BUKASA-KIRINYA Wakiso, Uganda: Scores of residents of the embattled Kirinya and Namanve Central Forest Reserve sites are now living in dashed hopes after their wish to have presidential intervention on the eminent eviction notice by NEMA hit a dead end.
The residents in thousands, some believed to be veterans, security personnel, lawyers, magistrates and civil servants are now blowing their fingers and living in a ‘very thin’ edge as their only hope has been dashed. Recently a team of representatives from Kirinya met the President at State House Entebbe with a plea for a presidential intervention to save them from eviction.
Earlier in 2013 President Museveni instituted an investigation into the Namanve Forest Reserve encroachment after what he described as enemies of development had gained access to over 2,000 acres of land. A cabinet decision also decided that the residents who illegally encroached the wetland be evicted to pave way for development.
The Investigator has established from highly placed security sources that closed circuit security meetings chaired by the Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kayihura is in top gear to plan how to execute the presidential order to evict the encroachers. The planned eviction, we understand, will be highly executed by a combined force of top security agencies and elite police commandos.
Now the beginning of 2017 may not be a very pleasant one especially for those who ignored the 21 day ultimatum issued by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) to vacate the degazzeted land for the development of the Bukasa Inland Port and the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
The Investigator has established that President Museveni issued a directive to the Inspector General of Police to spearhead the eviction of the encroachers. Gen Kale Kayihura confirmed that he had received the directive in a letter from the president.
Why evict the citizens from the forest land?
Up until now, goods to and from Uganda is being transported by land, either through Kenya from the Mombasa port or using the considerably more expensive route via Ruanda-Burundi-Tanzania. The new port at the shores of Lake Victoria in Kiira Municipality in Wakiso district shall create a cheaper and faster means of transportation to the ocean for the landlocked country.
After its construction, goods will be transported directly by ship to Musoma or Mwanza in Tanzania and then by land to Dar es Salam or Tanga at the Indian Ocean.
Mid this year (June 2016), the government of Uganda signed the official start of the project for planning and construction of the new Bukasa Port in Kampala. Finance Minister Matia Kasaijja signed on behalf of government while Helmet Gauff the founder of GAUFF Engineering that willl undertake the project implementatoion signed on behalf of other partners.
The Investigator has learnt that one of Gauff Engineering partners, Inros Lackner and Duisport has already started with the basic evaluation of the project and data collection as well as the geotechnical and maritime and topographical surveys. The project be will financed by the German Commerzbank and AKA- Ausfuhrkreditgesellschaft (German export Credit Agency) at the tune of Euro 42.5 million.
The tri-modal Bukasa Port project is an elementary component of the central corridor. Uganda wants to ensure its quick and cheap access to the Indian Ocean from Kampala over Lake Victoria and through Tanzania. In the future, the central corridor is to serve as an alternative to the northern corridor that leads through Kenya to Mombasa. According to the MOU signed between Gauff and government of Uganda, GAUFF in co-operation with her partners will be responsible for engineering, procurement and project management, as well as for the training of the port’s administrative personnel.
Battle lines drawn
After The Investigator learnt that the eviction had got a presidential nod, we pitched camp in Kirinya, Kito, and surrounding areas and mingled with the enraged locals. As per our findings, the people planning to implement the eviction order should brace themselves because tempers are very high and at melting point.
According to the locals, the eviction will be worse than the ‘Kasese attack.’ “We are very ready to die. The people who will die here are going to be more than those who died in Kasese,” said a veteran who owns a house in the forest reserve. The Investigator also gathered that majority of the residents had purchased a consignment of pangas, spears, axes and bows and arrows.
It is not a surprise that since veterans are part of the residents, illegal guns are at display. As we wait to watch how the presidential order on eviction will be handled by Gen. Kale Kayihura, we also pray that lives are not lost in the process. Watch this space.