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Evicted From Mt Elgon Park, the Ndorobo Community Cry For Help :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Evicted From Mt Elgon Park, the Ndorobo Community Cry For Help

The Ndorobo Community in Bukwo district who were evicted from Mt. Elgon Forest are socially, economically and politically marginalized and are one of the most miserable communities in Uganda. They are a minority community that comprises a cluster of Sabiny who have lived in and around Mt Elgon forest for more than two centuries, initially as hunters and gatherers but later on as sedentary pastoralists and small-scale farmers without land tenure rights.

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The Ndorobo Community in Bukwo district who were evicted from Mt. Elgon Forest are socially, economically and politically marginalized and are one of the most miserable communities in Uganda.

 

They are a minority community that comprises a cluster of Sabiny who have lived in and around Mt Elgon forest for more than two centuries, initially as hunters and gatherers but later on as sedentary pastoralists and small-scale farmers without land tenure rights.

 

In 1938, much of the Mt Elgon forest landscape in which the Ndorobo lived was gazetted as a forest reserve by the British colonial government implying the area would be managed primarily for protection of its water catchment values and timber exploitation.

 

The colonialists did recognize however, the importance of the forest to the Ndorobo and so decided to leave them behind the demarcated forest boundary; inside the gazetted area.

 

Successive post-independence governments maintained the status quo, leaving the Ndorobo to live and survive on Mt Elgon forest resources until 1983, when a decision was made by the second Obote Government to resettle them on 6,000 hectares of reserve land in the Benet side of Kapchorwa district.

 

According to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), by that time, the increased Ndorobo population was impacting negatively on the forest reserve resources and their presence inside the area was legitimizing and catalyzing illegal encroachment from forest criminals and other non- indigenous communities.

 

In February 1993, when Mt. Elgon Forest Reserve was elevated to a National Park status 4,000 Ndorobo living in the Park were violently evicted by UWA rangers and the UPDF soldiers.

 

Julius Cherowot, one of the victims says many of their people lost their lives, livestock and property worth millions of shillings was destroyed during the operation. Cherowot, who claims he lost 79 heads of cattle, 33 goats and 27 sheep among others, recalls the aftermath of the operation.

 

//Cue in: “So when we…

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They scattered everywhere with others going to Kitale in neighboring Kenya and in Kiryandongo for refuge.

 

To survive, however, some of them lived the life of outlaws playing a deadly game of hide and seek with the usually heavily-armed Mt. Elgon rangers in an attempt to access the only livelihood available to them in the forest resources.

 

It was not until 2012 that government decided to relocate about 400 Ndorobo in Kapkoros Teriet Internally Displaced People’s - IDP Camp in Senedet Sub county, Bukwo district.

 

However, the group accuses government of negligence and are accordingly crying out for better conditions at their new home. Julius Cherowot who is now living in the camp says since government distributed some food and non-food items in August 2013, they have been abandoned without anything.

 

//Cue in: “The food which…

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He explains that the conditions in the camp are deplorable, exposing them to diseases like malaria. He says because of lack of basic health care several of their elderly, pregnant mothers and children have succumbed to the very harsh weather which he complained they have failed to adapt to.

 

//Cue in: “We have lost…

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Alex Chebirwa, another victim urges government to consider them like any other Ugandans. He says unlike other minority communities in Uganda, government has deliberately marginalized them from health care, education and other social services.

 

//Cue in: “Our grandfathers…

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Sarah Opendi, the State Minister for Primary Health Care, says government was aware of the plight of this minority group. She says currently government is looking for land within Sebei sub region to resettle them.

 

She said cabinet tasked Tarsis Kabwegyere, the Minister for General Duties in the Prime Minister’s office, with the responsibilities and he is expected to report to government before end of this month. She was however silent on the required relief assistance to these people.

 

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Attempts by URN to get a comment from the disaster preparedness ministry were futile as our several calls went unanswered.

 

Ndorobo minority community largely believes in traditional religion but they freely live with their largely Christian neighbours. One of their key cultural practices was Female Genital Cutting or Mutilation – FGM but they now believe it's a bad practice.

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