Sixteen Congolese fishermen are missing on Lake Edward, which is shared by Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, after deadly clashes between the Ugandan navy and DRC armed forces, a Congolese official said on Monday.
Thirty people are now either dead or missing after tensions on the lake erupted late last week.
“Local people are already organising wakes here and there – there are eight dugout canoes which are missing, each of which had two fishermen on board,” said Donat Kibwana, administrator of Beni territory, in the DRC province of North Kivu.
“The Ugandan navy is carrying out a manhunt. It’s impossible even to go out and recover the bodies of Congolese fishermen killed by the Ugandans,” he said.
Lake Edward, the smallest of the Great Lakes of eastern Africa, has seen a rise in tension between the two neighbours since the start of the year.
The Congolese navy is tasked with preventing militia fighters and local rebels and others from Uganda and Rwanda from operating in the area.
On Saturday, seven Congolese fishermen were killed by the Ugandan navy, two days after four Ugandan military personnel and three civilians were killed in a skirmish between the two armed forces, according to Congolese sources.
On Wednesday, a Ugandan patrol boat arrested 18 Congolese fishermen as they were casting their nets.
The DRC is sending a delegation to the Ugandan capital of Kampala “for talks to have everything return to normal, because we live off the lake,” Jonas Kataliko, the head of the fishermen’s assocation in the lakeside village of Kyavinyonge, told AFP.
The delegation comprises the chief of staff to the DRC fisheries minister, representatives from North Kivu province and Beni, and members from civil society and the Kyavinyonge association.