Our attention has been drawn to an article in your newspaper titled “Wildlife body defies Museveni on Elgon Park evictions” (Daily Monitor July 22).
Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) greatly appreciates your newspaper’s interest in covering conservation and tourism issues, particularly in Mount Elgon Conservation Area, which encompasses the wildlife reserves of Pian-Upe and Matheniko-Bokora.
However in this particular article, your reporter misrepresented the chairman of UWA Board of Trustees, Mr Benjamin Otto, when he (reporter) quoted him to have directed that “All these people are in the park illegally and must be evicted before the national political campaigns in 2016”.
On the contrary, the chairman and his board members who were on a familiarisation tour of the conservation area, did visit the areas degazetted from Mount Elgon National Park in 1983 to resettle the landless Benet which was eventually grabbed by other non-Benets, but were happy to note that the Office of the Prime Minister is leading the process to reclaim some of the land and redistribute it to the genuine landless Benets, particularly in Kween and Kapchorwa Districts.
This was the reason the board members made a courtesy call and held a brief meeting with the RDCs of Kapchorwa and Kween as well as getting a brief from the land verification committee from Office of the Prime Minister.
Indeed the committee in their brief report did mention the issue of illegal claimants for the said land.
The board also visited the soft wood plantations at Kapkwata, formerly encroached and degraded areas in Mukoto and areas under court injunction in Namisindwa and Mukoto in Manafwa District. They also visited Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve where they commended staff efforts at evicting encroachers from Kukumai and Loporokocho.
UWA respects the communities living around the protected areas and believes in working with the stakeholders to follow due processes in solving attendant issues.
The board chairman in fact noted with gratitude the improved relationship between communities living near Mount Elgon National Park and UWA, and nowhere in his remarks to the management and staff of UWA as well as RDCs, did he make a directive on evictions before 2016 or any other period.
The chairman only counselled the neighbouring communities to desist from settling in the protected area which is a key water catchment area and susceptible to disasters as landslides similar to those that hit Bududa area in recent past.
Your article insinuates that the UWA board and management are defying the President’s directive to the responsible authorities to find a solution for resettling the affected families and that UWA is tampering with the process of the land verification committee, which is not true by any stretch of imagination.
Mr Muhangi is the Uganda World life Authority Public Relations Manager
SOURCE: Daily Monitor