The government of Uganda on Easter Monday held an emergency meeting to find lasting solutions to the deepening conflict between communities living at the fringes of Queen Elizabeth national park and Uganda Wildlife Authority in Mitooma district.
Officials including the deputy speaker of Parliament, Mr. Thomas Tayebwa, State Minister for Tourism, wildlife, and antiquities, Mr. Martin Bahinduka Mugarra, and UWA took to bumpy roads in Ruhinda North constituency where they assessed the damaged gardens and met community members in the three sub-counties of Kigyende, Rwoburunga and Kiyanga.
The emergency meeting was informed by a public outcry from residents who petitioned the office of the deputy speaker of parliament over continuous destruction of their gardens by elephants and allegations of poor management of revenue sharing scheme in Mitooma district according to Mr Tayebwa.
Speaking to the meeting after the deputy speaker and Minister of tourism toured the most affected areas, Mr. Ignitious Turyamuhaki, the Chairperson LC1 of Ruzonga village in Ndurumo parish, Rwoburunga sub-county said that the conflict between UWA and residents over elephants had tormented the locals and the meeting was timely as they (locals) had threatened to begin killing animals in revenge.
“Animals have made us poor because they destroy everything we put in the soil on top of killing our domestic animals. We have been patient for a long time but it is like the interventions that government had put in place to help have not yielded fruits,” he said.
He also told the Minister and speaker that the revenue-sharing scheme and wildlife compensation had a lot of bureaucracy and that the local people were not satisfied with the way the government was handling the standoff.
The Ndurumo parish chairperson, Mr. Moses Tayebwa said the revenue sharing scheme run by UWA was well-intentioned but left out some areas yet animals affect all neighboring communities.
“This year we got Shs16 million from UWA for four parishes, but Ndurumo did not receive its share as expected. We have been complaining to different offices but there was no help. Maybe your coming will sort us,” he told the officials.
Addressing the meeting, Mr. Thomas Tayebwa who is also the Ruhinda North Member of Parliament noted that the compensation and revenue-sharing programs were marred with irregularities.
“About compensation, procurement is a problem starting at the district. People have been complaining that the cost of goats for communities is inflated. That’s something we need to look into,” Mr. Tayebwa said
During the meetings held at Ruzonga and Kiyanga, immediate and short-term solutions were reached by the government through UWA.
The UWA head of field operations, Mr. Charles Tumwesigye Baryamwisaki said that the government will with support from the World Bank erect over 100 bee hives along the park boundary so that bees can keep elephants at a bay. Bees irritate elephants by stinging them and by this, elephants can’t cross from the park to communities.
Mr. John Makongo, the UWA Director Wildlife Conservation added that they are going to conduct boundary assessment and see which intervention can work better in Mitooma since previous ones like trenching have not helped.
“It is not the government’s desire that people live in endless conflict with animals. In the next two weeks, we are going to assess the boundary here and see which intervention can help you,” he told locals.
The tourism state minister, Mr. Mugarra asked UWA to increase the number of rangers in the area and also habituate animals so that communities can have more benefits from the national park.