The Batwa community in Bundibugyo district, who were removed from Tooro Semuliki Game Reserve last year, have abandoned the settlement centre and returned to the game reserve.
The Batwa community in Bundibugyo district, who were removed from Tooro Semuliki Game Reserve last year, have abandoned the settlement centre and returned to the reserve.
Last year, Bundibugyo district resettled about 80 members of the Batwa community from the game reserve. The district constructed 60 semi-permanent houses for them at the settlement centre in Ntandi Sub County, after reports indicated that they were cutting down trees and poaching on animals in the game reserve.
However, they have now abandoned the houses after residing in them for only three months and moved back to Tooro Semuliki National Park. Some of the Batwa have resorted to selling the iron sheets to residents in Ntandi trading centre.
Geoffrey Nzito, the leader of the Batwa in Bundibugyo, told Uganda Radio Network in Ntandi that his people have no choice but to abandon the camps at Bumanga and Ntandi and return to the national park. Nzito says they are suffering in town with no food or housing and would rather return to the forest to their old way of life where they can properly cater for themselves.
Nzito says that before they were resettled from the national park, they were being given money and food by the tourists who were visiting the park. He says the district only constructed for them the houses but failed to provide food and clothing for them.
He says that the district also promised to construct a school and health centre. Nzito adds that they have been facing difficulties accessing health facilities and schools for their children because they move long distances to Bundibugyo town, where the facilities are.
However, David Mugisa, the Bundibugyo district secretary for social services, says that they had planned to construct a health centre and some schools in Ntandi, but funds that were allocated for the 2014/2015 financial year were inadequate.
Mugisa says the district has allocated 200 million shillings for the construction of a health centre for the Batwa in the next financial year. He also gave an ultimatum of one week for the Batwa to leave the national park or be forcefully evicted by the district enforcement officers and Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Anthropologists believe that the Batwa are one of the oldest ethnic groups in Central Africa. They settled in the area that is now western Uganda, Rwanda and eastern Congo before the arrival of the Bantu or Nilotics.
Today the Batwa are a minority. They were pushed out of their homes by larger tribes and are marginalized in the mountainous and forested areas in which they reside.