Rusizi residents cautioned over fishing wrangles

RUSIZI - Police and Rusizi District authorities have urged Nkombo Island residents to be more vigilant following the death of two fishermen.Last Thursday, two fishermen were allegedly killed at the island and their bodies dumped in Lake Kivu.
Nzamwita gives an account of how he survived an assault from Congolese who killed two of his fellow fishermen. The New Times /Lilian Nakayima.
Nzamwita gives an account of how he survived an assault from Congolese who killed two of his fellow fishermen. The New Times /Lilian Nakayima.

RUSIZI - Police and Rusizi District authorities have urged Nkombo Island residents to be more vigilant following the death of two fishermen.

Last Thursday, two fishermen were allegedly killed at the island and their bodies dumped in Lake Kivu.

The incident occurred in Kimenya Cell on the Rwandan side of the lake that is shared with the DRC.

The suspected killers are believed to have come from the DRC

The deceased, whose bodies are yet to be recovered, were identified as Theoneste Bidakuya, 48 and Jackson Rwanika 31, both fishermen.

During a meeting with local and security officials, a survivor of the incident, Vianney Nzamwita, reported that wrangles emerged after Rwandans confiscated fishing nets from Congolese fishermen caught fishing in Rwandan waters.

“In Rwanda ‘kaningini’ nets were banned because they catch young fish. But the Congolese keep fishing in our waters using those illegal nets which is a loss to us,” said Nzamwita.

On the gruesome day, Nzamwita, together with five fishermen who are also members of a cooperative which monitors fishing activities on Lake Kivu, confiscated three illegal fishing nets from DRC fishermen.

This was not well received by the Congolese fishermen who later instigated a fight with the backing of their compatriots who had arrived to the Rwandan side of the lake with machetes and clubs.

In an ensuing scuffle, they drowned Rwandan fishermen which resulted in the deaths of the two fishermen. However, three others managed to escape.

This was not the first time DRC nationals had committed such acts, according to Remy Ugirashebuja, the co-coordinator of fishing cooperatives.

In May, a Rwandan was shot at by Congolese in Gihaya, an area near Nkombo, Ugirashebuja said.

Nkombo residents allege that on several occasions, Congolese soldiers have crossed over to the island to rob Rwandans of their fish and take people hostage for ransom.

A group of Rwandan fishermen also reported having been shot at, a month ago.

Local residents say fights emerge because nobody knows the exact boundaries separating the Rwandan and Congolese waters, poverty in the Ibinja parts of DRC and revenge by angry Congolese whose illegal fishnets are often impounded and set ablaze by Rwandan authorities.

Rusizi Mayor, Oscar Nzeyimana, called upon Nkombo residents to report any threats, and avoid vengeance.

“Lake Kivu is your survival. This is why you should all ensure security and co-operation with neighbours,” he said.

The RDF marine unit promised to work closely with the police to ensure security for Rwandans.

Nkombo Island is in Lake Kivu and borders DRC. This makes it difficult to identify boundaries since some areas are close to Rwanda.

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