NAMAYINGO. Mr Wycliff Amwayi, a resident of Singila Village in Dolwe Sub-county, Namayingo District, lost a right leg last year in a crocodile attack as he was fishing.
Mr Amwayi, who walks on crutches, says the crocodile came out of the water and tore off his leg.
“I was only saved by my fellow fishermen, who fought the vicious crocodile to the end; otherwise, I would be dead by now,” he narrates amid sobs.
The incident has since left him traumatised.
Ms Janet Mongo, another resident of Dolwe Island on the shores of Lake Victoria, narrates how the marauding reptile lunged at her while she was tending her garden.
“It (crocodile) tried to pounce on me but I run as I made an alarm and residents converged but they could not find it,” she says.
Ms Mongo says they are now living in fear because the crocodiles have started invading their homes and gardens in search of food.
“Several of our colleagues have now abandoned their homes,” she says.
Mr John Bosco Nyebenza, the Dolwe Sub-county chairperson, says in December last year, the man- eating crocodiles killed seven pupils of Butanira Primary School.
“The children were fetching water when they were attacked and killed by the crocodiles,” he says, adding that several other cases of fishermen and women losing lives are overwhelming and yet they go unreported.
He attributes the problem to lack of safe water sources in the area, which, he says, forces residents to fetch water from the lake, a habitat for crocodiles.
“The residents get water from the lake yet it is infested with hungry crocodiles that are on standby to strike at any humans and their domesticated animals,” he says.
The most affected include Butanira, Mwangoda, Golofa, Buyendo, Kadenge and Singila villages, which form part of Dolwe and Sigulu sub-counties on Bukhooli Island.
Mr Musitafa Kibuuka, the chairperson of Singila, says residents risk going to the lake because it is the main source of their livelihood through fishing.
“It is true others have deserted their homes but cannot abandon fishing because the lake is their source of livelihood,” he says.
In Butanira Village, the menace caused by the crocodiles is clearly visible.
Homes have been deserted and some children orphaned after their parents were devoured.
“Silence welcomes you to some homes in this area. The owners have either moved away or been devoured by the crocodiles,” one of the residents, Mr Matthew Odongo, says.
Mr Issa Kajumba, another resident, says crocodiles have attacked more than 20 people this year, among them school children, who had to the lake to either gone to fetch water or to bathe.
“This is serious but we have not seen any serious interventions from the concerned authorities yet people continue to lose their lives,” he asserts.
Mr John Bosco Lukwago, another resident, says President Museveni, during the 2016 general elections, promised to intervene but nothing has happened yet.
“President Museveni said when we elect him, he will help us sort out this problem but I think he has forgotten,” he says.
Mr Lukwago says it is unfortunate that government is treating crocodiles as ‘first class’ citizens while the fishermen and their families who pay taxes are neglected.
“We have been complaining for long about the crocodiles but it appears our MPs and the President think the crocodiles are more human than the islanders and that is why no one cares about people being eaten by crocodiles,” he says.
Ms Robinah Acheng, 20, whose grandparents were killed by crocodiles last year, says government should dig boreholes in the area in order to save residents.
“This will stop residents from going to the lake to fetch water and the fishermen should also be sensitised,” she says.
Mr Alfred Olila, the officer-in-charge of Dolwe Police Station, confirms the killings.
“We have received several reports of the crocodile attacks and killing of residents. It is unfortunate that as police, we cannot shoot these crocodiles or catch them because that is purely the work of the Uganda Wildlife Authority,” he says.
The area MP, Mr George Abot Ouma, promises to raise the matter on the floor of Parliament to ensure victims are compensated.
What UWA says...
The Mt Elgon National Park conservation area manager, Mr Fred Kizza, says they have embarked on the verification of information about the crocodile attacks.
“We want to establish the number of people killed and those injured and if the community agrees, UWA might construct for them cages in the area where they fetch water,” he says.
Currently, he says the country has no compensation policy for the victims of wildlife attacks.
“We can only come in to foot medical bills for the injured if they are in hospital,” he says.
He says communities will be sensitised on the dangers of the crocodiles and how to minimise the attacks.
Voice. “I will raise the matter on the floor of Parliament to ensure that the victims are compensated. Government should also find alternative water sources by drilling boreholes and providing tap water,”
George Abot Ouma, Bukhooli Island Member of Parliament