UWA BOARD CHAIRMAN MISQUOTED BY DAILY MONITOR
In the Daily Monitor of Tuesday, Issue number 203 dated 22nd July,2014 on Page 19, under the title “Wildlife body defies Museveni on Elgon park evictions” it is alleged that the UWA Board chairman Mr. Benjamin Otto did direct staff to evict the people who are settled in Mt. Elgon National Park illegally by 2016".
It is true the Board members and members of top management spent five working days in the conservation area which includes Pian-Upe and Matheniko Bokora Wildlife reserves on a familiarization tour between July 14th -18th,2014. However,the reporter who has been good at covering issues from the region,this time misrepresented the chairman UWA Board of Trustees Mr. Benjamin Otto when he (reporter) quoted him to have directed that “All these people are in the park illegally and must be evicted before the national political campaigns in 2016”.
On the contrary, the chairman and his board members , did visit the areas degazetted from Mount Elgon National Park in 1983 to resettle the landless Benet which was eventually grabbed by other non-Benets, but were happy to note that the Office of the Prime Minister is leading the process to reclaim some of the land and redistribute it to the genuine landless Benets particularly in Kween and Kapchorwa Districts.
This was the reason the Board members made a courtesy call and held a brief meeting with the RDCs of Kapchorwa and Kween as well as getting a brief from the Land verification committee from Office of the Prime Minister. Indeed the committee in their brief report, did mention the issue illegal claimants for the said land.
The Board also visited the soft wood plantations at Kapkwata, formerly encroached and degraded areas in Mukoto and areas under court injunction in Namisindwa and Mukoto in Manfwa District. They also visited Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve where they commended staff efforts at evicting encroachers from Kukumai and Loporokocho.
UWA respects the communities living around the protected areas and believes in working with the stake holders to follow due processes in solving attendant issues.
The board chairman in fact noted with gratitude the improved relationship between communities living near Mount Elgon National Park and UWA, and nowhere in his remarks to the management and staff of UWA as well as RDCs, did he make a directive on evictions before 2016 or any other period.In fact, the board avoided addressing any groups of people who gathered around the protected area since it was not on his agenda.
The chairman only counseled the neighboring communities,during the commissioning of the Caldera Guest House in Mbale Municipality, to desist from settling in the protected area which is a key water catchment area and susceptible to disasters such as landslides similar to those that hit Bududa area in recent past.
The article insinuates that the UWA board and management are defying the President’s directive to the responsible authorities to find a solution for resettling the affected families and that UWA is tampering with the process of the land verification committee, which is not true by any stretch of imagination.
Conserving for Generations