The Albertine region security officers have warned their own against aiding illegal activities on Lake Albert during this Covid-19 lockdown period.
In March this year, government closed the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border as one of the avenues of guarding against the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following the closure, Uganda deployed both the police and the army to guard the closed border along the shores of Lake Albert in Kagadi, Kikuube, Hoima and Buliisa districts.
However, the commander of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) Field Artillery Division in Masindi, Maj Gen Sam Okiding, says members of the public from Kikuube, Hoima and Buliisa districts have informed security that some UPDF and the Uganda Police Force personnel are conniving with businessmen from the DRC to cross to Uganda through Lake Albert.
Such an act has raised concern among members of the public saying it is creating a risk for transmitting coronavirus in the Albertine sub-region.
The army officer says his office is awash with complaints and information from area residents pinning some security officers soliciting for bribes from DRC nationals in order to be allowed into the country.
Mr Okiding tasks Lake Albert dwellers to furnish his office with information about officers indulging in such illicit activities adding that they were deployed there to stop illegal entry of DRC nationals and not to facilitate illegalities.
“Security is not for a soldier alone. Security is for all citizens. When you find such information, pass it to the leaders. I have also got such allegations. They gave us the initial data which helped us to close landing sites. They gave us the same data which helped us to arrest some people who were misbehaving. You know, there are a lot of interests there,” he says.
Mr Samuel Kisembo, the Resident District Commissioner for Hoima and Kikuube districts says it is reprehensible to permit foreign nationals to cross into Uganda at this critical time when the country is struggling to contain coronavirus.
He reveals that investigations are underway against soldiers indulging in such criminalities.
“It is wrong to allow any activity on Lake Albert. All the borders are closed to human movement like moving from here [Uganda] to Congo on water. That is unacceptable and we are going to investigate these allegations that point at our security teams that they are conniving to allow illegal migrants and other people to cross over to Congo and back to Uganda,” Mr Kisembo says.
“This is a serious allegation which we cannot just take lightly. If we really allow people to cross in and out anyhow, then, we are going to have trouble because what is in DRC is really not good news to this country because they have high cases of Covid-19 and they have an outbreak of Ebola. If we just allow people to move in and out and come back at will, we will have a disservice to this country,” he adds.
The RDC says government allows day time fishing and cargo transport cleared by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) through legitimate entry points at Kaiso and Sebigoro in Hoima and Kikuube districts respectively.
“Apart from day fishing and cargo that is cleared by Uganda Revenue Authority to move to DR Congo or from DRC to Uganda through gazetted points, that is Kaiso and Sebigoro, so all borders are closed to human movements like moving from here to Congo on water. That is unacceptable”.
Mr Patrick Musinguzi, a resident of Kaiso landing site in Hoima district criticises security personnel saying they have turned the lake into a source of livelihood wondering how they are disregarding security and social threats from their illegitimate activities.
He asks government to lift the ban on commercial fishing reasoning that the deployment of security officials is not solving the threats posed by the pandemic.
Another Laker, Mr Augustus Kyaligonza, at Bugoma landing site in Kikuube district doubts Bunyoro region’s security bigwigs saying they have failed to supervise their juniors.
In April, the Kikuube District Covid-19 Taskforce accused security deployed along the Lake Albert shoreline of purportedly receiving bribes from Congolese nationals to aid them enter the country, thus, frustrating efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Kagadi, Kikuube, Hoima and Buliisa districts in Bunyoro sub-region are at the porous border points with the eastern part of the DRC that is battling Covid-19 pandemic and Ebola Zaire cases.