President Museveni has condemned the killing of four unarmed poachers in Queen Elizabeth National Park and promised to arrest the perpetuators he vilified as ‘wild’ and ‘stupid’.
The President, who was addressing a rally at Katerera playground in Rubirizi District on Thursday, described the killing of unarmed poachers as terrorism and described poachers as “thieves” who should be arrested and not killed.
“I got annoyed to hear that park officials killed [four] people,” Mr Museveni said, warning the authorities at the park.
“Those who go for poachers, you are doing wrong. A thief is not supposed to be killed, rather is supposed to be arrested and imprisoned. That is how NRM works,” he added.
The four people from Kicwamba and Magambo Sub-counties had gone to Queen Elizabeth National Park on June 25 to poach animals before they were reportedly shot dead by game rangers. The dead have been identified as Vincensio Busingye, 47, Julius Mateso, 27, Didas Byamugisha, 40 and Asaph Mbyemire, 48. Their bodies are still missing.
The families of the deceased told President Museveni, who had visited the area, that their relatives had gone to the park to inspect their traps. Other reports indicate that the four people were shot as they skinned a buffalo.
The fifth person escaped with bullet wounds even as Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) spokesperson insists that the four people could have been attacked by wild animals.
However, the killing of the poachers has sparked off rage in the community.
In 2014, the President directed the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and UWA to shoot on sight any armed poacher found in game parks. President Museveni, who was in Kidepo National Park to mark 50 years of that park, was concerned that tourism, which earned Uganda about $1.3 billion (about Shs3.3 trillion) in 2013 and had attracted more than 1.5m visitors, was being hindered by armed poachers.
In keeping with his directive, Mr Museveni told Katerera residents: “If someone is carrying a gun then you are supposed to shoot him, but those with spears and nets, why do you kill them? [Just] arrest them and take them to court and they get imprisoned to Kyamugorani so that they can pay us through digging.’’
He added: “Those who killed people in the park are wild and stupid and we are going to hunt for them. I ordered that those people be arrested because that is terrorism.”
The spokesperson of UWA, Mr Bashir Hangi, however, disputed claims that the four poachers were killed by rangers.
He said: “It is extremely hard for UWA to account for persons who enter the national parks through undesignated entry points because the park has dangerous animals.”
The President also visited different development projects in Katerera Constituency, including solar powered irrigation site for onions in Katonya Village in Mwongyera Sub-county owned by Mr Jonas Ahimbisibwe.
He visited Katerera Area Cooperative Enterprise Ltd that deals in processing of coffee and maize and pledged a lorry for transporting produce, and a mixer.
President Museveni also visited Kacu Mosque and donated to them 300 bags of cement and 300 iron sheets. He gave Kacu Muslim Primary School 300 iron sheets and pledged to give Kyamwiru Catholic Parish 250 bags of cement for completion of a church.