Kabarole — High Court in Fort Portal has dismissed an application by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited seeking to remove an injunction that halts fishing activities on crater lakes in Kabarole District.
In 2015, Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU)with Kabarole District local government to restock 20 crater lakes in the district with fish.
This was after the company was licensed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries to restock all lakes in Uganda, including those in Kabarole.
The MoU gave the company exclusive rights to fish in the crater lakes for a period of 30 years.
However, the deal was contested by residents and some non-governmental organisations neighbouring Ssaka Crater Lake in Kicwamba Sub-county.
The residents together with Twerwaneho Listeners Club, a non-governmental organisation, in February 2016 sued the district local government and the Attorney General over the deal.
Court in January put an injunction on the fishing activities on the contested lakes until the main suit is heard and determined, a thing that was contested by Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited which unsuccessfully applied to court seeking to remove the injunction.
In his ruling on Monday, Justice Anthony Oyuko dismissed the application on grounds that it was found to be without merit. However, Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited argued that the injunction has led to death of several fish.
In the main suit, the residents want court to cancel the contract and declare activities of Kabarole District Local Council and Ferdsult Engineering Services as illegal, unlawful and a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined under Chapter Four of the Constitution.
Residents argue that they were not consulted when the district council resolved to lease the lakes, yet they entirely depend on fishing for a living.
However, Justice Oyuko said it will be unfair to allow Ferdsult to carry out fishing and yet the injunction applies to both parties. "The main suit against Ferdsult will be heard on May 18 and the former chief administrative officer, Mr Nicholas Ochakara, should appear in court for cross examination," court ruled.
In 2010, the Fisheries ministry drafted a policy that allows districts to lease crater lakes to investors with an aim of increasing fish production through fish cage farming. The leasing of the crater lakes has since caused uproar from a cross section of people in the district.