing site alleges that the minister can’t act against the enforcement officers because they are her campaign agents in Kiboga, where as others are her relatives.
However, the minister has denied the allegations. He wants President Yoweri Museveni to institute an independent team to investigate Nankabirwa and the law enforcement team. Statistics from Ministry of fisheries show that Lake Kyoga currently produces about 40,000 tons of fish annually compared to 160,000 tonnes it produced in 1978. The report also indicates that government losses over 400 million shillings of revenue as result of illegal fishing activities on Lake Kyoga.