Two people including a UPDF soldier and a ranger of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) were killed on Friday by the Toposa, a warrior tribe in South Sudan, according to a statement by UWA.
UWA's Public Relations Manager Lillian Nsubuga named Pte Ahimbisibwe Soterus (UPDF) who was attached to UWA and a UWA ranger Pte Mathew Oyoo Odongo from Majimoto near Kidepo as the two people who perished. She also stated that the duo lost their lives as they attempted to intercept a group of poachers who had earlier killed a buffalo.
Park authorities say that rangers on patrol informed them at 9 am that they had sighted poachers at a place called Nakoromoro. The poachers, according to UWA's statement had killed a buffalo and were seen carrying semi smoked meat towards River Kidepo.
UWA responded by dispatching reinforcements and mounted a joint operation with the (UPDF) Uganda Peoples Defense Forces. The plan, according to Nsubuga was to block the poachers along River Kidepo Bridge at Maruatom and arrest them.
As they encountered the poachers it turned out that the poachers whose number was initially put at seven was a big group of warriors commonly referred to as the Toposa warrirs. In the ensuing melee, the poachers got scattered and fled. In the process of reorganizing to continue the pursuit, one poacher shot dead two people.
According to the statement some of the exhibits that were recovered at the scene included an AK47 serial number 053317 with four rounds, a bow and arrows, smoked buffalo meat, an SPLA uniform and maize flour. The guns of the deceased soldiers were recovered.
Nsubuga stated that the situation remained calm in the park and tourism activities continued without any disruption. At the time of the incident, nearly 50 tourists were having fun in the park doing game drives, community tours and carrying out nature walks.
She also added that UWA is working closely with the UPDF to investigate the incident. The families of the deceased have been informed.
Poaching remains one of the biggest challenges to the conservation of wildlife in Uganda and Africa. Game meat has a lucrative market in many African communities, while other wildlife products fetch huge prices in Asia and Europe.
Three years ago, a UPDF solider was killed in an invasion of Kidepo National park by the Toposa.
Nsubuga in the statement noted that several meetings have been held between UWA and the wildlife authorities in South Sudan regarding the issue of the Toposa invaders but a permanent solution is yet to be found to the problem.