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Ministry of Energy Evicts over 200 Quarry Workers at Karuma

The Ministry of Energy, Mineral and Development has evicted over 200 quarry workers in Karuma Town Council at the Hydro Electric Power station.

The ongoing work on the 600 megawatts Karuma Dam Hydropower is a 1.7 billion dollars project financed by the Export-Import Bank of China.

The construction which kicked off in 2013 is being undertaken by Sinohydro, a Chinese State owned Construction Firm.

The Project displaced more than 200 households in Karuma Town Council from Kiryandongo District, the decision whose implementation is challenged in Masindi High Court over illegal eviction.

However, a section of the affected persons who have reportedly waited for compensation for nearly nine years later have turned to the quarry works in the area for livelihoods.

Whereas the locals have threatened to reoccupy the project land over slow progress of the compensation, the Ministry of Energy has ordered for fresh eviction of the occupants.

Joseph Oryem, the area Local Council 1 chairperson in Karuma Town Council told Uganda Radio Network that the eviction will take effect from Monday today.

Oryem explained that a joint Security meeting was held on Friday in the area by the affected communities who were then ordered to evacuate the area without suffering forceful eviction.

The Kiryandongo Resident District Commissioner Paul Peter Debele who chaired the meeting asked the occupants to vacate the area by 12th July 2021 on Monday.

He explained that the area is prone to mudslides which pose a higher risk for the people at the site adding that the District have continued to lose lives of the people at the quarry site.

The District recently recorded the death of three people who were buried alive by the landslides at the site while three more sustained serious injuries in the incident.

However, the decision is then protested by the local leaders in the area saying the development has made the occupants in the area vulnerable.

Washington Ocaya, the Karuma LV5 Councilor has urged the government to speed up the process of compensation for the affected persons to enhance their livelihoods.

Zebra Akulu, an HIV positive living in the area who lost her livelihood to the project, says she has been facing challenges to adhere to retroviral drugs regimen but is at least able to feed her family with the quarry works.

Ventorina Akoko, another victim in the area, says she lost 8 hectares of her farm land in the first eviction which occurred in 2013 and now is unable to provide for her 7 children who dropped out from school.

However, Bosco Wodangwa Munzofu, the Liaison Officer of Sinohydro Construction Firm says the illegal activities of the quarry work in the project area are affecting the hydropower station construction.

He noted that those occupying the area are not only the people who were initially displaced by the ongoing project but people from the neighboring Districts who are looking for survival from the area.

He however disclosed that the Construction Firm has obtained permission from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development for control of the disputed land until the hydropower is completed.

“Any activity into the area by the locals is illegal and we have informed them to evacuate the land before another step is taken, a step which they will to comply with” Munzofu warned.

Attempts to reach out to Paulhanns Kyazze, the Senior Communication Specialist in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development were futile by press time as he could not pick up his phone calls.

However, in an earlier interview, Kyazze noted that the government has already compensated the majority of the affected persons except those who went to court and others who rejected the physical cash.

He disclosed that while the government waits for the court to pronounce itself on the matter, the process of the identification of land for the other group who opted for relocation is on.

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