Where Were You When People Were Constructing? Parliament Roasts Sleepy NEMA Over Violent Evictions, Selective Enforcement In Lubigi Wetland

Where Were You When People Were Constructing? Parliament Roasts Sleepy NEMA Over Violent Evictions, Selective Enforcement In Lubigi Wetland

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By Spy Uganda

Kampala: Barely a week after the National Environment Authority (NEMA) began cracking down on settlements in wetlands, Parliament has raised concerns about the process’s execution, particularly in the Lubigi wetland.

During Wednesday morning’s plenary session, Speaker Anita Among questioned why NEMA allowed people to settle in wetlands only to evict them violently years later. She criticized the apparent negligence of NEMA in failing to prevent initial settlements.

“Much as we are not supposed to interfere in the role of NEMA, by the time someone begins to construct and NEMA does not know, then there is a problem,” said Speaker Among.

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She also highlighted the selective nature of evictions in the Lubigi wetland, pointing out that a police station and a fuel station were spared while long-term residents were evicted.

Among urged the Leader of the Opposition (LoP), Joel Ssenyonyi, to direct the Committee on Commissions Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) to investigate the conduct of NEMA officials during the evictions.

Among further questioned the inconsistency in NEMA’s actions, noting the presence of commercial structures like malls in the wetland area that were not demolished. “LOP, as head of COSASE, I want you to tell the Committee to interact with NEMA and know what happened,” she ruled.

The Speaker condemned the police’s violent treatment of LoP Ssenyonyi during his official visit to the affected areas in Lubigi, Ganda, and Kawala. Ssenyonyi was assessing the impact of the evictions on residents accused of encroaching on the wetlands.

“I watched three days back, [and] I actually tried to call LoP but I think he was busy. Opposition has to do an oversight role. LoP had gone to do his role on Hoima road, his team was tear-gassed. We have malls that are being built in the wetlands and someone goes to check, he is tear-gassed. I want to hear from the Government because it is uncalled for,” said Among.

NUP’s Response and Support for Victims

The opposition National Unity Platform (NUP), led by spokesperson Ssenyonyi and Secretary General David Lewis Rubongoya, visited the wetland to interact with victims.

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They accused the government agency of ignoring the concerns of the affected residents. Rubongoya highlighted the plight of Ruth Namuddu, an elderly widow whose house and rentals were demolished. NUP has since launched online fundraising to support her.

In Parliament, Ssenyonyi explained that his visit was prompted by petitions from residents seeking safety amidst violent evictions. He criticized NEMA’s double standards, noting that privileged individuals and businesses had their structures spared.

“I didn’t want to speak with ignorance, so I went on a fact-finding mission together with MPs from the area. It is unfortunate that we were met with tear gas and live ammunition. We did not go to fight. People settle in an area for years. I met old people, a man who said he has been there for over 40 years,” said Ssenyonyi.

He questioned why the government, which NEMA serves, collected taxes from businesses in the wetland while knowing these areas should be protected. He demanded a comprehensive plan for managing all wetlands in the Kampala metropolitan area to clarify who is permitted to settle in these regions.

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