A report by Amnesty International documents several violent forced expulsions into Uganda of the Bennett indigenous people. Affected members of the community, giving details of the eviction from their ancestral land, said it happened without any notice and they are asking the Ugandan government to pay them compensation.
More than a decade after being violently evicted from their ancestral forest land in Mount Elgon, Amnesty says the indigenous Bennett people of Uganda are suffering in pathetic conditions.
This includes living in ramshackle rehabilitation camps with little access to clean water, sanitation and health care for 13 years, according to a report by Amnesty International.
The report, titled “13 Years in Limbo: Forced Evictions of Bennett in the Name of Conservation”, found that Bennett still suffered disruptions to his way of life and suffered physical harm from forest rangers despite repeated promises. The danger remains. The government should rehabilitate them.
David Chemutai is an influential member of the Bennett group. He says that so far about 100 people have lost their lives due to different evictions and many are in mental shock.
“UWA officials came, they forced us to burn our houses. They give you matches and they have a gun and they tell you, please burn your house. You have no choice, food inside There is property, they are in. We had nowhere to go and we had to live under trees and in caves,” he said.
Roland Ebole, a researcher at Amnesty International, says evictions among the community of 18,000 people are a series of human rights violations, including the right to housing and the rights of indigenous peoples.
Ebole says Amnesty found that Bennett is suffering because the government’s promises of protection and rehabilitation have been unfulfilled.
“Following violent forced evictions by the state, Bennett’s indigenous people have faced numerous inter-related and interconnected human rights violations, which have deepened the poverty and inequalities experienced by this community. Leaving them landless, marginalized And there is a risk of further human rights violations,” he said.
Amnesty International reports that Bennett was first evicted from the forest in 1983 by the National Forest Authority, and later by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, UWA, in 1993 when the Ugandan government declared the forest a national park.
The report further states that in 2008, the UWA forcefully evicted about 200 Bennett families, this time targeting members of the community, who the UWA claimed were still national parks despite the government’s allotment of land to them. settled inside.
Amnesty is asking the government to recognize, among other things, the Bennetts as an indigenous people, their right to their ancestral land at Mount Elgon, and to ensure that all Bennett people who were subjected to forced evictions are protected. treatment and compensation.
The organization also demands that all allegations against UWA be investigated and the persons responsible be prosecuted.
Uganda Wildlife Authority public relations officer Bashir Hangi described Amnesty’s report as baseless and pure speculation. According to Hangi, Bennett voluntarily vacated his land for conservation and is now going back to it.
“It is also not true that the UWA is involved in the killing of people. Why do we kill people? We are a government body set up to be responsible for all protected areas. In the process of taking care of the protected area, we are the encroachers. We are not doing anything wrong. We are executing our mandate as per the law,” he said.
Hangi says they are working closely with communities around all protected areas and that the government aims to resettle displaced communities.
The Bennets are a hunter-gatherer and herding community, referred to by many Ugandans as the “primitive people of the mountain”.
Their land issues date back to colonial times when the British colonial government first declared the Mount Elgon moorlands and grasslands, their ancestral home, as a forest reserve.