27 July 2017

Uganda: President Museveni Orders Eviction of Mubende Gold Miners - Sends the Miners in Panick

About 50,000 artisanal miners and leaders in Mubende district are in fear and panic following President Museveni's order directing them to vacate areas which Government licensed to investors.

"We are in shock that the President can approve the eviction without him coming down to hear our side of the story" says Mr Ivan Kauma Male, a project coordinator of the Singo Artisanal and Small scale miners Association (SASMA).

Mr Male, a Makerere University graduate in Electrical Engineering says it is unfair for government to evict thousands of artisanal miners who are gainfully employed and who are contributing to national development.

"This demonstrates that government has no will to support people who are struggling to earn a living in such an industry" says Male, who claims to have invested over Shs370 million in the mines in the past three years.

The artisanal miners have asked Government to atleast give them a grace period of up to one year before evicting them.

In a letter dated June 28th 2017 addressed to Members of Parliament from Mubende district, President Museveni directed that those who invaded where the investor had made excavations must straight away get out.

"The investor is there to help us to know whether there is gold and, if so, how much of it. Why should anybody interfere with this?" President Museveni wrote to law makers from the gold-rich district.

Oil in Uganda has confirmed that there have been back and forth negotiations between the artisanal miners, local leaders, investors and key officials from the central Government.

The Mubende district Woman Member of parliament Benny Bugembe Namugwanya confirmed that area MPs authored a petition to the President on June 16th 2017.

The petition requested the President to give artisanal miners more time before being evicted. The leaders also want government to grant location licenses to the artisanal miners who reportedly applied for them early last year in the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines.

"I agree to give ample time to the artisans in Mubende. That is no problem. The bigger issue is to keep in mind what we talked about in the meeting" the President said.

The President compared the minerals to a family banana plantation where by children of the family or any other family members do not cut immature bananas. Even where the bananas mature, it is the head of the family in this case Government, to determine how much bunches should be cut by whom and when.

"The ample time we talked about should be in portions that are away from where the investor had gone to work" Museveni said in a one-page letter which oil in Uganda has seen.

The Present's letter is copied to the Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, the Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Gen Kale Kayihura, the Chief of Defence Forces Gen David Muhoozi, the Defence and Veteran affairs minister Adolf Mwesige and Irene Muloni, the Energy and Mineral Development Minister.

However the Bukuya County Member of parliament Dr Michael Bukenya claimed that the Presidential directive seems to be contrary to the President's stand on artisanal miners which he stated in the 2016 presidential campaigns and the 2017 state of the nation address.

"The president acknowledged artisanal miners and promised that Government would grant them licenses", says Mr Bukenya who represents the gold-rich constituency in Uganda's tenth parliament.

"Instead of Government making steps to regularize the artisanal miners by granting them location licensees", Bukenya adds, "artisanal miners are being threatened with eviction."

He says artisanal mining in his constituency has stimulated economic growth, increased the local purchasing power, prevented rural-urban migration and created employment for thousands of people.

According to Dr Bukenya, local leaders are seeking audience with the Chief of Defence Forces, the Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and the President to explain the need to stay the eviction.

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