UPDF soldiers guarding Bwindi Impenetrable National Park accused of extortion and torturing Batwa
The Uganda People’s Defense Force-UPDF soldiers deployed to guard Bwindi
Impenetrable National Park in Kashasha Parish in Bufundi sub county Rubanda district western Uganda are being accused of extortion, torture and harassing
the Batwa community.
Batwa is a semi-nomadic pygmy tribe that lived in the jungles of
Ecuya, Bwindi and Mgahinga forests as hunters and gatherers for
centuries until 1992 when government without providing alternative
land evicted them from their ancestral dwelling to conserve wildlife.
One of the victims who preferred anonymity, a resident of Nyamatembe village says that his nine
goats were last week confiscated by the UPDF soldiers after he was
found grazing adjacent to the forest and he was forced
to pay shs500,000 shillings to get back his goats.
Another Mutwa from Rutajenjeri village says that the UPDF
soldiers last months reportedly battered to death Mateeka Rujabarande,
a Mutwa from Nyamatembe village after he was found collecting firewood
in the Park. She wonders why they are not allowed to cross to the
forest yet they were ordered to vacate without compensation.
According to other two victims all residents of Rutajenjeri village, whenever they are found grazing or collecting firewood adjacent to the forest, they are beaten and their animals taken and sometimes they are arrested and later released without charges.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Nahamya, the Commander of 19th Battalion reacted to this matter saying he has not received any complaint from the Batwa community and asked the victims to come out and report their complaints
to the nearby police or any other security agency or authorities so that the
implicated officers can be brought to book.