Uganda frees 36 illegal Congolese fishers after talks
Ugandan security officers on Tuesday August 10, released 36 Congolese men who have been in custody since March 2019 for illegally fishing in Ugandan waters.
The release of the fishermen came after a bilateral meeting that was held to discuss the first Joint Patrols on Lakes Edward and Albert by D.R Congo and Uganda at Kyavinyonge landing site (Nord Kivu) Lake Edward.
The two countries have since 2019 conducted joint patrols on the trans-boundary lakes Edward and Albert aimed at eliminating illegal fishing activities that were previously rampant and often ended in fighting and loss of lives from both countries.
Thanks to cooperation efforts that were facilitated by the regional body Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Plan (NELSAP) an investment arm of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) , fighting between the two countries has greatly reduced.
Following Uganda’s gesture, DRC authorities were also expected to release Ugandan illegal fishers who are still held in Congolese jails.
Polycarp Otieno, the NELSAP spokesperson said that after the negotiations, the two countries agreed to release each other’s prisoners within three days.
Uganda acted immediately releasing the Congolese men while the Congolese were expected to do so by Thursday as agreed.
In a separate ceremony held at Mpondwe on the Uganda – DR Congo border, Uganda’s Ambassador to DRC James Mbahimba pleaded to Congolese authorities to release up to 50 Ugandans who are still rotting in Congolese jails.
Despite some improvement arising from talks and joint operations, tensions and abduction of fishers remains a thorny issue in relations between Uganda and DRC.
Last month, suspected Congolese security operatives entered Ugandan waters and abducted seven Ugandans.