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Families of kidnapped fishermen demand for quick gov’t intervention

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By Richard Akandwanaho

A section of families whose relatives were in July this year kidnapped by suspected Congolese militants on L Edward in Rukungiri district are faulting the Ugandan government for keeping silent and not being serious to secure the release of their kidnapped family members.

They also fault the government of not communicating to the families of the victims on whether their family members are still alive or dead and the government’s progress concerning the matter.

On 28th July this year, suspected Congolese militants kidnapped 10 Ugandan fishermen who were fishing on Lake Edward in Rukungiri district.

According to locals, the kidnapped fishermen were identified as David Mucunguzi, Innocent Twinomujuni, Shabul  Nabasa, Jackson Tumuhamye, Benjamin Tusasibwe, Nicholas  Sunday, Kenneth Kabasharira,  Nicholas Tumwesigye, Patrick Bwiho and Jackson Musinguzi.

Mustafa Aribariho, one of the fishermen said that the victims had gone to the lake with six boats to monitor the nets they had cast to trap fish. However, militias emerged and held them at gunpoint before crossing to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Only one boat was later released.

Capt Favorite Rwogamu, the Uganda Marine Forces spokesperson told our reporter on phone that the kidnappers later demanded ransom to release the fishermen.

He, however, said they are tired of sending money to the militias, saying they are going to hold round table negotiations with the Congolese government to secure the release of the fishermen.

Benard Baingana, the UPDF Marine operations officer on Lake Edward and George, also said that the government had commenced negotiations with Congolese authorities to secure the release of the fishermen.

That was not the first time Congolese militias are kidnapping Ugandan fishermen at Rweshama. 

In May 2018, the militias attacked the landing site and kidnapped six fishermen. Congolese militiamen often kidnap Ugandan fishermen on the common shared lakes such as Edward George and Albert.

Sarapio Chrismas a 50 year old resident of Mukoni village Kitooma parish Rubaya Sub County Kabale district a father to a 24 year old Innocent Twinomujuni one of the kidnapped fishermen faults the government for not taking the matter seriously.

Sarapio said that when the government said it was to reach around table agreement with Congo, he hoped his son was to be rescued from the hands of the kidnappers in atleast a week’s time but almost four months now in vain.

Edith Tusasibwe a mother of 6 from Rwabarera cell Rubaya Sub County says his 45 year old husband Nicholas Tumwesigye was a bread winner at home and since his kidnap, she is struggling to raise the family basic needs.

Mercy Friday, a wife to Nicholas Sunday one of the victims said that if the government knew it was not willing to intervene, it would have left the families of the victims to toil but send ranson to the kidnappers for the release of their fellows. She said they are currently living in fear of their loved ones because since then, they have not accessed any information concerning the safety of their kidnapped family members.

Saime Twesigomwe, the Rubaya Sub County Chairperson said he has tried to engage district authorities of Kabale and Rukungiri in vain.

Our reporter could not get a comment from Capt Favorite Rwogamu the Uganda Marine Forces spokesperson on the development of the matter after he could not receive calls on his known phone contacts.