Salim Ndayisaba and his eight-man crew of fishermen thought their lives had come to an end in May this year, when two of their three fishing boats capsized in the middle of Lake Kivu at around 2:00 am in the night.
Hell broke loose for the team that had set off for a normal fishing night when a heavy wave hit their boats and pushed them far end in the lake. They could have sailed back on the mainland but the heavy wave sank their boat. Their lives were nearing the end. Their families could not have easily known how they died; they probably could not have lived to tell the tale of water brutality.
“When fishing, we use three boats connected to each other. Each boat has three men and there is usually a captain for the whole crew,” says Ndayisaba.
“One fateful day, at around midnight, we set off for our routine fishing, it all seemed normal until around 2am when strong wind started blowing igniting a wave. We had previously experienced waves so it was of no surprise to us, we proceeded with our business but a few minutes later the waves become stronger and disconnected our boats. Two of those that were blown away sank immediately,” he narrates.
He went on to say that those that remained on the third boat called the police marine unit which intervened immediately and rescued their colleagues back to the showers.
“We had little hope of surviving or probably no hope at all but the police marine divers showed up in the shortest time possible and rescued us, that’s why they are our heroes,” says Ndayisaba.
Ndayisaba shares a similar story with Fatuma Muhawenimana, a resident of Rutsiro District, who deals in fish business and happens to be among the 85 survivors of the July incident, when the boat they were sailing in from Rutsiro en route to Rubavu, capsized.
All people on board survived.
“We were aboard the boat in the middle of the lake when the storm hit us and the engine broke down. If you have been in the middle of a lake where the only thing you see is water from all sides, then you can understand the fear we had. Fortunate enough, those that hard phones called the police and everyone felt relieved when we saw the marine boats coming,” Muhawenimana says.
The Commanding Officer of the Rwanda National Police Marine unit, Chief Supt. Methode Munyaneza expounded on how police and its partners ensure maximum security on water bodies in Rwanda.
The Police unit which was established in 2005 with 35 qualified personnel has since increased by numerous folds operating the seven marine posts across the country, including its main base in Mushonyi.
“These posts have qualified marine officers with modern equipment to ensure security and safety in all the 17 inland lakes and three others including L. Kivu, shared with neighbouring countries, as well as ensuring that these water bodies are utilized in a sustainable manner in accordance with national laws,” says CSP Munyaneza.
He called on parents and guardians residing around water bodies to put the safety of their children first by not encouraging them to fetch water in the dark or to conduct fishing activities on their own.
“We also get cases of drowning caused by drunkenness; some fishermen go in while drunk. Others, although rare, are children who escape or leave school or home to go fishing. We call upon parents and schools to take precautionary measures to prevent children from playing or carrying out any activity in waters.”
“Through Community Policing, Police Marine works with fishing communities, water transport operators, local leaders and neighbouring communities to advance knowledge on safe fishing practices, environment sustainability, and how to partner in improving the general security situation in and around water bodies.”