Victim of NEMA’s eviction of persons from Lubigi wetland

KAMPALA–When I move around Uganda, especially in urban areas, I see a lot of negligence, wastage and utter carelessness.

At a time when poverty, great need, unemployment and crime are at a high rate, is when you’d expect level headedness in spending and use of public resources. But to the contrary, you dont have to be keen nor hawk-eyed, to see what i want to share! Neglect, widespread abrasiveness, arrogancy and wastage in national planning & execution of public projects/programs.

For instance, just to zoom in two cases or examples of what I’m talking about;
The sudden eviction of the encroachers on wetlands and the emergence of paver-throwing and taekwondo-style kicking street thugs.

1. The ferocious/brutal eviction of wetland ‘encroachers’ [and I’ll explain what I mean by ‘encroachers’] NEMA day-in and day-out. Without sounding like a sympathiser of environment destroyers, far from it; if anything, I’m known as an environmentalist in various circles of my family, relatives, colleagues and villagemates. However, I’m a very strong realist, humanist, analyst, social critic: whatever this last one means.

My concern is that Govt/public institutions are living, working for and focused on the past not the current nor the future. How can you have thousands of our citizens live in wetlands for the last over 40 or so years, while public administration has exponentially grown with LCs [1-5] elected at a very high cost in every village/cell, parish/ward, sub county,

Town Council/Trading Centre (TC), in each and every municipality, district and constituency (over 300-400 Members of Parliament (MPs) across Uganda. There are also Parish and Sub County Chiefs appointed in all parishes and sub counties of the rural areas.

All these State bureaucrats and technocrats, are aware of the illegality and harm of settling on and degrading of wetlands and other fragile/pristine environments. All of them know about the fragility of the protected environments and how it is harmful to damage them.

But they all have looked on as _wananchi_ settle there and cause damage, through lots of activities–ranging from agriculture to construction of small and big permanent and temporary structures. There are also in place, technocrats in the names of District Environment officers in all the over 140 districts of Uganda.

Then at the national level, there’s the Ministry of Water and Environment (MoWE) with a State Minister for Environment and employing several civil servants paid monthly to among many things, inspect, monitor and ensure no illegal or unauthorised activities take place on fragile environments.

There are also Ministries of Local Govt; Tourism; Energy and Mineral Development; then those ministerial dockets/departments for Karamoja, Teso, Bunyoro, Luwero Triangle and Northern Uganda–all concerned with the well-being and safety/protection of the environment, among other issues of national interest/importance.

Lastly: institutionally there are the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) with an Environment Policy and Police; the National Forestry Authority (NFA) with an armed force or supported by the National Police aid will the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA)–all these authorities mandated by law and obliged to protect the environment in its different forms.

When all these are in place backed by Constitutional provisions; Govt policy, legal and regulatory frameworks, but alas, all these institutions haven’t done enough in protecting the fragile environments except to a large extent big rivers, lakes and national parks. With the exception of Lake Victoria (a regionally shared resource) which has plenty of municipal domestic, agricultural, natural (soil erosion), hospitality and industrial pollution and degradation via deliberate dumping of soil, rocks and garbage, in order to encroach on it, more rampant mostly in Uganda, Kenya lesser in Tanzania–ironically which has the largest share )!

Now, with these structural failures, you can additional call them ideological orientation or collusion with encroachers to partake in the crime vis-avis urban population and unemployment explosion; negative consequences of such wrong like privatization of State parastatals and industrial-commercial enterprises by the Govt early 1990s with its accompanying retrenchment of public workers without adequate compensation to away and settle in larger pieces of land for commercial agriculture.

Such people settled in towns’ nearest cheaply-sold [wet] lands and “unowned” forests! Climate change that fails agriculture in rural areas and CoVID pandemic–both of which force desperate people onto wetlands to build shacks and eke out a living on ‘cheap’ land. And so many other causative factors in-there!
Against this long background, there’s need for a serious multi stakeholder reflection and re-look at the current situation and the future [demographics, public needs, political and socio-economic challenges etc).

My personal view is that Govt must wake up from slumber and abandon what they see as quick/easy things to do–forceful eviction–but never care or ask themselves where do the evicted go? Ferocious/cruel/brutal eviction tasked to njaga/marijuana ghetto boys and street urchins, and application of bulldozers that raze down whole houses, and maliciously destroy iron sheets, doors and windows. Is this NEMA-instigated double punishment of ‘encroachers’ ??

Look out for part 2.




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