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Kenyan fishermen beaten and denied food by Tanzania police

From left: Samuel Isaya, Erick Mosomi, Gordon Owiti and Joseph Stephen who were released from a Tanzanian prison on September 3, 2021. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

With a swollen foot, Gordon Owiti limps as he crosses into Kenya from Tanzania at the Isebania border. 

Owiti is accompanied by Erick Mosomi, Samuel Isaya and Joseph Stephen. The four were arrested by Tanzanian authorities two months ago while fishing in Lake Victoria.

Owiti is unable to bear the pain and once in a while, he is supported by his fellow fishermen.

Although happy to have walked out of a Tanzanian prison in one piece, the father of five remembers the horror they went through in custody.

He narrates how they arrived at Kibro fishing site at 8am on June 25 for their daily fishing routine. After a hard day’s work, they fell asleep in their boat only to wake up and find that the fish they had caught were gone.

When they went to inquire from the Tanzanian fishermen, Tanzania police on patrol approached them and told them that the problem would be solved later, and they were taken to a police boat.

“They confiscated my boat,” says Owiti, adding that he has not seen the vessel since. The boat plus engine cost him Sh300,000.

The four were taken to Sota in Tanzania on June 26 at 8pm, and later to Wategi where they were detained.

Their phones were confiscated, hence cutting communication with their families.

Owiti, Mosomi, Isaya and Stephen were later taken to Tarime courts where they were charged with robbery with violence, as they were accused of stealing 26 pieces of Nile perch while armed with machetes.

From the courts, they were taken to Shirati Police Station and later taken to prison where they stayed until they were released on September 3.

At the prison, Mosomi narrates how they were being beaten with clubs. Owiti sustained injuries on his foot as a result of the beatings.

Mosomi says they were denied food and only ate when the other inmates shared their portions with them.

Kibro Beach Management Unit chairman Joel Maulidi together with leaders from the county raised funds for the case withdrawn.

Johnson Wangkio, Muhuru ward manager, notes that fishermen have for long been neglected and it is high time the government considered looking into their welfare.

Muhuru Bay MCA Hevron Mairah notes that it is unfortunate that despite efforts to bring calm to the fishing industry, fishermen are arrested and charged with crimes they have not committed.

He asked Tanzania and Kenya governments to compensate the four.

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