16 October 2006

Uganda: Museveni Orders Wildlife Reserve Encroachers Out

Gulu — All encroachers on national reserves and wildlife conservation areas in Uganda have been ordered to immediately vacate them to allow wildlife to multiply.

Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni made the order in a speech read by the Third Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Information and National Guidance, Mr. Kirunda Kivejinja, to guests and dignitaries at the opening of the northern gateway of Wangkwar-Chobe into the Murchison Falls National Park, 18 km along Karuma-Pakwach Road.

"Agricultural encroachment on Mt. Elgon must stop and the Basongora pastoralists must be relocated from Queen Elizabeth National Park. Grazing in Semliki Wildlife Reserve and Kidepo National Park must be checked," the President said in the speech.

He said the encroachment began as a result of people misinterpreting a speech he made earlier this year. He said they thought he had allowed encroachment on national reserves. "I gave advice not to inhumanly evict our people who happen to have settled in the forest reserves as a result of the past bad policies. This was misinterpreted in some circles to have okayed encroachment on the national reserves," he said.

He stressed that no inhuman treatment of people should happen as a result of the evictions. He said Uganda had been positioned as one of the leading global players in environmental conservation because of its friendly policies and legislation.

Museveni said in the speech that such environmental friendly laws had led to the development of tourism and environmental protection in the country.

The president directed the Prime Minister and responsible ministers to ensure that encroachers are properly resettled and forests, national parks and wildlife resources conserved for posterity.

"We need to educate our people that these are important resources which must be protected.

Proper assessment of the affected people needs to be done, boundaries must be properly defined and the people resettled."

The park is situated in the Albertine Rift valley which is rich in oil and other mineral and biodiversity resources. Seven of the country's national parks and eight wildlife reserves are located in this belt, which has been declared a World Biodiversity Hot Spot. The belt is home of the Mountain Gorillas.

The government is yet to develop a policy on oil exploration and production and mining that will support conservation and ensure that the two land use practices complimentarily co-exist.

The park is home to varieties of wildlife that includes birds, animals and reptiles. Elephants in the park have more than doubled from their lowest of 308 in 1991 to 1,000 in 2005.

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