Special Reports

Uganda Sends Powerful Delegation to DRC Over L. Albert Conflicts

Ugandan officials holding talks with their DRC counterparts in Muhagi on Monday

A 30-person multi-sectoral delegation of Government Officials led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in Mahagi, more about DRC, for a 3-day trans-boundary, bilateral meeting on management of Lakes Albert and Edward.

The trip comes high on the heels of the recent killing of Ugandan fishermen and locals by suspected rogue DRC soldiers.

Despite repeated warnings, DRC soldiers continue to wreak havoc in Ugandan communities.

ChimpReports understands the Uganda delegation, led by Amb. Paul Mukumbya, Head of the EAC and Ring States Department is composed of senior central and local government officials including representatives from the Department of Fisheries (MAAIF), Ministry of Water and Environment, lEAF II project, URA, Office of the President, Resident District Commissioners and local Government officials of the border districts.

The delegation also includes a team from the directorate of refugees which is also a cross-boundary issue.

In his opening statement, Amb Mukumbya recalled Uganda’s foreign policy objectives which include respect for international law and treaty obligations, “peaceful co-existence” as well as “promotion of regional and pan-African cultural, economic and political cooperation and integration”.

He said the meeting was a follow-up to a cross-border cooperation meeting that took place in Nebbi, in November last year to address reported conflict and skirmishes involving both government officials and citizens in the Albertine region, primarily due to the unclear border on the lake but also due to various human interventions.

The Ugandan delegation in DRC

The Ugandan delegation with DRC officials

He described the objective of the meeting as the “need to agree on viable and sustainable solutions to various challenges identified by both countries including illegal fishing, use of illegal fishing methods, over-fishing due to uncoordinated regulation policies, confiscation of fishing gear by both sides, extortionist practices on both sides, attacks on fishermen and law enforcement officials as well as reported incidences of piracy.”

Amb Mukumbya explained that through the Nile Basin Initiative, an initial cooperation on the management of Lakes Edward and Albert was established through the first Lakes Edward and Albert Pilot Fisheries Project (LEAF I), which ended in 2009.

This was followed by the establishment of a follow-up project, LEAF II.

Presenting the LEAF II project, Coordinator, Mr Stephen Ogwede together with his counterpart Mr Jeff Matungulu from the DRC said they intend to address major ‘environmental threats to the shared trans-boundary Lakes of Edward and Albert ecosystems,” with a sector goal of “poverty reduction and sustainable livelihoods for men and women (in the local fishing communities) and global environmental benefits in sustainable management” of the natural resources identified under LEAF

LEAF II is a US$ 24.2 Million project which includes an African Development Bank (AfDB) grant of US$ 8.785 Million to DR Congo, AfDB loan of US$ 7.321 Million to Uganda, and a Global Environment Facility (GEF) grant of US$ 8.1 Million to NELSAP for the LEAF regional activities.

Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Ministry publicist, Margaret Kafeero said the outcome of the meeting is expected to be a Joint Communique “spelling out the areas of agreement and joint solutions” arrived at by experts from both Governments to resolve lingering issues surrounding fishing in the Albertine region.

In Uganda, the Albertine region covers areas in the Districts of Bushenyi, Rubirizi, Mitooma, Kanungu, Ibanda, Kiruhura, Kamwenge, Kasese, Rukungiri (in Edward Basin) and Bundibugyo, Ntoroko, Hoima, Buliisa, Kibale, Kagadi, Masindi and Nebbi Districts (in Albert Basin). In DRC, the Lake Edward is in the North Kivu Province and Lake Albert in the Ituri Province.

The total population within the Albertine area is estimated to be about 12 million people.

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