The day Apac LC5 chair blasted police over selective wetlands operations 

(Last Updated On: 28 February 2023)

“The National Policy for the Conservation and Management of Wetlands Resources” for Uganda was launched in 1995 to promote the protection of the country’s wetlands.

Operations against wetlands encroachers have intensified in recent weeks ‘across the country in a bid to restore the battered ecosystem.

These operations are often conducted by the Environmental Police Protection Unit [EPPU], National Environmental Management Authority [NEMA], districts’ resources departments, and the office of the Resident District Commissioners [RDCs] among other agencies.

In 1995, Uganda launched its “National Policy for the Conservation and Management of Wetlands Resources” with the intention to promote the protection of the country’s wetlands to sustain its ecological and socioeconomic functions.

Twenty-seven years later and before the policy launch, Uganda’s wetlands continue to be encroached on mainly by “foreign investors” and bigwigs in the government most of whom have established infrastructures. 

President Museveni has issued warnings to the locals who predominantly use these areas for agriculture and cattle-rearing purposes to vacate. 

He has somewhat shielded both “local and foreign investors” who have built factories, and posh houses under the watch of the government and agencies mandated to fight against encroachment with impunity.

According to the available data, wetlands in Uganda cover 11 percent of the country’s land. Seasonal wetlands do cover 7.7 percent of the same. Also, archived data indicates that permanent wetlands and swampy forests cover 3.4 and 0.1 percent respectively. 

In Lango sub-region, for example, some of the agencies named above have made aggressive operations in recent months, slashing huge acres of rice plantations. Lira City [district] and Otuke district are a few of the areas operations have been conducted – with rice farmers counting damages.

Recently, in Otuke district, the Resident District Commissioner [RDC] Gillian Akullu was faulted after some “foreigners” she did not know mowed a rice plantation. These “foreign” operators, according to the RDC did not inform her or her office.


In February 2022, some rice plantations in Okole in Lira City West were slashed down in broad daylight by NEMA. The owners counted damages and cried for forgiveness – alas all were destroyed. 

The “so-called big fish”

In 2018, the then district LC5 Chairperson of Apac Bob Okae through his deputy tasked the environmental protection police unit (EPPU) to arrest their ‘mafias’ who are cultivating wetlands or are in charge of commercial tree cutting and charcoal burning.

The statement was made by the vice chairman, Odongo Asanti in a public gathering held in Inomo sub-county. The same gathering had operatives against the wetland misuse. 

He [Okae] cited an example saying, “One of you has destroyed over ten hectares in Aboko, Aduku sub-county and he must be the first suspect if any operations are held. We do not want such complaints. The so-called ‘BIG FISH’ is going to harden your operations, and they are everywhere in this (Lango) region.”

Earlier, a warning was issued by the commissioner of EPPU at a burial that they were planning to “hold deadly operations” to arrest and convict land degraders in North Kyoga most of whom cultivate on wetlands.

This commissioner, Joseph Ongol was one of the mourners at the funeral of late Marchelo Okuku, 86, who was laid to rest on January 19, 2018, in Aduku. 

At the burial, he warned locals not to risk taking any cultivation within the water catchment areas or they risk facing the long arms of the law.

“Be informed that we are in the north, and Apac is on top according to our planned operations, so my home people, I do not expect you to fall, victim,” Ongol further warned the mourners.

That year, operations took place in Apac, Oyam, Kole, Lira, and Dokolo districts. Other districts to follow were identified as Katakwi, Soroti, Otuke, Agago, Abim; Arua, Napak, Yumbe, and Nebbi amongst others.

President Museveni’s statement in the Uganda Wetlands Atlas, Volume Two.

“Government has embarked on a long-term strategy to recover, restore and protect wetlands for the good of the whole country and beyond. I, therefore, urge all Ugandans to embrace this effort and appreciate the value of wetlands for the present and future generations…”

“Part of the Government’s efforts to raise awareness on the value of wetlands is to provide access to reliable and up-to-date information on what is happening in our wetlands ecosystems and its implications to the economic development of the country.” 

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