Fishers complain of rampant arrests
The frequent abduction of fisherfolk on Lake Victoria and subsequent release after paying fines could be an extortion ring, players claim. They said those arrested are forced to part with at least Sh40,000 to secure release and a further Sh100,000 for boats besides confiscation of their catch.Kenyan fishermen are now fingering security forces from the neighbouring countries accusing them of constant harassment on grounds of trespass and use of outlawed fishing kits. While the Kenyan government has assured them of protection, a section of traders have raised concern that cases of arrest and detention continue to be rampant. Bumbe Beach Management Unit (BMU) member Michael Kuvuni said fishing on Lake Victoria has become a nightmare for the 400 people based at the shoreline of Busia County.“The harassment and detention has become widespread due to our proximity to Uganda,” Mr Kuvuni said.“Most of our fishermen are always arrested even before crossing to the neighbouring country due to the high presence of Ugandan marine police officers who patrol the area,” he said.“We get an average of at least four cases of arrests and detention every week and the hefty fines are becoming unbearable for us as we also need to service our loans,” he said.
Fredrick Kambanya, a fisherman, said they have been forced to fundraise for their friends and kin who have been caught on the Ugandan territory.“Unfortunately, the Ugandan security officials don’t bother to check whether the people they arrest are fishing or are just moving from one point to the other,” he stated. The fishers challenged the Kenya marine counterparts to enhance their patrol to safeguard their lives and properties.“The arbitrary arrests have slowly worsened the security situations in this region as a number of youth now fear venturing into the lake and resort to criminal activities,” said Mr Kambaya. But the chairman of Lake Victoria BMU Kenya Tom Guda said cases of torture and seizure of equipment have steadily decreased after holding joint talks between Ugandan and Kenyan security agencies.“We have held four meetings, two on each side and have created a close working relationship and a channel of communication with the BMU managements,” he said. He appealed to affected parties to report the matter to their respective BMU to enable his office establish an appropriate conflict resolution mechanism.Mr Guda said he has been forced to travel to Uganda’s Bugiri Resident Magistrate on several occasions to negotiate for favourable fines.Nyatike MP Tom Odege accused the government of neglecting fishermen as he underlined the need to put in place a long lasting solution.