Uganda: President Museveni Promises to Withdraw Soldiers From Lakes

5 December 2020

President Museveni has promised to withdraw soldiers from Lakes Kyoga and Victoria.

"We want the indigenous people on these lakes through the NRM structures to show us who are the people who can take over the lake and protect it before I pull out those soldiers," Mr Museveni said.

Mr Museveni made the remarks while he addressing NRM leaders from the districts of Jinja, Mayuge and Luuka at the Jinja City Rugby grounds, Friday.

He justified the deployment of soldiers saying; "Traditional fishermen are the ones who should have protected the lake from illegal fishing. When I went to Masese Island, I attacked the elders. Why did they allow the lake to be spoilt? They gave a good defense that people who spoilt the lake were stronger than them. This is why I decided to deploy soldiers on the lake."

Mr Museveni said he needs some people who can look after the lake against illegal activities.

In 2017, Museveni deployed soldiers under the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) on lakes to combat illegal fishing practices.

According to Mr Museveni, the soldiers have veered off the initial purpose for their deployment.

"Now, I hear even these soldiers are corrupt. They are now in the fish business. But if we have evidence I will deal with them," he said.

Local area leaders say fishing is a major economic activity and can help to address poverty and nutritional issues.

"While we appreciate the efforts of the water bodies to restock the almost depleted fish resources, the approach by the security organs has been crude and in some cases unlawful, negatively impacting on the image of government," reads a memo from the leaders.

Leaders further told the President that poverty has increased following the deployment of the army- before urging him to compensate families that lost their loved ones during the 'Lakwena war.'

Following the deployment of soldiers on lakes three years ago, illegal fishing drastically reduced and fish sticks relatively increased.

Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries records indicate that fish sticks have increased by 40 percent in the last three years.

Mr Johnson Isabirye, a resident said many boats are currently parked because of the heavy deployment on these lakes.

Mr Museveni told leaders in the region that Namasagali college in Jinja should start teaching marine studies.

While commenting on the November 18/19 protests, Mr Museveni applauded the UPDF for quelling rioters.

"They had promised to burn the city down, they tried but they got the medicine. So the other day- Bobi Wine was trying to make drama by going to the Electoral Commission (EC). He was doing that hoping that he would get groups to help him do damage. If we didn't have a strong security system they would have done some great damage." Museveni said.

He also promised to increase funds under youth livelihood programs (YLP) inorder for several youths to benefit.

The leaders headed by the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, reminded the president to fulfill pending pledges.

"Mr President you promised tarmac roads last six months but nothing has been done. We are in pain over these roads because people are under economic lockdown," Ms Kadaga said.

Minister for Presidency, Ms Esther Mbayo, said they are having challenges in paying people who lost their loved ones during the 'Lakwena war'.

"We have some ghosts on the lists registered as next to kin and yet they're not. We are verifying the list before people can be paid,"Ms Mbayo said.

Background

By the time, the operation to halt illegal fishing on lakes was commenced, Uganda's fish exports had begun to decline.

Nile perch catches declined by 46 percent from 2011 to 2015 while tilapia catches were lower by 38 percent during the same period, according to Uganda's Agriculture ministry.

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