The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Thomas Tayebwa, has asked the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Col Tom Butime to present to the House a comprehensive statement on the progress on the operationalization of the Uganda Wildlife Act, 2019.
Close to three years after the Act came into force, communities neighboring the national parks across the country continue to be on the receiving end of the partial enforcement of the law because those illegally found in the national parks have been punished.
However, communities who lose lives and crops to stray animals from the protected areas have not had a chance to be compensated by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) as provided for in the new law.
During this afternoon plenary session, Tayebwa wondered why the Minister of Tourism has not yet gazetted the regulations to operationalize the Wildlife Compensation Fund because the people neighbouring national parks are losing a lot.
“We passed a law here but people are not being compensated. Prime Minister, I have requested that the Minister comes Thursday next week with a comprehensive statement on the implementation of the law” the Deputy Speaker ruled.
The directive came after Michael Wanyama Odwori, the Member of Parliament for Namayingo South, rising on a matter of national importance said that the Hippopotami from Lake Victoria have been destroying crops for his constituents.
“As I speak, there are aquatic animals called Hippopotami, they have devastated our gardens and the crops. They eat everything green on the lake shores especially along the villages on the lake. The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife should intervene or else we are going to face a disaster of famine.” Said Odwori.
This matter attracted concern from other legislators with Buvuma Island’s Robert Migadde and Kalungu West’s Joseph Ssewungu wondering why people continue to be killed by the wild animals and others see their gardens destroyed without compensation.
Third Deputy Prime Minister, Rukia Nakadama told Parliament that she was going to speak to the Minister of Tourism to take action on the case of Namayingo South. But this was not well received by the MPs including the Deputy Speaker who was in the chair.
Tayebwa informed Parliament that his own Constituency, Ruhinda North in Mitooma District is also affected by the elephants and buffalos from Queen Elizabeth National Park which have been ravaging their gardens.
“Our people now no longer have what to eat. Crops are destroyed by elephants and buffalos and they are not being compensated. Now what is going to happen is that people will begin to go to the national park. And whenever people go to the national park, some of them don’t return. They are killed there. I have had some cases” Tayebwa said.
Minister Butime has in the past been put on the spot for failing to table before Parliament regulations to operationalise the provisions of the Uganda Wildlife Act, 2019 but he has yet to table the regulations on compensation.
The new law provides for compensation for loss occasioned by animals escaping from wildlife protected areas.
According to the Act, compensation will be given to a person who suffers body injury or is killed or suffers damage to his or her property by wild animals.
The Compensation is supposed to be affected when the victims’ legal representative submits a claim to the wildlife compensation verification committee. The committee shall verify a claim and submit it to the board together with its recommendation. The board will then review the claim and if approved, compensate victims according to the market rates.
Animals whose damage on crops and property are eligible for compensation are; elephants, buffalos, lions, leopards, hippopotami, baboons, gorillas, chimpanzees and bush pigs.
Meanwhile, animals whose damage leads to loss of human life or causes body injury that shall be compensated for are; elephants, lions, leopards, crocodiles, buffalos, hyenas, hippopotami, gorillas and chimpanzees.