FISHERIES! UPDF accused of rape & stripping women naked

UPDF marines on the lake

By Prisca Wanyenya

A section of legislators in fishing communities want the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) to end the night operations in his area after allegations that the soldiers in company of civilians are raping and parading women naked during the operations.

The call was made by Robert Migadde (Buvuma Island) who raised concern during the plenary sitting, saying that although he “isn’t against” the Army operations on the lakes, the manner in which the operations are conducted where way UPDF soldiers are taking night house to house operations and people are collected and bundled up together until morning has raised anarchy in Buvuma Island.

He said: “And because of this, some people have taken advantage of this, on the 4th May 2022, a lady by the names of Achola Mary of Katuba Village was raped during the exercise and unfortunately, she was raped by two men. One of them is believed to be a civilian who assists the UPDF.”

Migadde also cited another scenario in January 2022, where another lady Namubiru from Kasali village was removed naked from her bed in the wee hours of the night and paraded in public, calling for the draconian practice to end noting, “The night house to house operations must stop because other people are taking advantage of the situation.”

The lawmaker also wondered why all people arrested in fisheries activities are taken to Buganda road court, saying the practice has made it very difficult for the relatives of the suspects to follow up on those matters.

“I am aware we have courts in Jinja, Mukono, maybe the Minister of Justice should come and explain why when it comes to fisheries suspects, all suspects from other parts of the country are brought to Buganda Road Court,” said Migadde.

Markson Oboth, State Minister for Defence claimed that he had received the information with ‘a heavy heart’ and urged Ugandans not to give up on their army saying the UPDF is a force for the people of Uganda by Ugandans and for the Ugandans.

The Minister said, “These matters raised require further investigations. For the UPDF operations at night is a matter that we will raise with the commanders. Why at night? And since some other people are taking advantage of this, we are going to get back here and report about the actions taken.”

Oboth said that for the civilian behind the raping, the law governing civilians and criminality is very clear, there is no other way to go about it will be stretched towards that direction since the person is known.

And although Migadde named the victim who was raped, he hid the identity of the civilian and soldier behind the rape.

The development comes at the time Parliament last week passed the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill into law and voted to ban Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) from overseeing fisheries activities on Uganda lakes.

In clause 13 of the Bill, the Ministry of Agriculture had proposed for the establishment of Fisheries Monitoring Control and Surveillance Unit within the Directorate of Fisheries Resources to protect fish and their environment, fish products and aquatic flora and fauna against fisheries malpractices and generally to enforce the provisions of this Act and any other applicable law.

In clause 13(2), Government further proposed to have the Fisheries Monitoring Control and Surveillance Unit shall comprise persons appointed by the Service Commission and trained by Uganda Peoples Defence Forces in para-military skills.

However, Parliament’s Agriculture Committee in their report recommended having the Army replaced by Police on enforcement on grounds that the constitution only gives Police powers to ensure law and order.

Efforts by Hellen Adoa, Minister of State for Fisheries to protest the proposal by accusing Police of being undisciplined and conniving with criminals on Uganda water bodies saying she would prefer to have the army monitor fisheries activities, were futile as MPs agreed with the Committee.

Reports of the Army torturing, miming suspects arrested for conducting illegal activities on water bodies have been well documented within the media.

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