KARENGA – The minister of tourism, Wildlife and antiquities has halted the construction of the new Karenga district local government headquarters.
Prof Ephraim Kamuntu said the local leaders have ignorantly chosen a site in Karenga wildlife conservation area that was likely to escalate the Wildlife-Human conflict in the area.
He explained that further that the site in Karenga conservation area also a wildlife corridor which animals use to trace for water for drinking and dams during dry seasons and that the administration had failed to adequately explain why it had shifted from its earlier site outside the conservation area.
“Your district headquarters should not antagonize conservation in this area because conservation of Wildlife is the main source of revenue you have for the district, let us stop this, revisit the location site and work with other people to rethink this site,” said Prof Kamuntu 5 December at Karenga conservation area.
This decision from the minister has dealt a stinging setback to the district local government leaders who had reportedly already received the money from the government to commence construction.
The decision by the minister followed a petition by some residents of Karenga district and Uganda Wildlife Authority who have already petitioned office of the president, ministry of local government and parliament that the location of the proposed site and the procedure were not well explained to the people.
This decision comes at the time hundreds of locals have invaded Karenga community Wildlife conservation area, one of Karamoja’s most important wildlife areas and according to Uganda Wildlife Authority, the invaders have now destroyed the conservation area opened up farmlands and set up settlements that are likely to chase away animals.
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, Karenga district councilors and technical people at the district are the ones hiding behind several local people invading the conservation area.
When PML Daily visited area, 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 Peter Obach, the Karenga district LCV chairman said they have sat as a council and agreed that the headquarters should be constructed inside the conservation area because it is the middle point for all the sub-counties.
“We have even got they money from the government, secured the contractor and he has already visited the site to start the construction, so for us we shall go ahead and construct,” said Mr Obach backed by local leaders including the assistant secretaries in the district.
Mr Johnson Masereka, the area conservation manager, Kidepo Valley National Park said the site of the headquarters has experienced for several years of destruction of crops, killing of people by Wild animals that 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 velvet monkeys among others straying from Kidepo valley national park.
“And besides there are dams constructed for Wild animals along this corridor so we don’t want people to be killed whenever animals are on their usual way through this corridor to the dams,” said Mr Masereka.
Mr Sam Mwandha, the executive director at UWA, who was part of the meeting, said the relocation of the administrative headquarters needs to be revisited and consultations on issues going to affect the conservation area take place first.
“We are giving land for the district headquarters within the conservation area, why haven’t we thought about other areas? Let us look at presently where the district is, what is disturbing it there? We need to rethink conservation for this country. You have just received money from conservation and you want to destroy the conservation area, I think there is need to rethink this,” said Mr Mwandha.
He added: “There will be other structures proposed for this town council like health facilities, schools, churches, mosques etc. Where are you going to put them, aren’t you going to take the whole conservation area?,” he added.
The meeting done in the Karenga conservation area resolved that the relocation and building of the district headquarters be delayed until consultations are completed.
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.
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.