By Moses Agaba
Martin Mugarra Bahinduka The Minister of State for Tourism has asked District Leaders to allow the local people to participate in decisions on how Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) revenues funds are spent in their respective areas.
Minister Mutahinduka made remarks on Friday while on a one-day tour of areas that receive UWA revenues funds from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Queen Elizabeth Conservation Area in Kanungu District and also visited the contested Mbwa Tract in Mpungu Sub County.
The Minister’s visit focused on engaging the communities living in areas bordering the protected areas and discussion on issues affecting them, especially the human-animal conflict and the long-standing issue of Mbwa Tract land.
The Minister who was accompanied by Kinkizi West Member of Parliament Hon James Ruggi Kaberuka, LC 5 Chairman Eng Sam Arinaitwe Kajojo, Deputy RDC Gad Ahimbisibwe Rugaju, District Speaker Frank Byaruhanga and Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities officials noted that new revenue sharing guidelines direct that local people must decide on what the money should be spent on.
Bahinduka said that he had listened to the challenges being faced by the people living near the protected areas which are manifested by human and animal conflicts and said that the government is working hard to ensure that this conflict is minimized.
He particularly revealed that the government has already secured money to construct a 25km chain link along the Ishasha Sector of the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Nyanga and Kihihi Sub counties to stop animals from destroying residents’ crops.
Minister Mugarra also disclosed that the government is considering increasing revenue-sharing funds allocated to the districts so that it can have a positive impact on the well-being of residents.
On the issue of Mbwa Tract land which is under contestation on grounds of being erroneously gazetted into the National Park by the government, Minister said that the government was aware of it and a process to return it to the residents was about to be finalized.
James Ruggi Kaberuka the Kinkizi West Member of Parliament said that he wants the procurement process of utilizing the Uganda Wildlife Authority Revenue Sharing funds be suspended until proper modalities are put in place to ensure that the exercise is transparent.
Kaberuka’s remarks followed demands by the Sub County Leaders from the areas which receive UWA revenue-sharing funds who claimed that the procurement process put in place by the government was not being followed by the District Leaders and wanted it stopped.
Nelson Natukunda the Kihihi Sub County, LC 3 Chairman says that the local leaders were not involved in the procurement process as required by government guidelines and as a result, they were not accepting what the district leaders had decided.
Natukunda said that residents have many challenges as people living near the protected areas which need to be addressed by the government which are long overdue and have kept them in perpetuity poverty.
Eng Sam Arinaitwe Kajojo Kanungu District Local Council Chairman lamented that despite the revised laws by the government on the issue of compensation when Wildlife animals destroy peoples property, the law is still silent over the matter and none has benefited.
Gad Ahimbisibwe Rugaju the Kanungu Deputy Resident District Gad Commissioner said that government guidelines on UWA revenue sharing must be followed and warned that those flouting the procurement process will be dealt with.