DP Ruto demand for the release of fish cargo held by Uganda headed to DRC

Kenyan traders protest against Uganda police

During last weekend’s whistle-stop tour of Kenya’s Busia County, DP Ruto demanded that fish trucks held by Kampala be released immediately

By The Weekly Vision Online

For the first time in recent memory, deputy president William Ruto seems to have differed with his long-time ally Uganda’s strongman Yoweri Museveni. For the first time in recent memory, deputy president William Ruto seems to have differed with his long-time ally Uganda’s strongman Yoweri Museveni.

During last weekend’s whistle-stop tour of Kenya’s Busia County, DP Ruto demanded that the fish trucks held by Kampala be released immediately. The trucks are said to have been loaded with fish for export to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The row follows the impounding of trucks loaded with fish valued at Sh50 million (Sh1.5 billion Uganda shillings) in the Kasese district.

DP Ruto is also said to have heavily invested in Uganda’s petroleum sector. He further owns a five-star hotel in Hoima close to the Rwanda-Congo border. An adjacent game park with rare mountain gorillas attracts thousands of local and foreign tourists each year giving brisk business

According to the traders, who transport fresh fish from Lake Turkana to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the consignment was confiscated by the Uganda Fisheries Protection Unit at the Mpondwe border. Ugandan taxmen detained the lorries in Kasese, some 550 kilometres south of Kampala. DP Ruto enjoys close ties with President Museveni and he makes frequent visits to Entebbe.

DP William Ruto at a political rally last weekend

DP Ruto is also said to have heavily invested in Uganda’s petroleum sector. He further owns a five-star hotel in Hoima close to the Rwanda-Congo border. An adjacent game park with rare mountain gorillas attracts thousands of local and foreign tourists each year giving brisk business.

DP Ruto is President Museveni’s favourite candidate in the 2022 elections to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta. President Kenyatta steps down next year after his two five-year terms come to an end.

Fish has remained an emotive commodity that once saw ODM leader Raila Odinga accuse Kampala of harassing Kenyan fishermen on Migingo island. The Ugandan army and police have established a heavy presence on the one-and-a-half-acre island believed to be rich with tilapia fish. Kenya has also deployed police.

Speaking from Busia, DP Ruto urged President Museveni to release the trucks unconditionally. “About the fish impounded in Uganda, I want to tell Museveni to release the lorries in the spirit of the East African Community and allow our traders to take their cargo to its final destination before the fish goes bad.

Angry traders blocked the Busia One-stop border point in protest after the Uganda Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) declined to release impounded trucks on grounds that the fish that was being transported to DRC had been “stolen” from Lake Kyoga

That is not bhang or illicit alcohol but genuine products that Kenyan traders were transporting,” said Ruto. He said fish was highly perishable and if the standoff persists, the traders will incur huge losses. “We cannot claim we are good neighbours when we (Kenya) play our role and allow Uganda traders to do business in the country freely but our traders are arrested and slapped with punitive fines and their products confiscated across the border,” said Ruto. The Deputy President said it was wrong for the Ugandan authorities to continue holding onto the consignment and yet an agreement had been reached to have the trucks released after traders blocked the Busia border point last week.

Angry traders blocked the Busia One-stop border point in protest after the Uganda Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) declined to release impounded trucks on grounds that the fish that was being transported to DRC had been “stolen” from Lake Kyoga. Protesters had threatened to paralyse operations at the border point unless the trucks and consignment are released by Uganda authorities.

“The Uganda military is a thorn in our flesh. They arrest us frequently without any valid reasons and arraign us in their courts where we are slapped with punitive fines. On this one, we are not going to relent until we have our fish released unconditionally,” said Yusuf Sefu, chairman of Kenya Fish Traders Association. “We have closed this border to demand the unconditional release of our trucks that were intercepted by the Ugandan military at the Mpondwe border post in Kasese,” explained Mr Sefu.

He said the impounded fish had met all requisite certifications from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). “The fish was from Lake Turkana and not Lake Kyoga as it is being alleged,” argued the official. Sefu wondered why Uganda authorities were laying claim on the fish yet they could easily establish the origin of the fish.

Calm was restored at the border point after Ugandan officials led by Busia Uganda Deputy Resident District Commissioner Mathew Tusubira met with their Kenyan counterparts led by Busia Kenya County Commissioner, John Korir recently.

It was resolved that representatives from the two groups would meet and secure the release of the trucks but that has not happened. So far, affected traders have moved to court and sued the head of the Fisheries Protection Unit-FPU on Lake George and Edward Capt Musa Mugogo and Joyce Ikwaput Nyeko respectively, they also sued the acting Director of Fisheries Resources Management – Uganda and the country’s Attorney General whom they want to be charged with malicious damage of property and theft.

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