By Francis Emorut
Integrity minister Rev. Simon Lokodo and fellow MPs from Karamoja region are bitter with Uganda Wildlife Authority for marking Kidepo Valley National Park jubilee celebrations at a hotel, and not in the park itself.
The politicians’ fury was spurred when UWA marked the Park’s milestone at Kampala Serena Hotel on Thursday. They argued that by that, the real community was left out of the fete.
“That is useless and rubbish. I’m strongly denouncing it as an affront [insult] to the people of the area who surrendered their land to government,” a clearly furious minister Lokodo said.
“All along we have not been brought on board in the arrangement. I condemn it in the strongest terms possible and I call it a flaw.
“Can you imagine the executive director Dr. Sseguya on Wednesday night invited me to attend and I told him I can’t come?” he went on.
What enraged the minister most was that the community which was meant to be the beneficiaries of the park were not involved.
Lokodo, who is also the MP for Dodoth West in Kabong district, said the celebrations would have been an opportunity to remember the game rangers who were killed by some animals in the park. And that, he said, would have motivated their fellows to continue working in the park.
These calm zebras and buffaloes call this national park their home too. PHOTO/Francis Emorut
'Organisers are selfish'
New Vision on Wednesday visited the gravesite (below, right) where the fallen game rangers were buried and learnt that the people living around there thought the site was the most appropriate place to hold the celebrations.
“I’m disappointed. How can UWA highjack the function without involving the community and yet they [community] are the ones who protect these animals instead of killing them,” Abraham Eitan, a concerned Karimojong said.
The MPs on Thursday told New Vision that they had not been informed of the 50 years anniversary of the park – the third largest park in Africa after Kruger in South Africa and Masai Mara in Kenya.
It has 15,000 buffalos and occupies an area of 1, 442 square kilometres in the northeast of the country.
Moroto Municipality MP Simon Peter Aleper said that the celebrations, per se, are good but that it was unfortunate that the community was not involved.
“The organisers of that function are selfish and they are hiding something which they don’t want the community to appreciate,” he said.
He pointed out that lack of community participation in such an important event makes them shun government and see the latter’s policies as foreign to them.
“I am one of the people who are hurt. You can’t organize the function when those who preserve the animals are left out,” Samson Lokeris MP for Kabongo said.
He warned that if UWA doesn’t “style up”, the community can “get annoyed and poison the animals”.
But when contacted for a comment, the UWA executive director Dr. Andrew Seguya responded (via text message): “The entire committee of Parliament on tourism and trade and Karamoja MPs are attending as well as communities from Karamoja. You are misinformed.”
He was backed by Kabong woman MP Rose Akello who said some Karimojong elders had been invited to the Serena function.
But worried Abraham Eitan insisted those invited were Karimojong based in Kampala and not those living in the communities up north.