Oyam: Locals await shs250m in compensation from UWA after wildlife attacks
Last Updated on: 24th February 2022, 01:37 pm
Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is yet to compensate families killed by the wild animals and destruction of crop gardens in Oyam district.
By Isabella Awor Olong
Oyam – February 24, 2022: According to the statistics collected by Myene sub-county chairperson’s office in 2020, more than 240 acres of food crops, mostly rice, were destroyed by buffaloes, 13 cows were killed by lions.
The same statistics also show the number of people killed by the wild animals in the sub-county as a result of wildlife invasion.
The deadly attacks prompted the locals in Myene and Kamdini sub-counties to demand compensation from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The amount is over shs 250 million.
Three years ago, on Wednesday, August 9 2019, a catechist of Bombay Catholic Chapel in Kamdini sub-county known as Boniface Omara was killed by elephants on his way to a garden in Onea, Juma parish.
UWA contributed shs 2million towards the burial expenses, further acknowledging the tragedy. The Karuma chief warden, Chemutai Wilfred said at that time they were deeply saddened and regretted the unfortunate incident.
“We are doing all it takes to avoid recurrence,” he assured mourners.
Sam Ojok, a resident of Acimi `B’ in Myene sub-county whose home is near the park, told TND News recently that the elephants have been disturbing them since 2013 to date.
He added that all his gardens of soya and maize for the first and second seasons last year were destroyed by the elephants.
“We were told to send the evidence of the destruction, and a promise was made for compensation but all in vain,” Ojok added.
Ojok further added that his neighbour, Jack Odyeny is now lame after he was attacked by an elephant, revealing that one local he knows was also killed by an elephant.
“Concerned people were invited for several meetings about the tragedy and nothing yielded fruit,” he told this publication.
Silvestre Omara is a game scout of Acimi parish, Myene sub-county and victim of the destruction caused by the elephants. He noted some of the challenges they are facing while executing their work. “We are lacking some of the equipment like; torches, raincoats, gumboots, among others to ease our work.”
“When the elephants come, we are always on standby with torches and vuvuzela in the night (7 pm till 2 am) with sleepless nights,” Omara noted.
He said that compensation is still a long way for the properties destroyed, further expressing his disappointment when elephants destroyed his crops, resulting in poverty and being unable to support his child in school.
James Ogwal, the LC3 chairperson of Myene sub-county confirmed that the elephants have been destroying crops and killing people for a very long-time.
He added that in May 2021, an elephant killed the Can-omia-ming village chairperson in Myene despite the protection given by the UWA rangers to help save crops and lives.
Ogwal said when they had a meeting with the UWA and Wildlife Conservation Society, they confirmed to locals that fencing of the National Game Park was underway from Kamdini, Myene to Nwoya to relieve the locals from wildlife attacks.
He added that the Compensation Act of 2019 is not yet working because its guideline is not there. “But when life is lost there is some little compensation UWA gives to meet the burial expenses, of which my office is compiling lists of those whose crops and relatives died as a result of wildlife invasion for compensation.”
“Elephants visited Myene from Murchison Falls National Game Park in December, but their invasion is seasonal as long as there is a lack of food and water,” Omara, a game scout said.
According to the LC3 chairperson, Ogwal, over 35 people are demanding to be compensated up to shs 250 million for properties destroyed and lives lost.
Recently, when UWA officials had a meeting with the locals, they (locals) were advised on how to report cases of animal trafficking, burning of trees for charcoal inside the park to relevant authorities.
When locals asked them for the compensation they were told, “It’s still a long process.”
James Peter Ewau, the in-charge of Karuma Wildlife Reserve said that in their long-term plan, the government is putting funds for electric fencing to control wildlife movement along Murchison Falls National Game Park.
According to Ewau, some of the challenges facing wildlife are poaching, destruction of trees for charcoal, the outbreak of Covid –19 among others.
“We used to raise billions of shillings from tourism but when Covid-19 broke out, we were affected as well. Our intervention has been to carry out patrols, sensitizing the public on the benefits of conservation, installation of beehives in several spots, electric fencing, and making trenches around the game parks.”
The Wildlife Act of 2017, he said, tackles issues of compensation that the government is working on to see how it will be done based on assessments.
The Oyam Woman MP, Santa Alum Ogwang on March 5, 2020, raised a matter of national importance on the floor of Parliament, saying that over 40 stray elephants from Murchison Falls National Park 40 had invaded Kamdini sub-county in Oyam district destroying people’s property.
She stated that on a Thursday morning, the elephants raided people’s gardens and homes, brutally killing a 65-year-old resident known as Richard Otim.
In August 2021, Charles Tumwesigye, the Director of Operations at Uganda Wildlife Authority explained that locals will continue to experience invasions of elephants if the boundary lines are not demarcated and fenced.
According to Tumwesigye, understaffing and lack of finances to carry out training to facilitate or motivate the youths trained as scouts mostly in Nwoya and Oyam districts are the major setbacks.
The Uganda Wildlife Act 2017 was signed by the President into law on July 1 2019. It provides for the conservation and sustainable management of wildlife, allowing the compensation of those injured or killed by wildlife animals.
Due to the growing concerns of jeopardizing the conservation and preservation of wildlife species and their habitats, the government of Uganda has been told to make some amendments to the Uganda Wildlife Act.
It’s believed that in the Wildlife Act, there are leeways for people to take advantage of wildlife.
Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Game Park is believed to be the largest national park measuring approximately 3,500 square kilometres (1,351 square miles), and hosting more than 76 mammal species and 451 bird species.