President Museveni to Remove the Army From Fishing Communities

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has promised to remove the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) from the water bodies and hand over the administration of fishing communities to the elders.

“In the month of May, I want you the people who are near the lakes to guide me, to get the elders of this area; they should be the ones to tell us who is spoiling the lakes so that the army can go away and the people themselves look after the lakes. The minister for Northern Uganda can coordinate them;-the ones from this side, Nakasongola side and Busoga side, we shall have a conference and then we can remove the soldiers from the lakes,” H.E Museveni said.

The President who is also the National Chairman of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) made the remarks on Tuesday 19th March, 2024 at AmatiburuPrimary School in Kangai Sub County, Dokolodistrict as he campaigned for Ms. Janet Adongo Rose Elau, the party’s flag bearer for Dokolo District Woman Parliamentary seat by-election. 

FPU under the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) was established in 2017 in a bid to curb illegal fishing and streamline the fisheries sector.

In the meantime, the President called upon the people to report soldiers who are extorting money from fishermen so that they are disciplined.

“If you have evidence about soldiers who are extorting money, bring the evidence and we arrest them. We don’t have to wait until the handover. People need to be assisted to do proper fishing,” President Museveni noted, but further expressed suspicion of those against him meeting the elders first, saying they are enemies of Uganda.

“And the ones who are saying that I should just take away the soldiers, I’m a bit suspicious of you because why don’t you want a proper handover? You have admitted that there was immature fishing because of the problems which you had. That’s why I was forced to bring in soldiers. I am the one who has proposed here that if the elders can come and take charge, I can pull away the soldiers and then hand over the lakes to the elders but for you’re saying you just go, don’t handover. No, that’s not how things are done. I’m a bit suspicious of you. Maybe you are the one eating young fish and they want me to take away the soldiers so that they finish the fish before the elders come in. This is very dangerous for your country,” H.E Museveni noted.

The issue of alleged extortion by the army on the fishing communities had earlier been raised by Hon. Felix Okot Ogong, the Member of Parliament for Dokolo South, as one of the many challenges that needed urgent intervention because it was greatly affecting the support of the NRM party.

“Your Excellency, our people in the fishing communities are requesting you to remove the military from the waters so that the local people can take charge themselves. These soldiers are extorting money from the fishermen,” Hon. Ogong said.

President Museveni told the locals that he was forced to bring in the army to save the fishing industry which was on the verge of collapsing as fishermen had resorted to fishing immature fish. He further reported that despite a few mistakes by the army, the fishing industry is coming up again.

“But you have allowed the lake to be invaded by even foreigners, I hear; people who come from other parts of the world and eat the young fish. If the Banyankore were eating the calves, there would be no cows, all the cows would be finished,” the President noted, adding that, when the fishing industry was doing well, Uganda had 22 factories for fish processing and earned almost $200 million from fish.

“Now by the time I brought in the soldiers, all factories had closed except eight (8). And now when these people- the soldiers came in, even though they’re making mistakes, the fish had come back somehow. Now 12 factories are working instead of 8. When you see me building schools and roads, I’m using money from fishing and other sources of wealth. So, when you say it doesn’t matter, let the factories close because we have eaten young fish, then you are an enemy of Uganda, you’re not a friend. I don’t want leadership of lies and darkness, finding people in mistake and encouraging them, the country collapses,” Gen Museveni reiterated.

He further assured the fishing communities that after meeting with the elders, they will be guided on how to protect the lakes and the fishing business.

“The elders fortunately are still there, we shall organise, hand over to them and chase away all the others because I don’t think people should come from neighbouring countries and go to the lake. Why don’t the nearby people be assisted to do proper fishing? If that one is done, then I will be very comfortable,” H.E Museveni said.