Govt orders UWA to surrender 8,000 hectares to Kween locals

Monday August 03 2020
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A man points at some of the bee-hives in Mt Elgon National Park in November 2019. Government has ordered UWA to surrender 8,250 hectares to the landless Benet-Ndorobo people in Kween District. PHOTO | RACHEL MABALA

In a bid to end the long standing conflicts between communities and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) over land disputes in Mt Elgon National Park, government has ordered UWA to surrender 8,250 hectares to the landless Benet-Ndorobo people in Kween District.

The government also directed the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, to start the process of resettling all families that have been living temporarily in the park in the sub-regions of Sebei and Bugisu, with immediate effect.

Among the families that are earmarked for compensation to resettle themselves include 48 families in Zesui, Sironko District, Amanang and Kapsegek in Bukwo District.

The Ministry of Lands permanent secretary, Ms Dorcas Okalany, while addressing leaders from the two sub-regions at the weekend, said the exercise to implement the Cabinet directives has already started.

“We have begun the exercise by sensitising the leaders before we go to the grassroots to implement the directives to end conflicts between UWA and the communities,” Ms Okalany said.

She explained that settlements are scattered all-over the boundary line of the Mt Elgon parkland.

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“Settlements are all-over the boundary line of the park but the degazzettement will mostly take place in Sebei because in Bugisu, it is more of encroachment,” she said.

Ms Okalany added that respective local government land boards should take possession of the land recovered from the currently enforced park boundary for further management.

Mr Henry Toni, the chairperson of Kwanyiy Sub-county in Kween District, said: “The decision to degazzete 8,000 hectares in our district for the landless people is paramount and a land mark decision.”

The leaders in Sebei Sub-region have on numerous occasions faulted government’s failure to resettle landless people as the cause of endless conflicts between UWA officials and locals, which occassionaly results into loss of lives.

The RDC Kween, Mr Dennis Balwaniregha, said the resettlement of landless people will restore peace. “This is a good decision and we support it. It will bring peace and end the conflicts,” he said.

The chairperson of Namisindwa District, Mr George William Wopuwa, said this will settle the land question in Bugisu between locals and UWA.

Mr John Makombo, the director of conservation in UWA, said: “We have agreed to implement the directives and relinquish some of the said hectares to the locals.”

Last week, one of the locals in Kween was allegedly shot by UWApark rangers after he was found grazing in the parkland.

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The county. According to the report, which was compiled by the Lands ministry in 2018 following the reopening of the park boundaries, it was found that the community had encroached on more than 6,746 hectares of parkland, while UWA had also encroached on about 2,000 hectares of land belonging to the community.

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