• The area has 350 fishermen who continue to grapple with frequent raids by Ugandans
• They accused the officers of provocation and intimidation and want severe action taken against them
Uganda security forces on Wednesday ambushed scores of Kenyan fishermen from Sumba Island in Bunyala North, Budalangi, and confiscated their canoe engines and fishing gear.
Sumba Island Beach Management Unit chairman Francis Mukudi said the fishermen were casting their nets in Lake Victoria at 10am when the officers attacked.
The area has 350 fishermen who continue to grapple with frequent raids by Ugandans. They accused the officers of provocation and intimidation and want severe action taken against them. “They headed back to Uganda, leaving us stranded as we could not sail back to the shore. We’re grateful to God for sparing our lives,” Mukudi said.
The beach management boss was accompanied by Eliud Sanya and Julius Okumu. They said Kenya’s territorial waters must be protected to ward off attacks.
Bunyala subcounty fisheries officer Shadrack Kimani sought to assure the victims that the Kenyan security officers will intervene. He lashed out at the Ugandan officers for undermining bilateral initiatives meant to promote cordial relationships.
The officers operate in the lake with reckless abandon and have stamped their authority in total disregard for Kenya’s sovereignty.
Kimani said he would forward the case to Bunyala deputy county commissioner Jacob Ruto. Mukudi, however, questioned the relations between Kenya and Uganda, particularly presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Yoweri Museveni. They said Ugandan officers have persistently harassed Kenyan fishermen and their pleas for intervention have not been heeded.
“Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is cheating his Kenyan counterpart, President Uhuru Kenyatta, that there are cordial ties between the two countries, yet he has decided to bury his head [in the sand] as security forces continue to harass us around our own islands,” Mukudi said.
He said they pay levies and have been contributing to the growth of the national economy, but the government has neglected them, despite making promises to end their suffering. They have previously appealed to have a security camp set up on the island.
The Ugandan forces always demand Sh145,000 to release confiscated items, they said. The majority of the fishermen find it difficult to part with the money. In some cases, those caught are taken to Buikwe court in the Mukono region near Kampala.
Adding his voice to the issue, Mabinju Beach Management Unit chairman Austine Akumba urged the government to move with speed and dialogue with Uganda to save Kenyan fishermen from harassment.