The newly appointed State Minister for Fisheries, Hellen Adoa (pictured above) is an amiable Member of Parliament.
However, since her appointment getting to interview her has not been a walk in the park.
This reporter with relentless effort finally caught up with the Minister on Saturday night and had an interactive telephone interview where she outlined five critical strategies she intends to pursue in an effort to find a lasting solution to the fishing industry woes.
Hellen Adoa for starters is the Woman Member of Parliament for Serere District. She outclassed the then Forum for Democratic Change (FDC’s) Secretary General and strong woman, Alice Alaso to take the seat on NRM ticket in 2016.
Adoa has etched her name in Serere’s history being a leading educationist with Several Halycon and Mama Adoa Schools right from Soroti District to Serere.
Unlike other Members of Parliament who have been in the August House for years, Adoa is already felt in the District with many women groups benefiting.
Now she becomes the first Minister to be appointed from Serere District since it was curved out of Soroti District.
Below are excerpts of the Interview;
Qn: Congratulations Honorable upon your appointment as State Minister for Fisheries.
A: Thank you Mark, and thanks for your prayers.
Qn: I understand that you were among the Ministers who were cleared by the Appointments Committee of Parliament. How did the vetting go?
A: Well my interaction with the Committee went on very well; in fact I spent only 20 minutes with the Committee which was the least time spent on Appointees. I am optimistic that they will support my appointment.
Qn: Now that your appointment is as good as done, what do you intend to do to bring back sanity into the Fisheries department given that there is widespread condemnation of activities of UPDF in trying to stop illegal fishing practices in Ugandan Lakes by even your own colleagues in Parliament?
A: I have five things to embark on immediately I am sworn in by His Excellency the President of Uganda.
The first thing I will do is to meet all Members of Parliament that represent Fishing Communities.
The purpose is for us to share experiences; Experiences of what our people have been doing in as far as fishing is concerned, experiences of UPDF activities in our Lakes and see if we can forge an amicable way forward.
Secondly, I will meet UPDF Lake Protection Unit. In that meeting, I will want them to tell me what they have done, what they have achieved and what they think is the best way forward given that there is widespread condemnation of their activities.
Thirdly, after meeting UPDF Lake Protection Unit, I will then meet Beach Management Units in all Lakes together with the respective fishermen. They should be able to tell me their experiences and recommendations.
By the way, I intend to make Serere District a model fishing community where fishermen willingly use recommended fishing gear and recommended fishing practices such that they are able to carry out their activities without the presence of UPDF.
I can easily achieve this because it is my constituency.
I know the fishermen and in fact they are one of my biggest support blocks. In my campaigns in 2016, I spoke to fishermen in Serere and they told me recommended fishing gear cost Shs40,000 each. To me, these can be afforded by fishermen. At that time I bought for them life jackets, so as you can see I already have a good working relationship with Serere fishermen.
Fourthly, I intend to use the first six months of my tenure to carry out vigorous sensitization of Fishermen, Beach Management Units and the Local leadership about government’s good intention of preserving our Lakes for our own good.
Lastly, I want to encourage aquaculture where fish farmers should have fish ponds and practice cage fish farming for those that are close to water bodies.
However to achieve this, government should subsidize on fish food prices because I have learnt that fish food is expensive and it is one reason farmers are scared of fish pond farming. Electricity Tariffs should also be reduced such that these farmers are encouraged to venture into alternative fish sources.
Qn: Honorable all that is well said, but there is widespread apprehension that government is hiding behind preserving the Lakes and therefore fish for the common man’s good yet in actual sense these Lakes have been sold off. In essence even when the fish population is restored, the common man will not benefit from it?
A: I want to be categorical here. It is not true that the Lakes have been sold. These are God given resources that must benefit the host communities. I was personally educated through fish proceeds. UPDF has only been deployed to rescue the Lakes from bad fishermen, unscrupulous individuals and criminals who used to beat and rob genuine fishermen.
The UPDF must be appreciated for the work they have done. You should note that before UPDF entered the Lakes all fish factories had closed down because there was no longer fish as a raw material to sustain their operations. Now after the intervention of UPDF, four factories have already re-opened and we expect more to follow suit.
Qn: Your appointment has been received with guarded anticipation because the President has had a history of appointing and deploying Iteso where there is fire. When there was fire in the Rwenzururu Kingdom, the President appointed Rose Akol as Minister of Internal Affairs. During the same crisis, it was the then Brigadier Peter Elwelu who commandeered the attack on the palace. Now there is an obvious standoff between Parliament and the Executive over the presence of UPDF in the Lakes and it is at this critical moment that you have been appointed. Do you believe your appointment is genuine?
A: I believe my appointment is genuine and if there is fire in the Ministry, then the President has confidence in me and knows I have the capacity to deal with that fire. You should also know that the best person to deal with the Fishing Industry should be one who has grown in a fishing community like me.
I also want to assure detractors who are saying I will lose my seat because I am superintending the sale of Lakes that they are wasting time. In 2016, I won in all Landing Sites in Serere and therefore those that will come saying I am being used to sell Lakes will lose miserably.
– By Mark Omagor/ eastnews