KAMPALA – The small scale mining sector if harnessed properly presents immense opportunities of spurring Uganda’s economic growth, , Parliament has observed.
However, the sector’s growth, legislators say, has been frustrated by unlawful operations of the Minerals Police Protection Unit (MPPU) which they accuse of evicting local miners in favour of foreign investors.
MPs made this observation on Tuesday 02, February 2021 while debating a report on the eviction of artisanal and small scale miners in the country.
Buhweju County MP, Hon Francis Mwijukye said the Unit has continued to harass miners and extorting money even when government granted them mining licenses.
“As a result of this inquiry, the artisanal miners in Buhweju were given licenses but the Minerals Police Protection Unit is still harassing them,” said Mwijukye.
Mwijukye added that since Parliament’s inquiry shows that the MPPU is illegal in its establishment, composition and operations, it should be disbanded and reconstituted.
The Chairperson of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, Hon Keefa Kiwanuka said that whereas the small scale mining sector sustains over 2 million people, government has turned a deaf ear to the plight of evictees who have since 2017 been unemployed.
Kiwanuka said that during the inquiry, his committee found out that MPPU protected ‘investors’ who in most cases were speculators, to carryout mining and evicted small scale miners who had licenses.
“In some places, the small scale miners who obtained licenses were not even allowed to carry out mining, yet the ‘investors’ have been allowed to mine in controversial circumstances,” said Keefa.
Kiwanuka added that the Ministry of Energy and Minerals Development is responsible for the suffering of the small scale miners, saying it has not taken any action on the human rights violations by MPPU.
“Even when President Yoweri Museveni directed that the 60,000 evicted miners in Mubende district be given 10 square kilometers, the area allocated to them was barren devoid of any minerals and the ministry has not helped them,” Kiwanuka said.
The Minister of State for Minerals, Hon Sarah Opendi said that her ministry was equally frustrated by the Minerals Protection Unit, which she said was operating in contempt of the ministry’s guidance.
“The Minerals Police Protection Unit has been a challenge to us; they are supposed to work under us and with us but the opposite is true” said Opendi adding that, “even the President was surprised to hear that the Unit was not supporting the ministry.”
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga directed the Minister of Internal Affairs to explain its mandate in operations of the Minerals Police Protection Unit and why it is silent on the human rights violations by the Unit.