Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | At least 17 rangers and nine suspected poachers were killed in the past 10 years during different operations by the Uganda Wildlife Authority – UWA.
This is contained in the Authority’s report submitted to the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights. The report is a response to the status of observance of human rights within the UWA estates.
Last month, the Committee chaired by Fox Odoi, the West Budama North Constituency MP commenced a nationwide inquiry on allegations of human rights violations following a directive of the then Deputy Speaker Anita Among Annet.
Odoi said UWA was summoned before the committee as one of the agencies being accused of human rights abuses such as torture, arbitrary arrests, detention, and extrajudicial killings against communities neighboring National Game Parks and conservation areas.
UWA manages 10 National Parks; 12 Wildlife reserves; 5 Community Wildlife Management Areas; and 13 Wildlife Sanctuaries.
Samuel John Mwandha, the UWA Executive revealed that in the period under review, there are 21 human rights-related cases reported by the communities to the Human Rights Tribunal against UWA. 18 of the cases were reported from Mount Elgon Conservation Area, while 3 from Murchison Falls Conservation Area.
Mwandha disclosed to the Committee that most of the hostilities between rangers and civilians result from unresolved land cases in court, resistance to arrests, and attempts to disarm rangers.
UWA also reported that in all situations where it was made aware of any injury or caused during a scuffle between staff and community members, they have provided medical support as a way of cultivating good relationships, and dialogue to mitigate the conflicts.
Mwandha notes that there are cases where the injured community members have disappeared for fear of being arrested that the Authority has not been able to provide support. He denied allegations of UWA operating illegal detention centres.
Section 18 (2) of the Uganda Wildlife Act, 2019 provides for the development of terms and conditions of service of the UWA staff including the use of firearms in the execution of their duties. The same section provides for the powers of staff to search and arrest suspects of wildlife crime and related offences.
The lawmakers have also expressed concern about rampant attacks on rangers. Musinguzi Yona, the Ntungamo Municipality faulted UWA for deploying lone rangers to guard vast areas which exposes them to deadly community attacks.
Musinguzi also accused UWA of failing to settle disputes over park line boundaries, a loophole that has been exploited by communities bordering parks to encroach on the parkland resulting in deadly land conflicts, yet the Authority is well funded to execute its mandate.