Fishermen Recover Fishing Gear After Paying Ransom to DRC Militiamen


Some of the boat Engines that were recovered from suspected Congolese armed men in 2019. These were returned by Congolese Authorities after negotiation with Ugandan government officials.Photo by Emmanuel Okello.

Some Ugandan fishermen who lost their fishing gear to suspected Congolese militiamen last week have recovered them after paying a ransom to their tormentors. The Congolese militiamen raided Lake Albert waters near Nyawaiga landing site in Kabwoya Sub County in Kikuube district in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

The three armed attackers placed Ugandan fishermen at gunpoint and ordered them to surrender to four boat engines, four boats and more than ten sets of fishing nets. After accomplishing their mission, the militiamen crossed to Kasenyi Landing site in Bunia district Ituri Province in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo with the stolen fishing gear.

However, Peter Kyasimire, the Nkondo Parish LC II Chairperson, says they have since managed to recover three boat engines and boats after USD 500 (about 1.8 million Shillings) to the militiamen. Wanzalla Okechi, one of the affected fishermen who is still pursuing the release of his boat engine, fishing boat and 14 sets of fishing nets told Uganda Radio Network in a telephone interview this morning that the militiamen are demanding USD 500 to release his fishing gear.

Vincent Alpha Opio, the Kabwoya sub-county LCV Councilor has asked security to intensify surveillance on the lake to safeguard Ugandan fishermen from attacks by armed Congolese militiamen.  Julius Hakiza, the Albertine Region Police Spokesperson, says that by the time the attacks by the militiamen are reported, it is too late for security to act. Attacks by suspected Congolese militia on the Lake Albert have been rampant since 2018.

In January, two Congolese soldiers were arrested on Lake Albert in Buliisa district.  The soldiers were identified as Mouli Mweni and Patrick Njangu Bukamba from Mahagi Port Bunia district in Eastern DRC. They were apprehended while robbing Ugandan fishermen of their fishing boats, nets and engines near Bugoigo landing site in Buliisa district and Dei in Pakwach district.

Two submachine guns, each with 30 rounds of live ammunition were recovered from the soldiers. In April, two militiamen were gunned down in a fire exchange with UPDF on the Lake Albert in Hoima district.  They were identified as Ozelle Opio and a one Singa.

Five others namely Balaka Jarenga, Makuru Onjoka, Claude Nguma, Kakuru Kwamire and Kapaseka Otika were arrested. UPDF soldiers also recovered three AK 47 guns with 47 rounds of ammunition from the militiamen.  The bodies of the dead and five militia suspects were later handed over to Congolese authorities on May 28, 2020.

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