21 April 2017

East Africa: Four Ugandans Abducted On Lake Albert

Photo: Newvision
(file photo).

Hoima — Four Ugandan fishermen have been abducted by suspected Congolese soldiers on Lake Albert in western Uganda, security officials have confirmed.

According to the Hoima Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Isaac Kawoya, the fishermen were abducted by an armed group on Wednesday at about 2 am.

Eyewitnesses told security officials that the fishermen had just cast their nets by the time they were attacked by unidentified armed people who claimed to be Congolese soldiers.

Mr Kawoya said the fishermen were abducted near Kaiso Landing Site after being accused of fishing in DRC waters.

He said the captives are being held at Jo Landing Site in Ituri Province in Eastern DRC.

Fights, accusations and abductions are common on Lake Albert where DRC authorities repeatedly accuse Ugandan fishermen of fishing in their territory.

Ironically, there is no clear marked boundary between Uganda and DRC in the lake that links the borders of the two countries.

Those abducted are Fula, Jakisa,Kadogo and Merisa, according to Buseruka Sub-county councilor, Mr Godfrey Komakech.

Mr Komakeck has been permitted by the Hoima District Security Committee to lead a team of local leaders that has gone to DRC to negotiate the release of the fishermen.

"We have given him a covering letter to engage authorities in DRC where our fishermen are being held," Mr Kawoya said.

The abductors reportedly confiscated five engine boats and fishing nets which the fishermen were using.

Background

In May 2016, a suspected Congolese armed group attacked Ugandan policemen who were on patrol on Lake Albert and killed three of them.

On October 22, 2012, a group of about 20 men carrying guns stormed Nkondo Landing Site where they allegedly confiscated mobile phones and fish from Ugandan fishermen in the area.

In August 2007, a Canadian Heritage Oil engineer, Carl Nefdt was shot dead allegedly by Congolese government forces, when a Heritage exploration barge had allegedly crossed into DRC waters.

Heritage, which also had an oil licence on the DRC side of the lake but no permission to begin work, was accused by Kinshasa of using its Uganda operations to conduct seismic surveys in DRC.

In 2007, Uganda and DRC bickered over the ownership of Rukwanzi Island; the disputed border between the countries runs through an area believed to have billions of barrels of crude oil.

In May 2013, three Ugandan fisheries enforcement officials and two policemen were abducted by a group of armed Congolese operatives on Lake Albert.

Uganda and Congolese officials in February,2013 met in Hoima to discuss the rising tensions and insecurity on the boarder of the two countries.

The Congolese delegation was led by the Ituri Resident District Commissioner Mr Avo Eka while the Ugandan team was headed by the then Hoima Resident District Commissioner , Ms Jeane Kaliba.

The leaders of Ituri District and Hoima District signed a joint communiqué after a meeting which resolved to conduct joint operations by fisheries and security officials from the two countries to prevent clashes and disagreements between the two countries during operations to crack down illegal fishing gears.

On November 10th,2012, there was a heavy exchange of gunfire in the Lake Albert waters between a Ugandan security team and an armed group believed to be from DRC. The group accused Ugandan fisheries officials of harassing Congolese fishermen.

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