Moroto, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The persistent insecurity in Karamoja is now opening up another can of worms, that is minerals, human rights and land grabbing.
The local councilors in the Karamoja sub-region last week grilled the state minister for energy Peter Lokeris demanding an explanation on the fate of their minerals which they claimed have for long been robbed by the foreign investors.
In the heated debate during the two-day regional council meeting held in Moroto municipality on the issues of insecurity, the councilors said the region has been invaded by foreigners collecting minerals day and night but no benefit is going to the region. On the contrary, they say their environment is being degraded by the reckless exploiters.
Councilors said they have been invaded by foreigners who don’t care about their livelihoods and minerals are being ferried without their consent.
Priscilla Aleper, the LCV councilor representing Namalu sub county in Nakapiripirit district said millions of tons of various minerals/ore have been ‘stolen’ leaving the region still in poor state.
“We want to know the destination of our minerals because these investors have brought more problems for us stimulating environmental degradation, rights violations and land grabbing which is done by the connivances of some Karamojong elites and the investors, so today you must tell us where our minerals go’’ Aleper said.
Karamoja region is endowed with a vast array of industrial minerals that have the potential to be developed commercially. A survey indicates that the region contains more than 50 mineral types including Gold, Limestone, Marble among others. Despites all these sources of wealth, Karamoja is still trapped below the poverty lines standing at 61%, however, the minerals hold the promise of economic development.
Emmanuel Lokii, a councilor representing Rupa sub county says they are tired of stories about the establishment of mineral factories which could have created job opportunities for the locals.
Angelo Pulkol, a councilor representing Loputuk sub county in Moroto district suggested that all the investors who come for mines should be vetted by the district council before carrying on any business because some of the companies have been conniving with the district chairpersons to allow them to extract minerals after pocketing money.
Peter Lokeris, the minister of state for energy and mineral development says that his ministry has already procured two weighbridges which will be installed in selected positions in Karamoja.
He says they bought weighbridges following several calls from different stakeholders over the absence of proper measures to determine the taxes from minerals and also help control the load on the trucks to protect roads from damages.
Lokeris says they have been engaging mining companies to let them establish their factories within Karamoja but their efforts were frustrated by the low voltage power which cannot run the machines. He said they had to work on the issues of power which is now stable and the companies are now preparing to start constructions.
He said they have enacted the laws which will clarify the state of minerals in the region but it’s not yet popularized because they are waiting for the president to append his signature so they can move down to grass-root to sensitize the communities.
The Mining Act of 2003 is the principal law that governs mining in Uganda. Under section 4 of the Act, a person may acquire the right to search for mines and any mineral by acquiring a license issued by the commissioner.