A report from the Committee on Agriculture on Wednesday praised the Fisheries Protection Force (FPF) for rejuvenating the fish stock in the country, but quickly condemned its alleged brutal handling of errant fishmongers.
The debate on the force’s activities in fishing areas has been controversial, with praises and loathe coming in almost equal measure.
The force was formed by President Museveni and constitutes personnel from the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) Marine Unit and the Police, but has since been condemned by the fishing communities for alleged brutality.
“The FPF has done a commendable job of curbing illegal fishing,” said Committee Chairperson Janet Okori-moe.
Ms Okori Moe was quick to criticise the force on its alleged brutality.
“The FPF damage and destroy people’s property…the FPF should stop all kinds of brutality meted on the fishermen even when they are guilty,” she said.
MP Paul Mwiru (FDC, Jinja Municipality East) said in constituting the force, President Museveni never followed the Fish Act, which he said placed powers of licensing and control of fishing activities under the Chief Fisheries Officer.
Agriculture State Minister Taban Kibazanga swung to the defense of President Museveni, who he said created the force to rein in on rogue fishermen.
“The President did not overthrow the law; there was chaos on our water bodies and it became difficult for the civil authorities to operate on the bodies,” said Kibazanga.
His position was supported by Karamoja Minister John Byabagambi.
“The President saw a lacuna in the operations of the fisheries department…things were not done in the right way; as the Chief Executive, he couldn’t sit back, he had to supplement the department with military officers,” said Byabagambi.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga deferred the asked the Attorney General to clarify on the role of the civil authority as envisaged under the Fish Act.
“Has the law [Fish Act] been repealed? I have not seen the civil authority [in this issue],” she said.
Kadaga deferred debate on the report, saying the Attorney General’s position will clarify and guide the debate.
Last year, President Museveni said he will not mind criticism, but support the army in its bid to curb bad fishing practices.
Locals have on several occasions petitioned Speaker Kadaga, reporting alleged brutality and extortion.