12 September 2017

Uganda: President Museveni Condemns Ruthless Eviction of Mubende Gold Miners

He denies knowledge of eviction plan by his army!

President Yoweri Museveni has condemned the mode of operation that was used to evict the small scale and artisanal gold miners in Kitumbi and Bukuya sub counties in Mubende district.

Mr Museveni expressed this last week ( Friday 8/09/2017) while meeting the leaders of Mubende at the State Logde in Nakayima, Mubende. The meeting comprised of the area Members of Parliament, Residential District Commissioners, District Internal Security Officer, Regional Police Commander, District Police Commander LC111s and LCVs.

When asked his whereabouts at the time of evictions by his army men, President Museveni defended self, saying his intervention was overtaken by events.

"I had wanted to come and talk to these artisanal miners but there was a misunderstanding when Members of Parliament requested me to first talk to the miners and at the same time the army officers that had been put on standby went ahead with the operation, evicted the artisanal miners and they were also denied the chance of taking their property which was not right and un necessary," Mr Museveni said.

Here he promised to ensure that miners are compensated, although he admitted that it may be difficult and may take time but allowed miners to return to work.

This same message, the President re-echoed during the radio talk show on Point FM in Mubende on Friday.

Mr. Museveni added that; "Earlier on during the Presidential campaigns, I informed the artisanal miners that they can continue with mining activities if they do not stand in the way of large scale investors that are helping us find the real gold deposits but later on, I was informed by the members of parliament that the artisanal miners operating in this area have invaded the land offered to the investor and are antoginising his work, contrary to the contract," he said.

He further explained that he has no problem with artisanal miners that were operating in this area; "we only needed to re-organise the mining sector by having the local artisans doing proper mining activities."

Mr. Museveni added that; "Uganda is endowed with very many minerals that we need to handle with care, we cannot allow the illegal mining activities to be carried out which might lead to extinction of these treasures yet with few people benefiting. We all need to benefit from the minerals as a country."

Meeting with ASMs

Mubende artisanal miners that had come to attend the meeting with the President's advisor on Land. Photo by Josephine Nabbaale

The President told Hon. Semeo Nsubuga, MP Kasanda South to organize the miners for a meeting with the President to streamline how the miners will work.

Speaking to Oil in Uganda; The secretary Singo Artisan Miners' Association Mr Emmanuel Kibirige confirmed that they were contacted by Hon. Nsubuga to prepare to meet the President.

"We are ready to meet the President; we want him to understand how organized we are and how ready we are to work with investors so that all of us benefit from the Mining sector," Mr Kibirige said.

Kibirige indicated that they have always been organized in associations and have always shown the willingness to work with the investor-AUC mining which currently holds the exploration license for this area-207.8Sqkm and a mining lease of 66sq.km which has been running for the last 23years.

The President has shown willingness to support the ASMs, with a planned visit to the mines slated for 21st October to mend fences. There is thus assurance that the miners may return to work but in a more formal way, more organized manner.

The evictions

Last month there was a Presidential directive to evict over 50,000 miners from Mubende gold mining area on grounds that the people in the mines are not registered, government doesn't know the amount of gold getting out from this area, the people operating in this area are not Ugandans and increased environmental degradation which is a threat to the nearby communities.

Many of who were evicted had no relocation plans hence were left helpless and homeless. During the evictions, property worth billions of shillings were destroyed.

However the former Permanent Secretary under Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development Dr.Stephen. Isabalija in the letter dated 02/9/2017 entitled 'statement on illegal mining activities in Uganda' explained that government was putting in place intervention for all the local artisans to be registered in all mining areas of Kitumbi and Bukuya sub counties so that they can be organized into groups that shall ultimately be regulated. This process he said would take three months.

ActionAid Uganda is equally working out a plan to support the miners to sue the Government for losses that ensued during the evictions an d the impromptu evictions without respecting the grace period that had been granted to the miners.

Josephine Nabaale and Flavia Nalubega

Oil.Uganda@actionaid.org

Uganda

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