Fish traders in Busia are a happy lot after Kenya and Uganda governments came up with a framework to ensure smooth transit of the commodity from Lake Turkana to the Democratic Republic of Congo without interference.
The development comes months after Kenyan fish traders staged peaceful demonstrations after their fish consignment destined to Democratic Republic of Congo were confiscated by Uganda authorities in October last year.
Speaking after signing the framework document in Uganda OSBP Boardroom on Saturday, the Principal Secretary for Aquaculture, blue economy and fisheries Francis Owino said that the journey for developing the document began on March 1, 2022, a delegation from both Kenya and Uganda travelled all the way to Turkana to establish the source of dry fish.
“We were able to discuss and agree on several issues including setting up a multi-agency team headed by respective County commissioners of Turkana, Samburu , Marsabit and Busia,’ he said adding that the technical teams worked well leading to the culmination of the framework of smooth transition of fish from Lake Turkana to DRC Congo through Uganda.
Owino explained that the framework will address the challenges that faced the Kenyan fishermen at that time.
“I want to commend my colleague PS from Uganda for the very open, transparent, genuine and candid discussions that led to this document,” he said, adding that this should enable the two countries in engaging in smooth trade.
He further termed the signing of the document as a milestone and thanked all the stakeholders for the elaborate discussions for the benefit of the two countries.
The PS however stated that the issue of confiscated fish has been channeled through the ministry of foreign affairs who have already reached out to the Ugandan government through the Embassy.
‘So we are waiting for our sister country Uganda to communicate back through that channel,’ he said.
Ugandan Permanent Secretary for Agriculture and Fisheries Major General David Kasura urged the fish traders to apply the framework and go to the fish trade and do it in a sustainable way.
‘The purpose of the framework is to ensure that you utilize the fish resources in a sustainable way,’ he said, adding that Ugandans should also partner with Kenyans to ensure that there is good EAC brotherliness.
Major Kasura at the same time said that they are working closely with Kenya through meetings with Victoria fisheries associations to address the issue of illegal fishing.
“We are moving towards joint enforcement of fisheries because the fish belong to all of us,” he said and ensures that everybody understands the standards on the size of fish.
The chairman of Busia cross border fish traders Francis Akech thanked the two governments for the initiative to address the stalemate.
“We have suffered for the past 15 years in transporting our goods,” he said, adding their goods will now move smoothly.
In October last year, Ugandan authorities confiscated around 40 tonnes of fish on transit to the Democratic Republic of Congo arguing that they were immature fish obtained from Lake Victoria in the Ugandan side.
This led to great losses by the Kenyan fish traders running into millions of shillings.
Part of the framework calls for joint inspection of the fish consignment by both Kenyan and Ugandan authorities at the Busia One Stop Border Post before they proceed to their destination.
By Salome Alwanda