Flood victims invade protected land, UWA repulses

Marabou storks in Kabwoya Game Reserve, Kikuube District.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has intensified surveillance on the borders of the reserve land to prevent encroachment by hundreds of people that have been rendered homeless by floods on Lake Albert. 

Mr Bashir Hangi, the UWA spokesperson tells Kazi-njema News that pressure against the reserve land is rising across the country as people demand land for settlement. He says much as the Authority appreciates the problems communities are facing, the law on wildlife is still strict that nobody should settle there or carry out any activity there.

Mr Hangi says the Authority has done all it takes to prevent encroachment but as human communities, isolated cases of encroachment are registered and reacted upon immediately.

He says the pressure is not only around Bunyoro areas of Lake Albert but also in Rwenzori region around the River Semuliki and other rivers that experienced flooding near Queen Elizabeth National Park.

He asks the community to avoid encroaching on national parks and game reserves in order to be safe from wild animal attacks.

Audio: Hangi on encroachment (English)

However, Daniel Muhairwe Mpamizo, the Buhaguzi County Member of Parliament in Kikuuube district insists UWA should be considerate and at least sign a memorandum of understanding that will allow people to temporarily settle in the protected game reserves, access firewood and construction materials in order to get shelter. He says as an emergence approach, it could help the suffering Ugandans.

Audio: Muhairwe on request (English)

The legislator however, blames the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness for failing to respond to these emergencies that have left thousands of people unattended to for nearly the whole year.

Audio: Muhairwe on disaster preparedness (English)

Local leaders in Butyaba and Bugoigo sub-counties, Buliisa district that spoke to Kazi-njema News have sighted pastoralists sneaking into the park area for grazing after most of their grazing land was flooded.

Pastoralists claim the situation is dire thus request the government to look at their situation as a historical disaster and a humanitarian crisis.

However, Mr Bashir Twesigye, the Executive Director for the Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED) is not different from UWA on resisting any form of illegal settlement and carrying out of activities in protected areas.

According to him, any form of compromise will have opened a window for encroachment elsewhere in the country since the problem of floods is evident on all protected areas including Queen Elizabeth and Kidepo National Parks.

Much as he appreciates the humanitarian crisis resulting from floods, he urges the communities to appreciate the importance of conservation areas.

Audio: Twesigye on law (English)

Flood victims have been looking around for the resettlement plan pledged by government since mid-last year.

In November 2020, the Kigorobya County Member of Parliament, David Karubanga, promised the residents of Runga and Kibiro landing sites that government was working it out.

In December, ahead of the presidential campaign visit to Hoima, the Prime Minister, Dr David Livingstone Ruhakana Rugunda, held a press conference in Hoima city affirming the plan was underway.

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