51 Kenyan fishermen released from Ugandan prisons

Fishermen in Lake Victoria

Fishing boats at Litare Beach in Rusinga Island in Homa Bay County on October 6, 2022. 51 Fishermen from the county have been released by Ugandan authorities.

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group.

Ugandan authorities have released 51 Kenyan fishermen accused of straying into their waters who were arrested at the weekend.

 The move came about after talks between administrators drawn from the two countries. 

Seven vessels out of the 17 fishing boats confiscated during the raid were released Monday afternoon while negotiations continued to get the other vessels free.

All the fishermen and boats were from Remba island, Homa Bay County, and had sailed across the border to get fish.

Fishermen in the county, however, said the arrest could have been averted had the authorities from the two countries engaged each other.

Homa Bay County Beach Management Unit Chairman Edward Oremo said they have been having annual conversions where heads of different beaches and security officers engage in talks about operations in the lake.

The meetings, which were apparently suspended due to unknown reasons, also used to bring together political leaders whose areas border the lake.

"We witnessed reduced cases of arrest when the talks were being held. Fishermen have reported cases of arrest since the talks stopped," Mr Oremo said.

Homa Bay County Commissioner Moses Lilan said the 51 fishermen were arrested when they crossed into Uganda.

It happened that authorities from the neighbouring country were conducting a raid to check on licenses on boats since by law, the vessels operating in the lake should be approved.

Mr Lian said the operation also involved checking on the permits of the fishing vessels.

Apparently, the Kenyan fisherman did not have the requisite documents which forced the Ugandan officials to detain them.

"As a government, we took steps to ensure it was done within the protocol and regulations. We coordinated with our Ugandan counterparts to ensure they are released," Mr Lilian said.

This is not the first case of arrest of Kenyan fishermen by security officers from the neighbouring country.

Some cases are attributed to ignorance and lack of knowledge about laws in Uganda and Tanzania.

Mr Lian asked all fishermen who practice fishing in deep waters to ascertain that they have complied with regulations in the neighbouring countries.

"We will always protect what guides our relationship with Uganda. Fishermen should therefore not violate regulations in the neighbouring country," the county commissioner said.

He announced that the government is in the process of conducting civic education among fisher folks to encourage them to familiarise themselves with fishing laws in East Africa.