Parliament to investigate UPDF torture claims

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, has directed the Committee on Agriculture to investigate alleged mistreatment of fishermen on islands and landing sites by the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF).
This followed MPs showing dissatisfaction with a statement presented to the House by Hon. Bright Rwamirama, the Minister of State for Veteran Affairs, in response to torture claims made by MPs from the fishing communities.
Rwamirama said that in 2017, the army took charge of managing fishing on the lakes because of the decreasing fish stocks due to over fishing.  
“The Fish Protection Force (FPF) was set up to assist the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries in regulating fisheries malpractices. However, it has been marred by imposters pretending to be members of the Force,” he said.
Rwamirama argued that the current operations on Lakes Victoria, Edward, and George as well as on the trade routes have so far revived stocks of the Nile Perch in Lake Victoria, and reduced foreign exploitation of water resources.
“Four fish factories have started operations and two are scheduled to resume operations next month bringing the number of operating factories to 12,” he said.
On allegations of the UPDF capturing boats, confiscating engines and  mature fish, Rwamirama said that before UPDF personnel join operations of FPF, they go through training on fisheries laws and regulations and they operate alongside Fisheries Officers.
“Certainly, it is not true that the enforcers apprehend persons with mature fish. They confiscate immature fish as prescribed by the law,” he said adding that, “there is no evidence on allegations of selling confiscated engines.”
Rwamirama said the army was not party to any of the allegations.

Hon. Janepher Nantume (NRM, Buvuma) however said, “it is disturbing to hear the Minister say it is okay to smoke fish yet in Buvuma Islands, the army stopped people from smoking fish.”
She said the army should stop torturing fishermen.
Hon. Paul Mwiru, (FDC, Jinja Municipality) remarked that the Minister did not have his facts right because every time fishermen were assaulted or tortured, they reported the matter to the police and the army; and that there are correspondences to this effect to the President’s Office.
“These issues were brought to the attention of the army but in vain. Under the Fisheries Act, the Commissioner of Fisheries is in charge of all fishing activities; so we should leave it to them so that we know where to go,” Mwiru said, adding that, “some of these people have had their property confiscated and even when they seek legal redress, they are frustrated.”
Hon. George Ouma Abott (NRM, Bukooli Island) said there is an army captain commanding the Fisheries Force in Sigulu Islands, “who keeps torturing people and confiscating engines and another Maj. Nuwagaba who said he does not talk to MPs who get free money to come and debate in Parliament.”
He implored Parliament that the control of fisheries activities reverts to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Oulanyah, who chaired the House, directed the Committee of Agriculture to expeditiously handle the matter and report back.