Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officials and residents of Katunguru landing site in Kasese District are embroiled in a land wrangle. The residents reportedly used the wee hours of Tuesday morning to set up temporary structures in an area which officials say is part of the Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The residents portioned among themselves about 100 acres of land.
“We want to have services such as schools, health centres and also an expanded residence. So we thought it was important to reclaim our land that has been grabbed by the national park,” Mr Ivan Kachachu, one of the residents, said.
He said about three square miles of land were allocated to the residents of Katunguru in 1952 when the Queen Elizabeth National Park was being established and mark stones were planted in 1991 to show the boundaries.
However, the Acting Conservation Area Manager, Mr Nelson Guma, said other mark stones were put up in 2006. The residents claim they had written to UWA several times over the issue without success.
“We have agreed to go on with the forcible reclamation of our land because UWA was not concerned with our call for talks,” Mr Kachachu said.
After several hours of heated argument, a scuffle broke out between the residents and UWA officials until a meeting was convened by the Kasese Resident District Commissioner, Mr James Mwesigye.
After examining the boundaries, the UWA mark stone was found a few meters from the last building put up by residents while another mark which residents claim shows the original boundary, was found a kilometre inside the park.
But Mr Guma contested the mark claiming it must have been planted by the residents to grab the park land. “I refute the boundaries shown by this mark stone because ours (UWA) are marked with coordinates that can easily be read by anyone from a close range. It must have been planted by these people after they vandalised some of those put by UWA,” Mr Guma said.
The RDC advised the residents to get a surveyor, seek legal action or leave the park with immediate effect, but they agreed to the first option.