By Markson Omagor
Recently government through Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) Fish Protection Unit has intensified its operation against not only illegal fishing practices but fishing altogether. This has happened in Lake Kyoga and especially in Teso, Lango and Kaberemaido districts.
The UPDF Fish Protection Unit has done this by destroying boats, burning illegal fishing gear and brutalizing those that are caught fishing. The Unit also arrests anybody (non-fishing Wanainchi and transporters got with fish.) Arrested vehicles or motorcycles are confiscated and only recovered upon payment of hefty fines.
The immediate consequence of these UPDF activities is the demobilization of Landing Sites. And of course government must be chest thumping. The fishermen/fish mongers have run away back to their villages. The prostitutes that were plying their trade on the Landing Sites have technically been run out of business. They too have retraced their steps back to the village centers.
Runaway criminals, former village idlers, Land sellers and estranged wives have had no option but to retreat back to the villages.
Probably what government may not have foreseen is that majority of the demobilized fishermen/fish mongers had no savings and have therefore gone back to their villages empty handed.
NOTE: Fishermen are diseased with a hand to mouth mentality; living and spending extravagantly knowing the Lake will provide after all.
Most of these fishermen have no homes to talk of, have no gardens and in worse scenarios, have no land having sold their share to go fishing.
Needless to over emphasize, the demobilized fishermen had gotten used to daily earnings, extravagant lifestyles, good feeding and careless spending. Now they are facing the grim reality of eating beans, no ready income and boring lifestyle in the villages. This adjustment is difficult to attain as a result they have been forced into petty thefts. Last week I was in my village in Serere district, and it came to my attention that chicken, goat, sheep and pig theft was on the rise.
The more potent consequence is the land factor: Some returnees as mentioned earlier had sold off their shares to go fishing. Now they have been forced back into a landless reality. This category is already engaged in deadly feuds with ageing parents/guardians or brothers because they want to be apportioned more land.
There is a case again in my village where one returnee is threatening his father to either apportion him more land or there will be bloodshed. He also wants to be given cows in the guise of marrying a wife. There are genuine fears that the broke returnee intends to sell both the land and cows if given. The father has so far stood his ground and refused to be intimidated. Whereas there has not been any blood shed as for now, something sinister is cooking.
Housewives are also no longer at ease because the returnee prostitutes are now luring their husbands at trading centers where they go drinking. This is a volcanic state. There is going to be increased domestic violence and fights even amongst the competing men themselves.
To curb thefts, there must be increased policing. To stop domestic violence and other fights- there must be increased policing. In most rural areas in Teso, police posts have no more than 4 personnel. The needed increased policing will therefore be a herculean task for such understaffed police posts.
The government must as a matter of urgency increase police presence in Teso as one of the areas affected by consequences of returnee fishermen/fishmongers.