27 June 2014

Zambia: 58 Samfya Squatters Nabbed

POLICE and the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) officers have evicted 58 people from the Kalasa Mukoso Game Management Area (GMA) in Samfya.

In a joint operation by the Zambia Police, ZAWA, Immigration Department and the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) officers on Wednesday this week in Kalasa Mukoso GMA, 58 people were apprehended for illegally staying in a game reserve.

Luapula Province police chief, Malcolm Mulenga said the operation started at 05:00 hours.

"The targets were illegal squatters, poachers and illegal immigrants. The operation lasted for about eight hours.

"After the operation, 58 people were apprehended who consisted mainly women and children. After a thorough screening, 13 suspects were taken into custody and taken to Samfya Police Station where they are detained and will be charged appropriately," Mr Mulenga said.

Those arrested ranged between 22 and 72 years old.

The others, mainly women and children were warned and later released to return to their villages.

During the operation, some squatters managed to flee using dugout canoes to nearby villages and fishing camps in the hope of returning back thereafter.

However, Mr Mulenga said all makeshift shelters were burnt down.

The operation ended around 17:00 hours.

Mr Mulenga said the problem of illegal squatters in Kalasa Mukoso GMA was historical as initially, the squatters lost their case in court in 2007 and they were evicted.

He said since then, the squatters have been slowly moving back to the GMA along Mukuku Bridge for fishing, thereby threatening wildlife.

Last month, a combined team of officers from the provincial joint operations commission went to sensitise them and an ultimatum of one week was given for the squatters to leave of which most of them heeded.

However, those that were apprehended on Wednesday remained.

Mr Mulenga said the squatters exposed themselves to inhuman conditions as there were no sanitary facilities in the GMA.

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