In 2002 through an Act of Parliament gazetted the Apaa area with consultation from the Adjumani local leaders
Politicians should resist the pressure by encroachers to go against the law and live in protected areas, tourism minister Ephraim Kamuntu has said.
Appearing before a six-man select committee to investigate the Apaa land conflict and encroachment in Zoka Central Forest Reserve and East Madi Wildlife Reserve, Kamuntu said government protected areas were degazetted by law and must be protected by law.
Kamuntu accompanied by the executive director Uganda Wildlife Authority Sam Mwondha informed the committee that government through Cabinet has already made a decision that the encroachers should be relocated away from the gazetted area and compensated.
"The pressure to live in a protected area should be resisted. If we allow it, we shall not remain with anything. The population is increasing yet land is fixed. The animals that leave in these areas will soon disappear," Kamuntu said.
Kamuntu said last month, Cabinet agreed to relocate and resettle the over 374 households living in Apaa village in Pabbo sub-county on the border of Adjumani and Amuri districts. The area is about 7 km inside the protected area.
In its decision, cabinet agreed to compensate the encroachers with a resettlement plan of sh10m each, 20 iron sheets, cement and sh2m disturbance allowance.
Kamuntu, however, noted government has been grappling with the issue of Apaa for a long time but blamed the politicians in the area of being behind the conflict.
Kamuntu narrated the incident when he went to address a rally called by one of the area MPs but only "to be stabbed in the back" when the same MP mobilised women to strip naked for him. "Fortunately, I received information and left immediately before they arrived," he said.
Tracing the conflict
According Mwondha informed the committee chaired by Paliisa Woman MP Agnes Ameede that according to the colonial maps, the contested land is in Adjumani although the encroachers insist that it is in Acholi.
He said before 2006, there was the Kony war in the north which left many people displaced. However, when peace returned in the area, many people who were living in camps returned and settled in the area.
In 2002 through an Act of Parliament gazetted the area with consultation from the Adjumani local leaders. In 2005, the area around Apaa was gazetted for wildlife conservation.
Asked when UWA plans to start the relocation, Mwondha said it will depend on the availability of funds from the Office of the Prime Minister.
"The Office of the Prime Minister is the implementing agency for the resettlement. To resettle the people, the items mentioned must be available. There is also the process of verification of the right owners - people who registered from there during the national identification registration," he said.
But MP Amaade wondered whether sh10m was adequate enough to resettle the encroachers.
"Is sh10m enough to resettle these people? How much is the land in this area? The Cement will it be enough?" she asked.
MP Sizomu Gashomu (Bunghoko North) wondered whether the government's resettlement programme would end the conflict.
"Did government go through these issues and established that relocation was the best decision that would end the conflict?" he asked.