Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Minister has been told to present to the House a comprehensive statement on the progress on the operationalisation of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Act, 2019.
Close to three years after the Act came into force, communities neighbouring national parks across the country continue to be on the receiving end of the partial enforcement of the law because those illegally found in the national parks have been punished.
However, communities who lose lives and crops to stray animals from reported protected areas have not had any chance to be compensated by UWA as provided for in the new law.
In this afternoon plenary session, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Thomas Tayebwa, wondered why Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Ministry headed by Col (rtd) Tom Butime, has not yet gazetted the regulations to operationalise the Wildlife Compensation Fund because the people neighbouring national parks are losing a lot.
“We passed a law here but people are not being compensated. Prime Minister, I have requested that the Minister comes Thursday next week with a comprehensive statement on the implementation of the law, Mr Tayebwa ruled.
The directive came after the Namayingo South law maker, Mr Michael Wanyama Odwori, raised a matter of national importance saying that the hippopotami from Lake Victoria are destroying crops in his constituency.
“As I speak, there are aquatic animals called hippopotami. They have devastated our gardens and crops. They eat everything green on the lake shores especially along the villages on the lake. The Ministry of Tourism should intervene or else we are going to face a disaster of famine,” he said.
This matter attracted concern from other legislators including Mr Robert Migadde of Buvuma Island and Mr Joseph Ssewungu of Kalungu West who wondered why people continue to be killed by wild animals and while others continue to have their gardens destroyed without compensation.
Ms Rukia Nakadama, the Third Deputy Prime Minister told the House that she was going to speak to the Minister of Tourism to take action on the case of Namayingo South but this was not well received by the MPs including the Deputy Speaker who by them was chairing parliament.
Mr Tayebwa told parliament that his constituents of Ruhinda North in Mitoona district are also affected by elephants and buffalos from Queen Elizabeth National Park that ravage their gardens.
“Our people now no longer have what to eat. Crops are destroyed by elephants and buffalos and they are not being compensated. Now, what is going to happen is that people will begin to go to the national park. And whenever people go to the national park, some of them don’t return. They are killed there. I have had some cases,” he said.
Despite in the past being put on the spot for failing to table before Parliament regulations to operationalise the provisions of the Uganda Wildlife Act, 2019, he has yet to table the regulations on compensation.
The new law
The new law provides for compensation for loss occasioned by animals escaping from wildlife protected areas.
According to the Act, compensation will be given to a person who suffers body injury or is killed or suffers damage to his or her property by wild animals.
The compensation is supposed to be effected when the victims’ legal representative submits a claim to the wildlife compensation verification committee that shall verify a claim and submit it to the board together with its recommendation.
The board will then review the claim and if approved, compensate victims according to the market rates.
Animals whose damage on crops and property are eligible for compensation include elephants, buffalos, lions, leopards, hippopotami, baboons, gorillas, chimpanzees and bush pigs.
Meanwhile, animals whose damage leads to loss of human life or causes body injury that shall be compensated for include elephants, lions, leopards, crocodiles, buffalos, hyenas, hippopotami, gorillas and chimpanzees.