By Ambrose Kweronda
The Batwa community in Kisoro are in high spirits after winning the case against the government in the constitutional court on Thursday.
On 08th February, The Batwa of Uganda who form a population estimated at 6,200 submitted a petition to the constitutional court seeking recognition of their status as indigenous people under international law.
They also want a redress for the historic marginalization and continuous human rights violations they experienced as a result of being dispossessed of their ancestral forest lands by the government.
Before their eviction, the Batwa had lived in the forests of Echuya, Bwindi and Mgahinga since immemorial times.
The measures taken to remove the Batwa to create environmentally protected areas and to limit access and use of Bwindi Impenetrable national park, Mgahinga Gorilla national park, and Echuya central Forest reserve, resulted in the violation of Batwas’ property rights over their ancestral lands.
While colonial protection of forest started in the 1920s, most Batwa continued to live in forests and continued to use its resources until the 1990’s when they were evicted without consultation, adequate compensation or offer of alternative land.
As a result, the Batwa have seen the heart of their culture, traditions, beliefs and wealth swept away an element that has made them squatters on other people’s land, with severe poverty, malnutrition and health problems.
The Batwa who spoke to www.mknewslink.com noted that they are subjected to high levels of discrimination in Ugandan society and are not treated or perceived as citizens.
To their disappointment, revenues generated from activities taking place on the Batwa lands have not been re-distributed to address the negative impacts suffered by the Batwa.
Basing on such circumstances, OUBDU in partnership with the Batwa in Uganda petitioned the constitutional court seeking for the recognition of their rights.
The petition was against the attorney general, Uganda wildlife Authority and National forestry authority. Zaninka Peninah the OUBDU project coordinator attributed the victory to the almighty God who guided the 5 judges of the constitutional court to decide in Batwa’s favor.
She hailed OUBDU staff and other development partners who have supported the Batwa until the final judgement.
www.mknewslink.com a greater western Uganda news website