by Ronald Ssekandi
BULIISA, Uganda, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- It was all funfair as the village football team at Kawayibanda landing site on the shores of Lake Albert prepared to face its rival in neighboring Hoima district.
Kick off time was supposed to be at 2:00 P.M. local time on Christmas Day, but there were some delays as the village team, dubbed Kawayibanda Football Club, lacked transport.
The tiny landing site was not ready to see their team miss out walloping their neighbors in the friendly match.
A villager offered his motorized boat to transport the team. At 4:00 P.M., the team of about 30 players and 15 fans set off as the remaining villagers bid them farewell.
Barely 100 meters away from the shores, trouble started, when a strong wind, according to eyewitnesses, hit the boat and it capsized. A battle ensued as the occupants were fighting not to drown.
People on the shore could not believe their eyes as their beloved team was drowning.
Raymond Soro, the team coach and one of the survivors told Xinhua in an interview on Tuesday that the accident was caused by the coxswain.
"He sat up on the boat and was using his legs instead of the hands to control the boat. When a strong wind came, he hurried to use his hands and in the process, the boat lost balance and capsized," a tearful Soro said.
The accident left nine people killed, including two players and seven fans. Among the dead fans was an 18 year old girl who left behind a three month old baby.
Thirty six others were rescued and some were hospitalized.
Police blamed the accident on overloading and drunkenness of the occupants of the boat.
"This boat is not supposed to be used for human transport, it is supposed to be used for fishing. If it was supposed to take people, it should have taken at most 18 or 20 but this was double what it was supposed to carry," John Rutagira, Buliisa District Police Commander told Xinhua.
He said none of the occupants on the boat had a life jacket.
This accident was another statistic of the many that have occurred on this lake that is shared between Uganda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Police figures show that countless accidents on both sides of the border have claimed many lives over the years.
One of the notable accidents was in March 2014 where about 250 people, most of whom Congolese refugees, died when a boat they were traveling in capsized as they tried to cross into Uganda. They were fleeing fighting back home.
In April this year over 50 people also perished on the lake. According to police, there are also many unrecorded deaths as many fishermen die on the lake as they go fishing especially at night.
CAUSE OF ACCIDENTS
According to police on the Ugandan side of the border, strong winds from DRC normally sweep across the lake creating huge waves that destroy whatever they find on their way.
This is complicated by fishing communities overloading their boats and refusing to wear life jackets despite police sensitization.
"At times we make sure that before the boat takes off, all passengers must put on life jackets. But before they move 100 meters away from the shore, they remove them, saying they are a bother," Rutagira said.
He also said that because of the hugeness of the Lakes, police is thinly spread and cannot be in different places at the same time.
He said police is going to continue sensitizing the fishing communities on safe water transport.