Police Declares Lubigi Swamp no-go zone

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Tear gas and heavy shooting rock Lubigi swamp area as Police battles with people who have forcefully occupied the wetland. We are reliably informed that Journalists have been beaten and cameras confiscated, as police declares the area a no-go zone

Hundreds of suspected army veterans had encroached on and degraded Lubigi Wetland in guise of constructing a market but the security forces surrounded a two-kilometer stretch prompting the encroachers hurl stones at them. The eviction exercise paralyzed business at Namungona in Lubaga Division at the outskirts of Kampala as the crowds stood by the road side slowing traffic on Hoima Road.

Police responded by firing live bullets in the air and teargas to disperse the group that had turned rowdy and arrested eight suspects who were whisked away to the police station.

Michael Mugabi, Kampala North Regional Police Commander says that he ordered his men to fire the teargas because the vendors were surging yet they were asked to assemble at Namungoona play grounds.

Mugabi explains that the minister is expected to arrive at Lubigi anytime to show the vendors the alternative piece of land to establish their market.

The mid-morning shooting also left some people injured and other fainting prompting for the intervention of the Red Cross and a Police ambulance to handle causalities.

“We have occupied the wetland because it had been taken illegally. It is a public area and for one to acquire it, there are procedures that must be followed for it is criminal to occupy a land which does not belong to you,” said Mr Ibin Ssenkumbi, the Kampala Metropolitan Police Publicist.

Mr Ssenkumbi told journalist from their station at the Namungoona that the police was also investigating allegations of unscrupulous people who have been extorting money in guise of selling plots and stalls for renting.

“We are not allowing any one to come in now. Several efforts to talk to these people have been held but they remained adamant. We cannot tolerate this any longer and the structures will be removed to restore the swamp,” he said.

Last week, the encroachers invaded one of the city’s major wetlands which regulates floods and sewerage and started constructing make-shift structures in the wetland, a move that threatens to destroy the wetland.

The eviction comes hardly a day after outgoing Water and Environment Minister, Ms Maria Mutagamba reported that President Museveni did not sanction the destruction of the swamp before directing the encroachers to vacate immediately or face harsher penalties.

But Mr Dennis Ssebuufu, one of the leaders denied the presence of veterans in the area saying they are traders who sought a working place after being chased from the road sides.

“We are waiting for the senior Police officials and the ministry of lands to come as agreed in the meeting to allocate us another land. If they don’t come, we shall proceed to out stalls and resume working despite the deployment,” Mr Ssebuufu told journalists.

He explained: “We occupied this place without asking for permission because we wanted to be heard and catered for by government. Poor people are not helped by government and it is not easy to get permission that is why we vow not to leave this place until an alternative is given to us.”

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