Fish maw traders accuse army of torture

The Uganda Fish Maw Traders Association has petitioned Speaker Rebecca Kadaga over claims of torture and illegal confiscation of their equipment by the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF).
Charles Tebandeke, the Association’s Chairperson, said they are being discriminated against.
“We are being tortured and killed. Some have become lame and deaf due to beatings by the security forces,” claimed Tebandeke.
“The security forces have abandoned the task of fighting poor fishing methods; they are beating our suppliers and hijacking our products on the way,” he added.
The Speaker condemned the acts, promising to arrange a meeting between the aggrieved traders and President Yoweri Museveni.
“If the conduct of the security operatives is to prevent you from earning your living, it is a violation of your rights under Article 40 of the Constitution,” said Kadaga.
“I will brief the House about it and follow up with the President,” she added.
Charles Baraka Muluuta, one of the disgruntled traders, recounted his encounter with security forces, who he accused of extorting shs20m from him.
Fish maws, commonly known as ennuuni, is the commercial term for the dried swim bladders of large fish.
Trade in fish maws boomed following growing demand in China, where it is popular for making stew and soup.
It is also used for manufacturing water resistant glue among other things.
In the recent past, President Museveni deployed the UPDF to fight poor fishing methods that were blamed for depleting fish stock in the country.
Local media reports have since upped allegations of torture against the army.
The UPDF, however, have since distanced itself from claims that its officers are masterminding the torture.
In his televised New Year address, Museveni acknowledged claims of high-handedness by the UPDF, but praised it for keeping rogue fishermen at bay.
“…those illegal fishermen, for selfish and criminal reasons, had destroyed the ancient industry. The authorities concerned were just watching. That is when I decided to deploy the UPDF in February 2017,” said Museveni.
“Although the UPDF personnel are also accused of some excesses (such as beating people), nevertheless the lake has now been saved,” he said.
Kadaga said Parliament will decisively deal with all the issues they have raised.