Residents Petition President Museveni Over Missing Poachers

1107 Views Masindi, Uganda

In short
In a 24th September petition, more 1, 000 residents accuse the park authorities of carrying out extra-judicial killings. They want the president to intervene and have those behind such acts punished.

Communities around Murchison falls National Park in Masindi and Kiryandongo districts have petitioned President Yoweri Museveni claiming harassment by Murchison Falls National Park authorities. In a 24th September petition, more 1, 000 residents accuse the park authorities of carrying out extra-judicial killings.

They want the president to intervene and have those behind such acts punished. The petitioners are from 28 villages neighboring the park in Pakanyi sub county Masindi district and Kigumba in Kiryandongo district. The petition comes barely three months after the disappearance of seven suspected poachers in the national park. The seven went missing on June 29, when they went poaching in the national park.

They have not been traced to date. Most of the petitioners are relatives of the missing persons. John Bosco Jawotho, the lead petitioner says they want the president to stop what he calls extra judicial killings of people by the park authorities. Jawotho, a brother to one of the missing persons, Lawrence Mabudu says the petition also requests the president to help families of the missing poachers as most of them were family heads.
 
//Cue in: "We petitioned....
Cue out: ...human rights."//
 
The petitioners accuse some of the park authorities of persuading their people into the park and later turn against them that they are poachers. In August, a game ranger Richard Ocaya was arrested after telephone printouts indicated that he communicated last with the missing poachers. He is now in jail at Masindi government prison on charges of kidnap with intent to murder.
 
Francis Okethwengu of Alenyo and company advocates, the petitioners’ legal counsel says since there is proof that some park staff communicated with the missing poachers, they are holding the park authorities accountable for their disappearance. Okethwengu wants the park management to produce the missing persons dead or alive.
 
//Cue in: "Uganda Wildlife Authority...
Cue out: ...national park."//

Our reporter could not get a comment from the park authorities on the matter. However, Tom Okello, the Chief Warden Murchison Falls National park has since maintained that they are only accountable for people who legally enter the protected area.
 
The missing persons are; Godfrey Okwong, Bernard Ozelle, Bosco Kalire, Emmanuel Opyemu, Gilbert Jawotho, Lawrence Mabudu and Moses Male, all from Pakanyi sub county Masindi district.