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House suspended as UPDF is tasked over torture claims

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has suspended House sittings pending a response from the Ministry of Defence over allegations of torture and mistreatment of fishermen.

This followed Members of Parliament requesting the Speaker to call off Parliament until the government responds with a substantial solution to the human rights violations happening on water bodies.

Hon. David Ronnie Mutebi (NRM, Buikwe South) said, We have expressed our concern about mistreating and torturing of fishermen on the Floor of this House for the last two years in vain. It is high time we saw something done because our people are suffering.

Hon. George Abott Ouma (NRM, Bukooli Island) said 40 people lost their engines and were being told by the army to go to the Speaker to rescue them.

When the Speaker came to the islands, we thought we would have a change in affairs but that has not happened; now people are threatening to attack me, he said.

Ouma said he had tried to engage the army officials but his efforts were in vain.

Hon. Robert Migadde Ndugwa (NRM, Buvuma Island) said torture of fishermen is a recurring issue that Parliament asked the government to act on but with no tangible results, If we cannot respect Parliament, then there is a problem.

Let us suspend the House to prompt the Minister to respond with a statement concerning the issue. We cannot sit here and debate yet people out there are suffering, Migadde added.

Hon. Paul Mwiru (FDC Jinja Municipality) said the army took control over all fishing water bodies and are using it as an avenue to extort and torture people.

They don't want to listen to anyone including the fisheries officials. We need the President to restore sanity and direct the army to behave, he added.

The Minister of State for Public Service, Hon. David Karubanga, said there are internal and foreign issues affecting fishing communities in many of the water bodies.

These issues need to be well examined by all concerned ministries including the Ministry of Agriculture, Internal Affairs and Foreign Affairs to come up with long lasting solutions; therefore, we need time, Karubanga said.

Hon. Bright Rwamirama, the Minister of State for Veteran Affairs who spoke on behalf of the Ministry of Defence said that they needed more time to come up with a comprehensive response.

I got wind of this issue yesterday and I must assert that the UPDF cannot condone such an act. The army is helping to regulate fishing. However, I need two weeks to respond to this issue, he said, adding that the issue involves other ministries such as that of Agriculture.

I beg for time to resolve this matter as we investigate the indisciplined soldiers, he said.

However, the Speaker said she had directed the Ministry to issue a statement today [Wednesday] because the matter was longstanding.

This issue is contentious yet it has yielded no response from the Ministry of Defence, so I cannot ignore it, Kadaga added.

The Speaker also noted that the Minister of Defence is notorious for not responding to issues on the Floor of Parliament.

Source: Parliament of Uganda

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