Ugandan police storm Sumba Island, seize fishing equipment

Ugandan police officers stormed Sumba Island in Lake Victoria and confiscated boat engines and fishing nets from local fishermen.

The distraught fishermen said the Wednesday mid-morning operation caught them by surprise.

The security officers were said to have been angered by the fishermen's regular trips into Ugandan waters.

Bunyala Sub-county Director of Fisheries Shadrack Kimani said the provincial administration would have to intervene to ensure the five engines that were seized were returned.

He regretted that whenever Ugandan policemen confiscated engines and nets, they asked for between Sh40,000 and Sh50,000 before releasing them.

“When you confiscate the boat engines, which means the fishermen cannot carry out their daily fishing expedition. We are going to engage the provincial administration to assist in recovering the engines and nets,” said Mr Kimani.

350 Kenyans

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There are nearly 350 Kenyans who live on Sumba Island and depend entirely on fishing. Last year, the residents urged the Kenyan Government to build a police post and have the flag raised daily to remind visitors that the island was in Kenya.

This was after Ugandan maritime officers unsuccessfully tried to arrest fishermen on grounds that they were using illegal fishing gear. According to reports, the officers had to shoot several times in the air to scare away irate fishermen.

Mabinju Beach Management Unit chairman Francis Nyongesa claimed the Ugandan police had asked to be given Sh50,000 before the fishermen could get back their engines.

“They are concerned about money. Where are we going to get the Sh50,000 they are asking for when we don’t make such money in the lake?" said Mr Nyongesa.

He reiterated that there was need for the flag to be raised and a police station built on the island.

“Lack of a police station and the Kenyan flag puts us at a disadvantage because Ugandan police officers can walk into the island, carry out their operation and leave,” Nyongesa said.

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