By Ambrose Kweronda
Political leaders in Kigezi region have accused the government and indigenous people of frustrating the lives of Batwa by denying them basic necessities of life.
The concerned leaders wondered why the government has not been able to resettle the marginalized group of Batwa ever since their eviction from national parks in the 1990’s.
The leaders were speaking during the launch of a study by Mbarara University of Science and Technology-MUST, titled “Understanding the Marginalized Batwa people of South Western Uganda,” a function held at Kanungu social center.
The lead researcher, Dr. Viola Nilah Nyakato said the study was aimed at understanding the lives of the Batwa and ways of improving their livelihoods.
Kabale LC V chairperson Patrick Besigye Keihwa, who also doubled as research committee chairperson noted that ever since the government evicted the Batwa from Bwindi, Mgahinga and Echuya national forests, it has done nothing to resettle them.
He called upon the government to compensate the Batwa and resettle them in areas near the forest since it is their lifestyle.
Kisoro district LC V chairperson Abel Bizimana esplained that instead of the government helping the Batwa, it has joined forces with the indigenous population to victimize them in every possible way.
Kanungu district LCV vice-chairperson Gard Byomuhangi noted that like any other Ugandan, the Batwa should have access to land, Operation Wealth Creation program and other government programs to improve their lives.
He however noted there is also need to work towards changing the mindset the Batwa if any progress is to be made.
Gard Shemajere, the Executive Director Batwa Development Organization says that as Batwa, they want representation in the local leadership structure. They also want to be resettled near forests and get fertile land for agriculture.
Findings of the study show that 80% of the Batwa do not own land and live as squatters on pieces of land provided by non-governmental organisations without any legal documentation.
The Batwa, also known as Twa people are pygmies. They are scattered in Kanungu, Kisoro, Rubanda and Kabale districts.
They were the original inhabitants of the Bwindi forest where they are believed to had stayed for more than 300 years before their eviction by the government.
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