UGANDA: Mount Elgon Eviction Has Reduced Us to Beggars

Published on IPS, by Wambi Michael, November 13, 2009.

MOUNT ELGON, Uganda, Nov 13 (IPS) – “We have been reduced to begging from relatives and to migrate to urban areas where life is not safe. We were living in the mountain for more than 200 years. Transferring us means burying us, completely. We want to stay in our area and develop” …

… According to Uganda’s state minister for tourism, Serapio Rukundo, there have been some instances of what he calls “maladministration” but, overall, communities are benefitting from the tree planting because the Uganda Wildlife Authority carries out conservation projects that involves the remuneration of some community members.   

A UWA warden in the Mount Elgon Park, Richard Matanda, insists that the tree planting has benefited communities. “People got jobs, uniforms and gumboots. The idea is that most of the labour should come from the areas next to the boundaries of the park.”

According to him, communities evicted from the park were due to get a percentage of money made from the tree planting.

But Timothy Byakola, an activist with Uganda’s Climate and Development Initiatives, retorts that there is a lot of hostility between the communities and Uganda Wildlife Authority park rangers. “The jobs they promise people don’t pay enough. We have talked to some of the people who said they are almost giving free labour.

“People complain that that the project has taken away the little that local communities had. For example, women can’t get firewood for cooking.”

Byakola believes “no carbon credits” have been sold from the Mount Elgon project because people destroy the trees before they mature in protest to having been evicted. “Because of hostility, people sneak over park boundaries in the night and uproot the newly planted saplings,” he argues.

Between Jan and Jul 2009, three national forestry staff members — Richard Kalemera, Alfred Ezati and Emmanuel Assiimwe – were allegedly murdered by people who had been evicted from forest reserves. In another case, a man, a pregnant woman and their three–year-old son were burn to ash in Buikwe Central Uganda.

A driver working for the National Forestry Authority, Ambrose Tibarimu, was attacked by a mob with machetes who set ablaze his and other vehicles. END/2009. (full text).

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