MBALE – The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has stopped evicting encroachers in Mount Elgon National Park until Parliament pronounces itself on the new boundary.
Mr Fred Kizza the Mt Elgon Conservation manager said UWA would not also allow new encroachers into the national park after this resolution.
Mr Kizza said this follows a resolution reached with Mt Elgon zone political leaders after the fresh survey of the mountain at a meeting in Resort Hotel in Mbale that agreed that the status quo be upheld until parliament comes up with a decision on the matter.
“No crops will be destroyed within the old areas but fresh crops in gazetted/prohibited areas will be destroyed and the people who were in the park at the time of the survey are to remain there until a decision is taken by parliament but this calls for no further encroachment,” said Mr Kizza
“And where the survey has excised land which was formerly occupied as parkland, the communities should not occupy or utilise the same until a decision is reached on how such areas should be handled,” added Mr Kizza while speaking to PML Daily in Mbale on September 8.
This comes after leaders in the Elgon Sub-region petitioned the government on several occasions calling for its intervention in the unending clashes that had led to loss of lives, property, displacement and mistrust.
Mr Kizza revealed that the meeting also resolved that court judgments and injunctions be respected until government resettles the displaced people within Mt Elgon Park.
The 2017 UWA encroachment status report indicates that more than 12,000 people have illegally settled in the park over the last years.
Mt. Elgon National Park was gazetted in 1993 in recognition of the fragile nature of its ecological system as a whole and the need to sustain ecological functions and life support services it provides to people.
He explained that previously, the park was a forest reserve and it had been heavily degraded as a result of encroachment 6,000 hectares of land were left for resettlement of the Benet people who are indigenous to the forest ecosystem in the mountain.
Although the proposal by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development was to re-open Mt Elgon National Park boundaries basing on the 1968 Geo-maps, the leaders disagreed with this and proposed demarcation of the park basing on the 1983 and 1993 boundaries.
Mr Kizza said the resolution to end evicting people during surveying was meant to streamline ownership of the land and bring to an end the long standing conflicts between Uganda Wildlife Authority and the neighbouring communities that have left many dead and several displaced.
The Elgon area conservation manager, Mr Fred Kizza, explained that the perennial squatter problem in Mt Elgon area once again topped the survey meeting and that the report will proffer a solution without compromising the ecological functions of the park.
“We are just waiting for the report and we are sure it will provide for compensation of those staying in the park or resettlement which we are ready to provide as UWA,” Mr Kizza said.
According to the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development spokesperson, Mr Dennis Obbo, the ministry used the statutory gazette document for Mt Elgon to start the surveys on Mt Elgon.
He said the survey has captured all areas affected by court cases to determine whether they are within or outside the gazetted boundary for dispute resolution.