KAMPALA – Parliament has recommended having individual army officers implicated in torturing residents within fishing communities prosecuted for the mistreating the residents following their deployment to curb illegal fishing on Uganda’s waters.
The call was made during the debate on the report by the Committee on Agriculture on torture claims against members of Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) during Wednesday’s plenary sitting.
The Committee confirmed the indiscriminate destruction of boats and selling mature fish and engines noting that when boats are confiscated, with mature fish, the soldiers break the boats and sell off engines as well as the fish catch and this is a very lucrative activity at the expense of citizens.
The report noted, “The UPDF destroy people’s boats even if they are short of the recommended size by one inch. People who are found with small fish even if it is for home consumption are mistreated and their boats destroyed. Whenever the UPPF run out of firewood, they destroy boats so as to use its wood for firewood.”
In their recommendations to Parliament, the Committee noted, “The Fisheries Protection Forces (FPF) should stop all kinds of brutality meted on the fishermen even when they are guilty. Humane ways should instead be used to handle these cases. The FPF who are found guilty of torturing people should be punished and the victims should be compensated.”
Taking to the floor of Parliament to comment about the matter, a number of MPs commended the Fisheries Protection Force (FPF) for rejuvenating the fish stock in the country but condemned the brutality used in the handling of errant fishmongers.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga said that the current arrangement perpetuates the abuse of people’s rights since the culpable officers do not suffer the effects of the sanctions arising out of their actions adding that all implicated government UPDF officers must take personal responsibility for their actions.
She said, “There is a problem, don’t try to whitewash it, there is a problem, deal with it. Let us organise file a case against those we know under that Act, or let the Clerk extract the recommendations so that we deal with them, one by one.”
Among the MPs that castigated the army included; Betty Aol, Leader of Opposition, Doreen Amule (Amolatar Woman), Waira Majegere (Bunya East), Florence Namayanja (Bukoto East) who supported the call to have the errant UPDF officers punished for the inhumane crimes.
UPDF Representative in Parliament, Brig. Flavia Byekwaso admitted the crimes condemning and apologizing for the violations of operational orders by the Fish Protection Force and called on the Defence Minister to respond to issues raised by lawmakers on findings of the committee’s report.