After strong lobbying, technical and material support from the Lakes Edward and Albert Integrated Fisheries and Water Resources Management Project (LEAF II) of NELSAP, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Uganda signed the Bilateral Agreement for Sustainable Management of Fisheries Resources and Aquaculture in Lake Edward and Lake Albert and their Basins. The agreement was signed at Munyonyo Resort Uganda on the 20th October 2018 by his Excellency Paluku Kisaka Yere Yere, Minister of Fisheries and Livestock on behalf of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Hon. Kibanzanga M.T Christopher, Minister of State for Agriculture on behalf of the Republic of Uganda. The Bilateral Agreement recognizes the right of each country to equitable access and utilization of the water and aquaculture resources in a sustainable manner. It forms mechanisms for harmonization of fisheries policies and joint management and joint surveillance of activities of the two lakes.
Work on this Bilateral Agreement begun when LEAF II project, with support from the Africa Development Bank, AfDB and the Global Environment Facility, GEF, hired an international consultant and jurist to study the fisheries laws and regulations existing in the two countries. LEAF II Project further organized national level dialogues in the two countries bringing together top legal experts, other stakeholders and the ministries of the two countries. Joint meetings were then organized with participation of both countries. The Project also supported the actual drafting of the signed Bilateral Agreement and processes for prior consensus on its clauses. The project then handed the draft Bilateral Agreement back to the countries for approval. A key outcome of the bilateral agreement is the establishment of a joint commission, the Lake Edward and Lake Albert Fisheries and Aquaculture Organization, which once established will be a permanent organization managing the two trans-boundary lakes and will be composed of representatives of the two countries and led by a council of ministers from the two countries. The Commission will be led by a joint Executive Committee and a joint Secretariat. This Bilateral Agreement also paves way for development of the Lakes Edward and Albert Basin Development Plan, which is expected to attract investors and reduce poverty in the basins of the two lakes.
The Bilateral Agreement is further expected to help eradicate conflicts, standardize fishing practices and pave way for joint surveillance of fishing activities on the two lakes, a process that will be supported by among others supply of four high speed, world class surveillance boats to be done by LEAF II project. It will also lead to joint catchment management plans, for which the project is already laying the groundwork. The project is currently making follow-up and supporting the enforcement of the clauses in the Bilateral Agreement. The Agreement also paves way for establishment of alternative livelihoods projects that will reduce over dependence on the lakes by communities living near them.
For years there has been tensions and disagreements between the two countries on the use and management of resources of the two lakes. This has been occasioned by conflicting policies and different systems of regulating fishing and catchment management. For example fishing closure periods were previously not synchronized leading to arrests of fishermen who unknowingly went to the ‘wrong’ side of the lakes, not considering that the lakes have no visible international boundary. The standard authorized nets also differed between the two sides, with some fishermen using very small sized nets which led to capture of small immature fish while at the same time exposing them to arrest.
GOVERNMENTS OF THE D.R CONGO AND UGANDA SIGNING THE BILATERAL AGREEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF RESOURCES OF LAKES EDWARD AND ALBERT OCTOBER 20, 2018 IN KAMPALA, UGANDA