Members of Parliament representing the fishing constituencies from across the country have asked the government to consider them for an affirmative action like what is being done for Karamojong cattle rustlers.
The MPs made the remarks on Wednesday during a consultative meeting with the Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja at the office of the Prime Minister in Kampala.
“Our people have been grossly affected by the illegal fishing operations and others left without any source of income which puts them in a situation that requires government intervention for alternative sources of income,” said Ronald Balimwezo, representing Nakawa division in Parliament.
The MPs argue that when the cattle rustlers return guns they are given alternative income sources such as goats which ought to be done for the fishing community also.
The meeting was called as a follow-up on the deferred Fisheries Bill, that the President sent back to Parliament for further scrutiny and adjustment.
The Fisheries Bill was not assented to by the President, because of some sections that were considered to impede effective management of Uganda’s water bodies. One of the areas being contested is whether or not to involve the UPDF in managing lakes.
The MPs welcomed the intervention of the prime minister and are optimistic that once the issues raised are addressed the Fishing sector will become the number one Foreign exchange earner in the country.
Charles Tebandeke, representing Bbaale Constituency in Kayuga district said that some clauses require to first interface with the head of state to harmonize so that the common person does not suffer thereafter.
“As members of parliament representing the fishing community we shall scrutinize the bill so that the people’s interests are catered for because we are parliament on their behalf,” said Tebandeke.
Jane Avur Pacuto, the Pakwach woman representative said that some people who used to earn a living from the lake have resorted to eating immature cassava and others going without meals for days because of the illegal fishing operations.
“Our people are dying because their only source of income was interfered with and no alternative given to them by the government,” said Pacuto.
The Prime Minister held the view that the Army’s involvement on the water bodies was legitimate and meant to handle security concerns among others issues.
“The UPDF are doing a commendable job on the waters of our lakes because security has greatly improved and also harvesting of immature fish has been curtailed,” said Nabbanja.
She added that some isolated cases of indiscipline by the Army can be handled case by case accordingly.
The consultative meeting was also attended by State Ministers for Fisheries Hellen Adoa, Fred Bwino for Agriculture and Senior officials from the Ministry of Agriculture.
In a related development, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja flagged off a consignment of relief food items, to assist in responding to famine in the Karamoja region. The relief items dispatched included Posho, Beans, cooking Oil and sugar.
This relief food consignment was funded by Direct Aid Society based in Kuwait.
The Prime Minister, on behalf of the government, thanked the Direct Aid Society for the kind gesture.