During the colonial times, about 80 per cent of Uganda’s Rhino population called the reserve home. But After independence, more and more people encroached on the reserve for grazing and farming. As the human population surrounding the reserve increased, poachers hunted down animals in the reserve for food.
Uganda Wildlife Authority -UWA is
stuck with 11 households who settled inside Ajai Wildlife Reserve in Madi Okollo district.
The reserve, located on the west bank of the Nile between Pakwach and Nimule, about 32km from Arua town was first established in 1962 as the White Rhino Sanctuary and later, in 1965, gazetted as a Game Reserve. It had earlier, in 1910 gained independence when Theodore Roosevelt, a former American president
visited the area on a hunting expedition.
During the colonial times, about
80 per cent of Uganda’s Rhino population called the reserve home. But After independence, more and more people
encroached on the reserve for grazing and farming. As the human
population surrounding the reserve increased, poachers hunted down
animals in the reserve for food.
Now, as the Wildlife Authority embarks on plans to restock the
reserve with wildlife species such as White Rhinos, Cobs, Buffaloes, and waterbucks, among others, members of the Degia community remain stuck inside the reserve, where they settled long before the area was gazetted.
Earlier UWA had planned to relocate the affected families to mile 34 along the Wadelia-Ogoko
road, but the
community refused the proposed area on account that the identified land was
occupied by Luo-speaking people and this would dilute their culture.
Patrick Atiku, the councillor
representing Ogoko sub-county says the delay to relocate the households from the game reserve is threatening efforts to restore Ajai Wildlife Reserve because many of them are engaged in illegal activities such as poaching and
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Ismail Drabe, the Madi-Okollo
district chairperson says the community is not against relocation but they are
demanding compensation before they could leave the reserve.
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Meanwhile, Jane Abiko, the female councillor for Ogoko Sub County and Inde Town council says that
UWA and other relevant authorities should consider re-demarcating the boundaries of the reserve if
compensation for the affected households is not feasible.
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But, Bakhit Babu, the warden
In-Charge at Ajai Wildlife Reserve has blamed the delayed relocation of the
households on funding challenges. He, however, says their new General Management
Plan for (2021-2031) which was approved in February last year has among others
prioritized the relocation of the Degia community.