Fishing communities in the island district of Kalangala have asked President Museveni to prevail over soldiers under the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) who reportedly torture and destroy houses of people suspected of engaging in illegal fishing.
On December 29, soldiers under FPU descended on Bugoma Village, Mugoye Sub-county, and destroyed 16 houses, leaving 75 residents homeless.
The victims were accused of hiding illegal fishing gear in their houses.
Mr John Tamale, 30, one of the victims and a resident of Bugoma Landing Site, said he first saw three policemen patrolling the area.
“Then the following day at around 10am, they returned and started searching my house. They only recovered an old weighing scale, which they took and after 30 minutes, they came back with members of Beach Management Unit (BMU) committee and they started pulling down my house,” Mr Tamale said at the weekend.
He said he had previously had a disagreement with BMU chairperson, Mr Charles Ssenyonjo, whose coffee plantation was destroyed by unknown people two months ago and the latter blamed it on him.
“President Museveni has always said that he restored rule of law. We ask him to prevail over his soldiers who have caused untold suffering to fishermen. If at all we have committed crimes, let them try us in courts of law rather than torturing us and destroying our houses,” Mr Tamale said.
Mr Ssenyonjo declined to speak to Daily Monitor about the incident.
Mr Francis Busingye, 60, another victim and father of four, said following the demolition of his house, his family currently resides in a makeshift structure in the neighbourhood as UPDF soldiers are still guarding his home.
“We really seek the President’s intervention so that we can get justice. If we engage in illegal fishing as they claim, what wrong did our houses do to get demolished?” a tearful Busingye said.
Other residents, whose houses were destroyed, include Alex Sunday Kabuto, 38, Emmanuel Muwonge, 42, Peter Kabogere, 40, Posiano Muddu, 25, Brown Nduggwa, 35, Edward Ssebowa, 36, Maurice Kato, 41, and Jackson Nsereko, 42 , Pasco Muliisa, 57, Joseph Ssemujju, 38, Samuel Kiggundu, 42, Emmanuel Nsubuga, 45, Brenda Nawulo,34 and Godfrey Ssempebwa, 53.
What soldiers say
The FPU commander in Kalangala District, Capt Nathan Abaho, said his team demolished stores where illegal fishing gear was being kept.
“We did not destroy residential houses as the owners claim, we only pulled down stores where they keep illegal fishing gear . Those complaining had their own long standing wrangles, which culminated in the destruction they are talking about. As soldiers, we cannot intervene in their disagreements,” Capt Abaho said.
Mr Willy Lugoloobi, the district chairperson, urged soldiers to arrest the culprits rather than demolishing their houses.
“Operations against illegal fishing have yielded some good results ever since they started but like I have always said, the act of destroying people’s homes is not good. Why do you punish the entire family for a crime committed by one person?” Mr Lugoloobi said.
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Publish date : 2020-01-14 09:38:19