28 March 2016

Uganda: Dar Asks Uganda to Arrest, Charge Lake Victoria 'Pirates'

THE government has asked Uganda to apprehend and bring to book bandits alleged to be Tanzanians said to be terrorizing fishing communities in Ssese Islands in Lake Victoria.

In a telephone interview with this newspaper, the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Charles Kitwanga, said the government has so far not received official communication from Uganda regarding the alleged pirates operating in the lake.

"If it is true that the pirates are from Tanzania then they should be arrested and charged. These are criminals just like any other criminals", Mr Kitwanga told 'Daily News' in response to questions on the suspected bandits.

Given the vastness of the lake, the minister was of a view that the criminals could be originating from any of the countries surrounding Lake Victoria.

Reached for comment, the Mara Regional Commissioner, Mr Magesa Mulongo, said security in the lake was a challenge facing countries in the region. "We have a protocol in the East African Community for management and security within the lake as well as good neighbourhood meetings aimed at sorting out these issues", Mr Mulongo explained.

The RC echoed the comments by Mr Kitwanga, noting that criminals from different countries were fond of attacking residents in numerous islands in Lake Victoria. "We will need modern equipment such as speed boats to curb crime in the Lake and this can be possible through joint operations," he explained.

Media reports from Uganda have quoted residents of Nkose, Lujjabwa, Kuye and Kikwiri in Mazinga Sub-County in Kalangala District calling the government to intervene and stop alleged pirates from Tanzania who are terrorizing the people of Ssese islands.

The pirates, according to the media, are reportedly from Ukara, Ukerewe, Musoma and Rubondo islands all in Tanzanian territory. A local council Chairperson for Nkose Katoke, Mr Stephen Kyeyune, complained that his area has faced the problem of pirates for a very long time because there aren't strict security checks for Tanzanians that enter Uganda while using Lake Victoria.

"There is need to tighten security on the water borders, these people just come here anyhow. After stealing and killing our people, it's easy for them to run away and go back to Tanzania," Kyeyune said.

He added that, the pirates attack fishermen at night while fishing. "Over 500 boat engines have been stolen by Tanzanian pirates and this has left a number of people dead, some have gone missing and we think these pirates drown them after taking their boat engines," Kyeyune said.

Proscovia Nakyejwe of Milindi landing site on Kuye Island said her husband, Ogwang, went missing last year when he went fishing. His boat was recovered but with no engine and fish nets.

"I have a feeling that my husband was attacked and later drowned by these people. He's not the only person whom we have lost in such circumstances," Nakyejwe said.

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