Four Kenyan students from Busia County who were arrested and remanded at the Luzira prison in Uganda for crossing into Ugandan waters in while fishing in Lake Victoria have been released.
The students were set free after paying fines of Shs1,541,065 ($431) each after spending the last one month behind the bars.
The learners arrived in Busia town on Sunday evening after travelling by road from Luzira prison.
They learners were arrested at Bumbe beach in Funyula Sub County.
Those released are Stephen Barasa from Sisenye secondary school, Joseph Sande, a Class Eight pupil at Busembe Primary School, Derick Ouma and Polycarp Makokha who completed their Form Four last year at Busijo Secondary School.
Two other learners, Bernard Ouma and Meshack Odero are still in remand since their families could not raise the fines.
The learners were among twelve fishermen who were arrested by Uganda security officials.
“The security officials pounced on us as we were fishing in the lake in the Ugandan waters and taken to the Luzira Maximum Security Prison,” said Barasa.
The learners said life in prison was tough because of the congestion at the prison.
Ninety-two fishermen from Kenya are being detained at the prison.
“It was during the holidays when we went fishing in Lake Victoria and we found ourselves in Uganda waters. We were arrested by Ugandan security officials.
“Twelve of us were arrested and taken to Luzira prison and charged with engaging in illegal fishing. The court fined us Sh50, 000 or serve18 months in jail. Life was difficult at Luzira prison. There was no food and a place to sleep was also a problem,” said Barasa.
The learners said their parents had been forced to sell their properties, including cows, to raise the fines.
“Luckily, our parents and relatives managed to raise the fines and we were released. But our brothers are still behind bars because their parents are unable to raise the fines. We left them in tears and they asked us to do everything possible to ensure they are set free,” said Barasa.
Mr Polycarp Juma, the chairman of Bumbe Beach Management Unit (BMU) said families whose relatives had been arrested and remanded in prison were forced to sell their properties to secure their freedom.
“We have been forced to sell any valuables to raise money to pay the fines and have the learners released. Some of the families have sold their cows to have their sons released,” said Mr Juma.
He said school going children who include boys aged between 14 to 18 years go out to the lake during holidays for fishing to make some money to support their families.
The children are usually from poor families.
“There is a 16-year-old boy still in prison. When he was set free in Kampala, and since he didn’t know where to go, he went back to the police for assistance. But the police arrested him and he is now languishing in prison,” said Mr Juma.