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Organization Wants Parliament to Criminalize Settlement on Floating Islands

In their proposals regarding the Bill, retired Lt. Sam Kigula, the Chairperson of Lake Kyoga Integrated Management Organization told MPs that people who settle on floating Islands pollute the lake. He said that there is a need for a law to stop these settlements.
Fishermen at Lake Kyoga. Such boats below 28 feet are not licensed to operate on the Lake

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Lake Kyoga Integrated Management Organization (LAKIMO) has asked parliament to criminalize settlements on floating islands saying they harbour criminals who engage in illegal fishing activities.  

Leaders from the organization on Tuesday appeared before the Agriculture Committee of Parliament which is currently considering the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2021. The Bill seeks to consolidate and reform the law relating to the management of fisheries products and aquaculture due to emerging issues in the regulation and management of the sector.

During the Law Revision of 2000, the Country's laws were reorganized and the Fish and Crocodile Act became the Fish Act, which was further amended in 2011 to provide for the establishment of the Fisheries Fund and to permit the retention and use of fees received by the Chief Fisheries Officer from the issuance of licenses, permits and other activities for development and management of the sector.

However, the government says that these amendments were not comprehensive enough to fully address all challenges facing the fisheries sector because they only focused on licences, the introduction of currency points and retention of funds.

In their proposals regarding the Bill, retired Lt. Sam Kigula, the Chairperson of Lake Kyoga Integrated Management Organization told MPs that people who settle on floating Islands pollute the lake. He said that there is a need for a law to stop these settlements. 

Kigula, who doubles as the Nakasongola District LCV Chairperson said that criminals also hide on the floating Islands. 

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He appealed to the committee to incorporate penalties for landlords with ungazetted landing sites in the Bill since people who engage in illegal fishing activities hide in such places.

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The organization objected to the registration of a company and first acquiring Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) by fishermen before being allowed to carry out fishing.

“Our community is complex and has different categories of people…some people telling them about a Taxpayer Identification Number it’s like a nightmare. So, it is not practical and we recommend that it should be waived off,” said Kigula. 

In response to the presentation, Buvuma County MP Robert Migadde said there is no need to abolish settlement on floating Islands in law because of environmental pollution. He said that environmental protection should be ably enforced by the existing Local Governments.

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Abed Bwanika, the Kimaanya-Kabonera MP sought clarification from a proposal to have a fishing holiday. He said that this holiday should be only for commercial fishing and allow other locals who rely on fishing for subsistence purposes to carry out their activities.

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Janet Grace Okori-Moe, the Agriculture Committee Chairperson said that the recommendations by the organization should have been presented in form of proposed amendments to the law.

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Dr Agnes Atim Apea, the Amolator Woman MP questioned the organization about their views regarding the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) operations on the water body. 

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Elijah Okupa, the Kasilo County MP said that instead of relying on the army for enforcement on the water bodies, LAKIMO should focus on getting resources to carry out enforcement locally. 

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Kigula said that the unit in Nakasongola and particularly on Lake Kyoga did its work very well notwithstanding the challenges. 

“Some people were indeed beaten, others lost their lives, properties…during that operation. This operation had phases and the first phase had a lot of confrontations and I want to assure this committee that the soldiers who beat up a woman are still in prison,” said Kigula. 

Last year, experts in the agriculture ministry blamed the occurrence of floating islands, also known as suds, on the rise in the water levels which led to the detachment of large chunks of land and vegetation from the mainland in various parts of the country close to the lakes.

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