BY JOHN OYWA
Kenyan fish traders could lose a lucrative multi-million shilling fish market in Democratic Republic of Congo following what they term as gross interference by Uganda authorities.
The traders say they have already lost contracts in Congo after Ugandan police and fisheries officials impounded fish worth Sh4 million, which that was on transit from Lake Turkana. The dry, salted tilapia fish, en route to DRC in a 10-tonne lorry, was impounded in Kampala last Saturday over claims some of the fish were undersize, and the Kenyans had breached Customs rules.
Yesterday, the Kenyan traders were racing against time to file an injunction at an Entebbe court to block the disposal of their cargo.
"We are trying to challenge orders allowing the Ugandan fisheries officials to sell part of the fish and distribute the rest to police officers, school children and needy families," said Ogola.
"We are shocked at the behaviour of the Ugandan officials. They impounded our goods on flimsy grounds. We followed the fisheries and export rules," said spokesman for the traders, Wilson Ogola.
"Kenyan fisheries officials had inspected, cleared the consignment and issued us with an export license. We can’t understand why the Ugandans acted the way they did when the fish was neither from Ugandan lakes, nor Lake Victoria."
Sources told The Standard yesterday that the incident has sparked tension between Kenyan fisheries officials and their Ugandan counterparts.
In a bid to resolve the case, a senior Kenyan fisheries officer travelled to Entebbe to confirm to the Ugandan officials that the fish consignment had indeed been cleared for export.
"The Ugandan officials remained unco-operative even after the fish was inspected in the presence of the Kenyan officials and found to have met the standards," said Ogola.
"After confirming the fish was not undersize, they changed the story and claimed the fish was from Lake Albert in Uganda. They later claimed we had interfered with Customs seals and added more fish after passing the Busia Customs offices," said Ogola.
Sources told The Standard that the fish consignment would be surrendered to the Ugandan Government if an injunction by the Kenyans did not succeed.