Police fires teargas as Ssenyonyi tours Lubigi wetland

Following the scuffle, Parliament security whisked Ssenyonyi off to safety and drove off, while the other residents were seen running to safety.

Police used teargas to block Leader of Opposition, Joel Ssenyonyi from touring the Lubigi wetland site, where National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) recently evicted residents for illegally occupying the wetlands.

After addressing residents, Ssenyonyi moved to start touring the wreckage in Lubigi, but Police moved swiftly to block him.

Later on, teargas canisters were thrown to disburse the residents who were protesting Police’s actions of blocking Ssenyonyi from touring the wreckage.

Following the scuffle, Parliament security whisked Ssenyonyi off to safety and drove off, while the other residents were seen running to safety.

The blockage followed an earlier address Ssenyonyi made to the residents, where he protested the discriminatory nature NEMA had taken in wetland evictions.

Ssenyonyi wonderd, “why factories are allowed to build in wetlands, while residents are being ruthlessly evicted from Lubigi without any discussions or notices issued ahead of the evictions.”

“I have passed by the same place and there is still a Police station and fuel stations, so if the evictions are going on, why should they discriminate? There are known wetlands in Uganda that are full of factories, these ones aren’t being bothered. Perhaps it is because the owners of these businesses have connections to Government or they are employed in Government. That is why we are asking ourselves, why discriminate among citizens in Uganda?” said Ssenyonyi.

The Leader of Opposition urged the residents to fight all forms of human rights violations, saying evictions of this nature don’t discriminate against political affiliations.

He cited the recent kidnap of lawmaker, Paul Akamba (Busiki County), who was ruthlessly kidnapped just after being given bail by court, saying when such matters were raised, they were dismissed as merely opposition’s attempts to politick.

“These issues of evictions don’t discriminate against political affiliations, these issues of violating the rights of Ugandans don’t bother your political parties because when such a day comes, you all face the wrath. We have been raising concern about human rights violations and for a long time, our concerns have been ignored because they are raised by members of the National Unity Platform (NUP),” he added.

Ssenyonyi compared what happened at the Anti-Corruption Court to what happened in Lubigi, saying as parliament they are all concerned.

He highlighted that, “I have been told some of you have been here for 5 years, some 10 years, yet there is a gentle man who said he has lived here for 26years. But you spent all this time and constructed when the Government was watching. And some of you established businesses within these premises and have been paying taxes.”

The leader of the opposition also asked why the government would late people settle on land and establish businesses illegally and go ahead to tax them, yet they well knew they were not legal occupants of the land in Lubigi.

He also revealed that he held a discussion with Barirega Akankwasah, Executive Director of NEMA and asked him to hold discussions with residents and reach a common ground, before such evictions are carried out other than taking eviction decisions in their cool offices without first assessing the situation on ground.

“I even asked him if they had held discussions with you people and I cautioned him that as NEMA, it isn’t good for the officials to sit in their offices and work on remote control. These are Ugandans and you have been collecting taxes from them, why not go on ground and hold talks with them? You listen to them and they also listen to you so that you have a point of convergence instead of unleashing Police on the locals who ended up destroying people’s property,” said Ssenyonyi.

“I told the NEMA Executive Director that there is a lot of destruction that has taken place and there are more places that have been marked for eviction, I asked him to allow us hold a meeting with the local leaders around Lubigi, also representatives from the people who have been evicted so that they listen to you. And I assured him that these people are Ugandans, that is why they aren’t in the bush hiding,” he added.

More than 100 families residing in Ganda Village, Wakiso District have been left homeless after they were evicted from their houses situated in a wetland.

ALSO READ: https://charmarnews.com/why-there-is-need-to-uncover-robust-solutions-for-tackling-ugandas-widespread-flooding/

Environmentalists have repeatedly warned against the continued encroachment on Lubigi wetland. Since 2011, several groups of people including veterans, Uganda Patriotic Voluntary Organization, and residents have been encroaching on the wetland.

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