MPs Reject Museveni’s Proposal on UPDF Role in Fisheries Bill

Members of Parliament on Wednesday rejected a proposal by President Yoweri Museveni to include the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) in the Fisheries and Monitoring Unit.

The Fisheries Bill was initially passed by Parliament on 3rd May 2022 but the President declined to assent pending reconsideration of several provisions.

In his letter to the Speaker of Parliament, Museveni said that surveillance, organization, command, control, and training need to be domiciled jointly under the Uganda People’s Defense Forces- UPDF and Uganda Police Force- UPF and not only under the policy as stipulated in the Bill.

He argued that given the sophisticated ways employed by people engaged in illegal fishing, the support of both the UPDF and Uganda Police Force (UPF) is required.

However, during the debate, Janet Okori-Moe, the Chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture said that the Committee agreed to maintain the earlier position passed by Parliament, which domiciled the surveillance and training under the Uganda Police Force because it is mandated to protect the life, property and other rights of individuals.

She argued that the UPDF may be deployed in accordance with the provisions of the UPDF Act and the Constitution, in the event of sophisticated ways employed by people engaged in illegal fishing.

Later, MPs approved an amendment moved by Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa mandating the Public Service to appoint a surveillance unit that will comprise persons with fisheries sciences.

Basalirwa said that the appointment of the surveillance unit should be made in consultation with the Minister for internal affairs and the Minister of Fisheries.

The Attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka said that mandating the Public Service Commission to recruit the surveillance unit will ensure inclusiveness.

Nadala Mafabi, the Budadiri West MP said that since the UPDF was deployed on the lakes, locals in fishing communities have been stopped from fishing and thereby deprived of their main source of livelihood.

Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa cautioned MPs against enacting laws that pit institutions against each other.

Meanwhile, MPs approved a proposal by President Museveni to give powers of licensing fishing activities to the Chief Fisheries Officer.

Museveni raised a red flag on Clause 4 of the Bill that relates to the definition of a Licensing Officer as a Chief Fisheries Officer or District Fisheries Officer, noting that the definition will cause confusion and can be a recipe for malpractice.

He guided that the Licensing Officer should be the Chief Fisheries Officer.

The Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill seeks to replace the Fish Act and regulate the exportation of fish products.

Fish has been identified as one of the 10 priority agricultural commodities to foster a sustainable agro-industrialization agenda in Uganda because of its contribution to national Gross Domestic Product – GDP (3 percent), agricultural GDP (12 percent), employment (5.3 million people), nutrition (about 50 percent of animal protein), and foreign exchange revenues 560 billion Shillings as of September 2020.

Despite the enormous potential for fish production, with approximately 44,000 km2 (20 percent) of Uganda’s total surface area covered by freshwaters (lakes, rivers, and swamps), the fisheries resources are currently under-exploited due to over-reliance on capture fisheries and limited investments in aquaculture.

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