Uganda in talks with Congo over Lake Albert, Edward

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Pic 1 L-R: Ms Sophie Osoo Odharu, Chief Administrator of Mahagi Territory, DRC, Mr. Jeanne-Pierre Masala, Charge D' Affaires a.i. of DRC to Uganda, Amb. Paul Mukumbya, Head of EAC & Ring States Dept MoFA and Head of Uganda Delegation, Amb. James Kinobe, out-going Ambasador of UGand ato DRC, Brig. Gen. Julius Chihandae, Charge D'Affaires a.i. of Uganda to the DRC

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

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.

The Uganda delegation, led by Amb. Paul Mukumbya, Head of the EAC & 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. The activity is partly funded by the UNDP under the peace and security cluster.

The DRC Delegation which includes the counterparts of the Ugandan team, is headed by Amb. Jean Pierre Masala, Charge D’Affaires a.i. of the DRC Embassy in Uganda.

Recalling 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.

Amb. Mukumbya said, in his opening statement, that 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.

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.

He 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 presented the aims and objectives of the LEAF II project.

They informed that the LEAF II Project aims 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 I. 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.

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.