Uganda: One Dead, Five Arrested in UPDF Illegal Fishing Operation On Lake Edward

17 February 2020

Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers attached to Fisheries Protection Unit on Lake Edward have shot at two fishermen at Kisenyi landing site killing one and leaving the other with a broken arm.

Authorities identified the victims as Francis Kabundire, 62, who survived with a broken arm and Joram Bombo, 58, who died on the way to the hospital. Five of their colleagues were also arrested after they were allegedly found fishing at Lake Edward using illegal nets.

This has left fishermen at the landing site in Katunguru Sub County, Bunyaruguru County in Rubirizi District in fear and agony.

"We had gone to check our nets at 6.30 am when we heard gunshots. This was followed by cries for help. When we rushed to the scene, we found soldiers with two our colleagues in the boat. They arrested other fishermen before chasing us away," said Mr Robert Byarugaba, a fisherman at Kisenyi landing site who witnessed the incident.

Mr Byarugaba said after shooting the two victims, the soldiers used sticks to clobber them, something that could have aggravated their injuries and leading to Bombo's death on the way to Komboni Hospital Kyamuhunga, about 78km from Kisenyi landing site.

"They were three soldiers with two guns. They arrested five of our colleagues and disappeared with them," Mr Byarugaba added.

Greater Bushenyi police spokesperson, Mr Martial Tumusiime confirmed the incident but could not divulge more details as they were still investigating the case.

"It is true that one fisherman was shoot by the army and he died but we are still gathering more information on what could have really happened," Mr Tumusiime told this reporter on Sunday evening.

However, Marine Brigade Spokesperson, Capt. Favourite Rugumayo said the soldiers shot at the fishermen in self-defence. He said the soldiers first fired four warning shots in the air to scare away the fishermen who were reportedly armed with rocks, machetes and other weapons they usually carry in their boats.

"I can confirm that one person has died after he was shot by the soldiers. But it was in self-defence after that person and his colleagues attacked one of our soldiers. The soldier is also currently admitted to our health facility in Rwenshama," Capt Rugumayo said.

He identified the injured soldier as Cpl Rajab Kyalingonza before stressing that Bombo had illegal fishing nets and was fishing in a breeding zone in the waters of Kisenyi on Lake Edward.

"Bombo and his colleagues attacked the soldier with ores. They tried to disarm our soldier and that's when the boys (soldiers) also swung into action and shot at them," he added.

Capt. Rugumayo, however, added that they were still investigating the case and the soldiers would be charged in courts of law if found culpable.

He said five other people were arrested and detained at Katwe Kabatoro police station in Kasese District.

The interim vice chairman water management committee at Kazinga landing site, Mr Elias Byamugisha said every boat at the landing site has a number which is known to the soldiers and if any boat is involved in any illegal activities, the soldiers are supposed to inform local leaders or other authorities at the different landing sites for appropriate action other than killing them.

"Soldiers know the numbers of our boats. If there is a boat with a case, they should always inform us (committee leaders) about the incident then we arrest the culprits so that they are punished but not killing us," Mr Byamugisha said.

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