By Andrew Irumba
Amolatar: Gen. David Muhoozi, the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), has ordered an investigation into allegations that operatives of the Beach Management Unit (BMU), and Uganda peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) Marine Unit are torturing fishermen.
The UPDF Marine unit under the command of Lt. Col Moses Nuwagaba is currently involved in special operations against illegal fishing practices on Lake Kyoga. The operations are in line with a resolution by Lake Kyoga Management Organization-(LAKIMO) for a fishing holiday to pave way for a cleanup exercise on the lake. Fishing on Lake Kyoga is expected to resume by November 16, 2019, after the completion of the registration of all fishermen and expiry of the break.
However, allegations of torture and assault meted out unto local fishermen and women have always come up in the media and in parliament, which prompted Gen. Muhoozi to visit the area.
The operations have seen UPDF soldiers confiscate and destroy illegal fishing gear, among others, undersize nets and boats. However, the soldiers are often accused of brutality while executing their duties.
As a result of these accusations, Gen. Muhoozi toured Bangladesh and Nalibwowo landing sites in Amolatar district on Monday, where he said he was shocked when area leaders paraded more than 50 residents with injuries reportedly sustained from torture by UPDF soldiers.
According to Muhoozi’s findings, the fishermen were allegedly arrested by UPDF Marine soldiers on May 16, 2019, for allegedly engaging in illegal fishing on Lake Kyoga. They were subsequently detained for two days at Bangladesh Landing Site by the marine soldiers, who severely tortured them.
Joel Omodo, one of the victims said they were caned 45 strokes each day, segmented into three breaks including breakfast, lunch and supper, an allegation the army has roundly denied.
Gen. Muhoozi promised to set up a special committee to investigate the allegations of torture and brutality raised by the fishermen. He also ordered for investigations into the allegations that some e UPDF marine soldiers are engaging in illegal fishing and selling of immature fish.
Amolatar district Chairperson Simon Peter Ongom said
“Whereas illegal fishing is dangerous to the Lake, marine soldiers should find better ways of restoring sanity on the lake instead of brutalizing residents.”