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Locals invade Karamoja’s most important wildlife conservancy

Residents stand in some of the opened gardens in Karenga community wildlife management area on 22 July. (PHOTO/David Mafabi)

KARENGA – Hundreds of locals have invaded Karenga community Wildlife conservation area, one of Karamoja’s most important wildlife areas.

According to Uganda Wildlife Authority, the invaders have now destroyed the conservation area opened up farmlands and set up settlements.

Karenga Community Wildlife Management Area (KCWMA) is one of the few Conservation Areas within North-eastern Uganda (the Karamoja sub-region to be precise within the new Karenga district) and is part of the Kidepo Conservation Zone.

Karenga Community Wildlife Management Area was gazetted in 2002, covers an area of over 956 square kilometers (369 square miles) and is within the Northern Acacia-Commiphora bushlands and thickets ecosystem, thus being part of the famous Kidepo Valley National Park critical scenery.

According to Mr Stephen Nyadru, the warden in charge of tourism, the common wildlife species spotted within this protected Area include leopards, giant forest hogs, warthogs, cheetahs, giraffes, over 2000 elephants, antelopes such as bushbucks, Topis, Uganda Kobs and waterbucks, buffaloes, primates such as blue monkeys and vervet monkeys among others.

Some of the houses being erected in Karenga community Wildlife Conservation area as the people erecting the houses sit to take local brew in the background. (PHOTO/David Mafabi)

Inside sources that asked for anonymity revealed that politicians led by the Kaboong district councilors, LCIII chairpersons, the Kaboong district Woman MP Ms Rose Lilly Akello and technical people at the district are the ones hiding behind several local people invading the conservation area.

When PML Daily visited KCWMA in Karenga, several lands had been opened for farming and settlements and the people in charge pointed at the LCIII chairman Kapedo Mr Ben Angelo Lokirya as the man encouraging encroachment.

Mr Sam Lochomin, the LCIII chairman for Karenga also accused his counterpart [Mr Lokirya] for telling local residents to put up buildings and demarcate land for the county headquarters in the middle of the reserve and demarcating some land at the valley dams for personal use.

Although the local people deployed in the conservation area accuse the Mr Lokirya and the Woman MP Ms Akello for sending them to open up land in the conservation area for settlement and farming, Mr Lokirya has denied being involved.

“These people should stop tarnishing my name, I am not involved in this and I think there are people working behind my back,” said Mr Lokirya.

While Ms Akello could not be reached for a comment but the RDC Mr Augustine Modo consented the KCWMA in Karenga had been encroached by politicians who want to acquire land to put up commercial buildings in preparation for the new district of Karenga

“I want to warn, those who are encroaching on the land in KCWMA, should quit immediately because they are playing with conservation. Our animals will run away to other areas and will become dangerous to human beings near the park,” said Mr Modo.

The new district of Karenga that started in July 2019 has one constituency; Dodoth West which is currently represented by State Minister Ethics and Integrity, Fr Simon Lokodo and has seven sub-counties and three town councils with a population projection of 84,100 people.

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) area conservation manager Kidepo, Mr Johnson Masereka, said the move is undermining tourism activities in the area and that if the encroachment goes on at this rate, it will have negative eco-logical effects on the area and the people.

Local residents sit in the background after constructing a hut in Karenga community Wildlife conservation area 22 July. (PHOTO/David Mafabi)

Mr Masereka said protected areas in Uganda are becoming islands surrounded by people and agriculture and that this is a relatively recent phenomenon and only 50 years ago large mammals such as elephants were able to migrate between many of Uganda’s parks and reserves.

“It is important that conservation corridors like KCWMA linking protected areas are conserved to ensure the animal populations in different protected areas can maintain some gene flow between them,” said Mr Masereka.

Community conservation areas in Uganda

According to Mr Masereka, besides Karenga Community Wildlife Management Area (KCWMA), Uganda is a home to more than 10 wildlife Reserves that include Ajai game Reserve, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Kigezi Mountain Wildlife Reserve, Bugungu Game Reserve, Pian Upe, Bokora Corridor game Reserve, Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve, Katonga Wildlife Reserve, Matheniko Game Reserve, Toro-Semliki Game Reserve, Karuma Wildlife Reserve and many others.

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