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Agago district leaders clash with NFA, energy ministry over land and ‘minerals’

NFA mark stones being removed and destroyed by residents. PHOTO URN

Agago, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Leaders in Agago District are questioning the Ministry of Energy and National Forest Authority over planned mineral exploration activities in Lapono Hills.

Tension among the locals started Saturday, November 11th, when a team from National Forest Authority-NFA, delivered mark stones to Lira Kato Sub-County headquarters. This for a planned demarcation  of Napono Central Forest Reserve, which they said was gazetted in 1948.

The area of contention is said to measure 3,727 hectares (9,209 acres), the same area where the alleged illegal mineral exploration is taking place. Speculation is rife that the area has minerals such as mercury, lime, and mica.

At the beginning of the month, a team from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development reportedly went to the district, saying that they were collecting soil and rock samples from Lapono Hills in the Lapono sub-county for testing.

Leonard Ojok, the Agago LCV Chairperson said the team that visited did not show them their official identification and letters of introduction.  Ojok said the mineral exploration and the planned demarcation of the area by NFA has caused anxiety in the community.

David Churchill Olal, the Agago District Natural Resources Officer said that much as minerals in the country are held by the trust of the government, it is important the government informs the communities to avoid suspicion and speculation.

Ibrahim Ambako, a senior presidential advisor, blamed the problem on poor communication. Ambako thinks that there are some leaders who are conniving with the geologists.

He advised the district leaders to go to the geologists and ask them to explain what they were doing, then inform the community to allay their fears.

The RDC of Agago, James Nabinson Kidega, blamed the team from NFA for not communicating with the district leaders.

In a letter dated November 17th, John Amos Okot, Agago North Member of Parliament, appealed to both the Ministry and NFA to halt the exploration until due diligence was done.

On Sunday, the community in the Lira Kato Sub County offices destroyed dozens of concrete mark stones owned by the NFA, which were kept at the sub-county headquarters to mark the Napono Central Forest reserve.

Juliet K. Mubi, the Spokesperson of NFA, said they had only placed the mark stones ahead of the boundary opening and marking exercise, which was going to be done after sensitization of the community.

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