Manafwa — A total of 2,201 people in Manafwa District have been rendered landless after Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) evicted them from Mt. Elgon National Park.
The eviction comes barely a month after the UPDF, Police and the district leadership resolved to co-operate with UWA to ensure that all encroachers living in Sono, Buwabwala, Bumbo and Mukoto areas vacate the park to ensure safety of their lives and conservation of the national park.
The wildlife body reports indicate that 3,200 hectares of land on the park had been encroached on since January 15, this year, in Bumbo, Bupoto, Tsekululu, Namisindwa, Sono and Buwabwala sub-counties after politicians urged residents to start farming in a bid to get votes.
When Daily Monitor visited Bumbo and Mukoto on May 28, many gardens remained unattended to, as the residents kept outside the park thinking about their next action. Remnants of the temporary structures like wattle and mud houses and other debris marked the old settlements.
At a distance, it is clear that encroachers have continuously cut down trees for commercial farming and construction of make-shift shelters thus damaging the eco-system and scaring the rare bird and animal species into Kenya.
UWA adds that the degraded section poses an environmental catastrophe for the Mt Elgon sub-region districts, Teso region, Pallisa, Budaka, Tororo and Butaleja districts which lie in the plains. The dwellers, however, insist the land belongs to them.
“This is our cradle land, our great grandparents lived here and have been buried here, so UWA should not call us encroachers. They are the encroachers and should leave our land immediately,” said Pastor Patrick Psiyukwi, who claims his grandparents came to Bumbo in Mukoto in 1922.
Ms Pamela Anying, the senior warden, forest restoration at Mt Elgon, said UWA records reveal that the duikers, buffaloes, leopards, among other animals that are potential tourist attractions, have escaped to the Kenyan side of the park due to massive destruction of the habitant.
The affected residents blamed government for politicising the matter thus confusing UWA and the local leaders who had teamed up to ensure the encroachment is stopped for the benefit of the region.