The opposition in Parliament has castigated the government’s lukewarm response to lake week’s boat accident on Lake Victoria which claimed at least 20 lives.
Addressing a press conference at Parliament this morning, a section of Opposition MPs led by the Shadow Minister for Fisheries, also Kalangala Woman MP, Helen Nakimuli, accused the government and the police of doing little in the ongoing efforts to retrieve bodies of travellers who were aboard the ill-fated boat.
The passenger boat locally known as Ekinaala capsized on 2nd August 2023 near Nsazi island. It was carrying passengers and merchandise from the Lwambatya landing site in Kalangala district to the Kasenyi landing site near Entebbe.
So far 16 bodies have been retrieved from the lake.
“The local fishermen are the ones retrieving the bodies. What the marine police are doing is to wait for the bodies ashore and take photos and videos to claim involvement in the exercise,” Nakimuli said.
She was flanked by MPs, Moses Kabuusu (FDC, Kyamuswa), Suzan Nakaziba Mugabi (NUP, Buvuma Woman), Betty Ethel Naluyima (NUP, Wakiso Woman), Charles Tebandeke (NUP, Bbaale) and Charles Matovu (NUP, Busiro South).
“It is absurd that up to now, no [government] minister has gone to the scene, we are wondering where the ministers for Disaster Preparedness, Works and Transport and that of Fisheries are hiding! They are keeping in their offices to issue [unrealistic] guidelines,” Nakimuli said.
To improve safety on the lake, Nakimuli asked the government to do a fresh navigation survey of all the lakes in the country to aid the production of a new navigation chart with well-mapped and marked danger spots to be avoided by sailors.
“The season between June and August is dangerous and we usually advise our people not to travel during this time but because the islands are not well served in terms of social services, it becomes inevitable for them to move across the islands,” Nakimuli said.
“For instance, if somebody wants to access health services, out of the 84 islands in Kalangala district, health centres are at only 8 islands. People have to cross from the other Islands to the eight where they can find a health centre,” she added.
Kyamuswa MP, Moses Kabuusu, urged the government to implement the USD 14.7 million project for the construction of maritime rescue centres on Lake Victoria than moving to restrict night movements on the lake.
“We demand that the government builds the rescue centres in all districts as money was appropriated by Parliament,” Kabuusu said.
The rescue centres are part of the over USD 36 million loan facility that the African Development Bank (ADB) advanced to Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania under the Lake Victoria Basin Commission of the East African Community (EAC).
Under the loan facility for Uganda, nine rescue centres were earmarked for construction to aid the improvement of the safety of life and transport on the lake.