Small scale fisheries sector tends to be firmly rooted in local communities, traditions and values. Many small scale fishers are self employed and usually provide fish for direct consumption within their households or communities. Women are significant participants in the sector, particularly in the post harvest and processing activities. It is estimated that about 90 percent of all people directly dependent on capture fisheries works in the small scale fisheries sector. As such, small scale fisheries serve as an economic and social engine, providing food and nutrition security, employment and other multiplier effects to local economies while underpinning the livelihoods of riparian communities.
It is however, no doubt that the government is trading worst practices to restrict and illegally detained fishermen practicing fishing on Lake Albert in Uganda.
Information reaching Jegar Sahadurtha indicates that the cross-section of self seeking politicians from across Albertine region are threatening the lives of fishing communities doing fishing on Lake Albert. The threats include confiscation of fishing gears, illegal detention of fishermen, illegal arrest and heavy fining of fishermen by the Uganda Marine Police department attached to Dei Police post.
It is alleged that recently, the marine police in Dei arrested, confiscated, destroyed and burnt down fishermen properties worth 100,000,000 Ugandan Shillings.
The arrest was carried out in the middle of the night when fishermen were already doing fishing. On Lake Albert, many fishing activities is done at night when there is total darkness.
According to an eye witness, it is believed that the Panyimur LC3 chairperson Mr Ofoi Keenobe is conniving with the Ugandan police marine division attached to Dei police post and section of Democratic Republic of Congo soldiers based in Mahagi Port in North Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo to loot, torture and confiscate fishermen properties including fishing nets, lantern and engine boats. Alongside this, various other influential people in the government are reported to have been conducting illegal arrest, torture and extra judicial killing of fishermen on Lake Albert. Information reaching Jegar reveals that, the chairperson LC1 of Dei Central Village Mr Opar Nicholas is among the popular face of the government officials threatening fishing communities on Lake Albert. They coordinate with Congolese Soldiers to arrest Ugandan fishermen after which they heavily fined them.
On a separate note, the Panyimur Sub County Intelligent officer(DISO) Mr. Kennedy was several times seen requesting for bribery from fishermen in Dei .He has also been coordinating with Panyimur sub county LC3 and marine police to confiscate fishermen properties in Dei,Wanseko, Bullisa,Butiaba,Runga,Kabolwa and Kayonga.
Small scale and artisanal fisheries, encompassing all activities along, encompassing all activities along the value chain-pre harvest, harvest and post harvest undertaken by men and women play an important role in food security and nutrition, poverty eradication, equitable development and sustainable resources utilization. Small scale fisheries provide nutritious food for local, national and international markets and generate income to support local and national economies.
While the small scale fisheries present such advantages to the economy, there is no recognition that it can support and promote wellbeing of marginalized communities.
In controlling small scale fisheries, there should be consideration of small scale fisheries guidelines stipulated in FAO document. In itself, the guidelines are based on international human rights standards, responsible fisheries standards and practices and sustainable development according to the United Nations Conferences on Sustainable Development (RIO 20) outcome document “The future we want”, the code and other relevant instruments, paying particular attention to vulnerable and marginalized groups and the need to support the progressive realization of the rights to adequate food.
There must be recognition on the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable human rights of all individuals, all parties should recognize, respect, promote and protect the human rights principles and their applicability to communities dependent on small scale fisheries as stipulated by international human rights standards ;Universality;indivisibilitity;interdependence and interrelatedness; on discrimination and equality; participation and inclusion;accountabilitity and the rule of law. State and non state actors should respect and protect the rights of Human Rights Defenders in their work on small scale fisheries.
All non state actors including business enterprises related or affecting small scale fisheries have a responsibility to respect human rights in relation to small scale fisheries.
The government and non state actors should as well should recognize the existing forms of organization, traditional and local knowledge and practices of small scale fishing communities, including indigenous people and ethnic minorities, encouraging women leadership and taking into account. Art 5 of the convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against (CEDAW).
Gender equality and equity is fundamental to any development. There should be an initiative to recognize the vital role of women in small scale fisheries, equal rights and opportunities should be promoted.
There should be nothing like forceful eviction of fishing communities, destruction of their properties without the consent of the law.
The government should consult the people first to ensure active, free, effective, meaningful and informed participation of small scale fishing communities, including indigenous peoples, taking into consideration the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous people in the whole decision making process related to fishery resources and areas where small scale fisheries operates as well as adjacent land areas, and taking existing power imbalances between different parties into consideration. This should include feedback and support from those who could be affected by decision making prior to these being taken, and responding to their contributions.
The rate at which Human Rights of the fishing communities is increasingly being violated, it require specialized legal counsel to represent the interest of the marginalized fishing communities. Rule of law should be adopted for small scale fisheries through laws that are widely publicized in applicable languages, applicable to all, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and that are consistent with existing obligations under national and international law and with due regards to voluntary commitments under applicable regional and international instruments.
Equally, minus clearly defining and widely publicizing policies, laws and procedures in applicable Languages and information’s accessible to all, the challenges against fishing communities will increase.
Individuals, public agencies and non state actors responsible for violation of rights of fisher communities should be hold accountable for their actions and decisions according to the principles of the rule of law.
Lastly, politicians should avoid enacting any law that violate the rights of marginalized fishing communities. Fishing communities are marginalized with less formal education, high illiteracy level, poor health. Little recognition is given to them in terms of government programs.
It is high time that the Civil Society Organizations, Human Rights Defenders are alerted to protect and defend the marginalized fisher’s communities.