This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

Fisheries officers express concern over unfair prosecution of illegal fishing suspects

Some of the immature fish impounded by the Fisheries Protection Unit-FPU Operatives. PHOTO URN

Masaka, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Fisheries Officers from districts in central Uganda have raised concern over what they call persistently unfair prosecution processes faced by suspects involved in illegal fishing practices.

Fredrick Ggesa, the Masaka District Fisheries Officer, who also coordinates officers in the central region, argues that detaining and prosecuting suspects far away from their geographical areas make them vulnerable and subject to unfair trial processes.

In a joint statement to Mathias Mpuuga, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, during his oversight tour of various landing sites in Masaka district, the officers blamed the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) for causing arbitrary prosecution of suspects involved in illegal fishing practices, leading to violations of their rights.

According to Ggessa, many of the suspects arrested by the UPDF Fisheries Protection Unit are prosecuted in courts in Kampala, after being subjected to gross violations, including extortion of money. The officers are urging the government to withdraw the army from the enforcement of proper fishing guidelines and instead foster constructive collaboration with leaders of the local fishing communities.

They believe this approach will realign the fishing sub-sector for positive results.

Andrew Wasswa, the Chairperson of the association of fishermen at Lambu landing site in Bukakata sub-county, Masaka district, also accuses the army of partiality while enforcing the law. He claims that prominent businesspersons continue illegal fishing practices under the protection of the soldiers.

Wasswa appeals to the government to consider subsidizing recommended fishing gear so that they become affordable to the fishermen, whose livelihoods have been affected by the ongoing army-led operations. Some fishermen, such as Lawrence Kimera, Ismail Ssempijja, and Samuel Kimbugwe, have experienced the wrath of the FPU soldiers at Lambu landing site.

They argue that the operations have been abused for the self-enrichment of the soldiers. The soldiers resort to random arrests, and the victims are forced to pay bribes to secure their release.

In response, Mathias Mpuuga Nsamba, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, cautions the government against creating direct rivalries between the army and local communities, as it may lead to serious conflicts in the country.

He states that as opposition MPs, they are keeping records of all violations by FPU soldiers and intend to table the matter before parliament as one of national importance. Moreover, they plan to use this evidence for the prosecution of individual soldiers involved in abuses.

However, Lieutenant Richard Ssazi, FPU commandant for Masaka district, denies the accusations against the soldiers, describing them as baseless allegations instigated by culprits engaged in illegal fishing practices. He asserts that the operations are well-guided, and officers are closely monitored to adhere to moral standards.