Lake Albert evictions: CSOs intensify spotlight into floods and Covid-19 impact

A girl at Lake Albert's Kyabarangwa landing site preparing lunch in a scorching sun after her family was evicted from Kyamwaana landing site in Kibiro fishing village, Kigorobya Sub-county, Hoima District. Her family is among those accommodated in the background church. Credit John Kibego.

“There are illegalities on top of alleged illegalities which is total anarchy and confusion unfortunately involving government agencies. This must stop,” says Mr Twesigye. “I believe there are opportunists taking advantage of conflicting government directives,” he adds.

Thousands continue joining the queue for the homeless due to either natural floods or government evictions from landing sites pigeonholed as illegal and undermining efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 on the shores of Lake Albert.

Given the lockdown situation, displacements plague communities whose sources of livelihood have been crippled since late March 2020 when the COVID-19 outbreak was announced in Uganda.

However, in response to the situation, Civil Society Organisations have heightened efforts to sensitise communities to vacate wetlands as well as ask the government to halt the evictions for whatsoever and start the process of compensating those who are already evicted for allegedly settling on illegitimate landing sites.

In an in-depth interview about the displacements that have affected more than 50,000 persons since April 2020, Kazi-njema News spoke to Mr Bashir Twesigye, Executive Director for the Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED).

In an eight-minute interview with Kazi-njema’s John Kibego, Mr Twesigye also advises encroachers on wetlands to vacate and respect the law as they plot to sue government for the evictions so far effected.

Audio: Mr Twesigye in a full interview with Kazi-njema’s John Kibego (English)

Initially, the government said the evictions could affect 200 landing sites including more than 30 closed so far but in the middle of the exercise some communities were added on the eviction list for fear that they would be swiped away by submerging Lake Albert waters.

An abandoned homestead submerged by Lake Albert waters at Kyabarangwa landing site in Kibiro fishing village, Kigorobya Sub-county in Hoima District. Credit: John Kibego.

During a radio talk show organised by CRED at Spice FM last week, Ms Joselin Nyangoma, the Hoima District Natural Resources Officer conceded that people have encroached on many wetlands despite government efforts advising them to vacate.

She says limited enforcement was, however, caused by the few police officers attached to environmental protection unit compared to the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) army personnel deployed under the fisheries unit.

Audio: Nyangoma on wetlands (Runyoro/Rutooro)

More reactions about Lake Albert displacements come from the Hoima district health department that condemned the exercise on grounds that it was a violation of the Public Health Act which requires to prepare the sanitation situation for the evictees.

The Buseruka Sub-county LC 3 Chairman, Mr Ali Tinkamanyire, said it was important to close the landing sites because the security threat was becoming serious while the Natural Resources Officer says it will help to overcome illegal fishing.

Uganda’s President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, has been openly condemning encroachers on wetlands and criticising the local authorities and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) for failing to protect the environment.

Audio: President Museveni on encroachment (Runyoro/Rutooro)

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report of 2015 that followed a 10-year monitoring of the state of wetlands in Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono districts shows an alarming level of wetland degradation in the country.

UNEP urges the government to turn its attention to environmental protection.

In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly at the beginning of the year, Mr Antonio Guteres, the United Nations Secretary General said global warming and environmental degradation in the past decade melted records exposing the planet earth to more horrendous disasters than any time before in modern history.

“We are really off-track and our planet is burning,” said Mr Guteres.

He urged governments to fulfill their international obligation of conserving the environment.


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