Parliament halts evictions in Mt. Elgon National Park

The Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, has issued a directive to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officials in Sebei sub-region to halt evictions of people living around Mt. Elgon National Park.

She gave the directive on Wednesday, 17 May 2023, following a request by Kween County MP, Hon. William Chemonges to government, to follow up the matter.

"Even if these people are encroaching, they do not deserve to be replaced. Can the status quo be maintained? Can government order that UWA officials should not evict anybody?" Among said.

Chemonges said the homes of about 30 families have been destroyed in the evictions, despite that they have lived there for more than 40 years.

"Between 24 and 28 April this year, UWA carried out illegal evictions along the boundary of Mt. Elgon National Park. They uprooted crops like maize and beat up people. Up to now, nobody has come to their rescue," he said.

The Kween County MP added that the families settled there before the area was demarcated as part of the Mt. Elgon National Park, and that officials at the UWA office in Mbale had no idea of the evictions.

"In 2005 after the forest was turned into a national park, the community took government to court. Government consented that it would resettle them before they are evicted. I spoke to Mr Kiiza who heads the national park and he told me he is not aware of these evictions," he added.

In the 27 October 2005 Consent Judgment and Decree of the Uganda High Court, the 1,500 hectare area in question was to be withdrawn from its designation as a national park area and the indigenous Benet inhabitants therein were entitled to stay within the area undisturbed and carry out their agricultural activities.

Chemonges tasked the Attorney General to inform Parliament of the status of the consent judgement, and called on government to urgently resettle the affected persons.

Hon. Solomon Chelangat (NRM, T'oo County) said resettlement packages of people resettled in camps in Yotui and Teryet in Bukwo district, have not been delivered in over five years.

"Their source of livelihood is through cattle keeping but they do not have land for grazing. When they take their cows to graze in the forest, they collide with UWA officials and many of our people have been unfortunately killed," Chelangat said.

Speaker Among directed that all the affected persons of evictions in the area ought to be supported with relief from the Office of the Prime Minister.

The Third Deputy Prime Minister and Minister without Portfolio, Rukia Nakadama committed to hold a meeting this Friday to receive a report on the matter and put it to rest.

"I will call the Minister of Tourism and we shall meet with all the area MPs so that we can solve this matter and see how it can be concluded," Nakadama said.