Batwa community complain of extortion and torture by Ugandan soldiers

Batwa pygmies
Batwa pygmies in the jungle. This group used to harness honey, use plants for medicinal purposes, and hunt forest animals using spears. When the forest was declared a national heritage site, the Batwa were expelled from the forest. They now live on the outskirts of the forest and mix with local communities.

Rubanda, Uganda | URN | The Uganda People Defense Force (UPDF) soldiers deployed to guard Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Kashasha parish in Bufundi sub-county of Rubanda district are being accused of extortion and aggravated torture against the Batwa community.

Batwa is a semi-nomadic ‘pygmy’ tribe that lived in the jungles of Ecuya, Bwindi and Mgahinga forests as hunters and gatherers for centuries until 1992 when the government removed them from their ancestral dwelling in order to conserve wildlife. Many allege that they were never provided with alternative land to relocate to.

Alex Maneriho, a Mutwa from Nyamatembe village says that his nine goats were last week confiscated by the UPDF soldiers after he was found grazing adjacent to the forest. Maneriho said that he was forced to pay 500,000 shillings to get back his goats.

Alex Maneriho, a Mutwa from Nyamatembe village. Courtesy Photo
Alex Maneriho, a Mutwa from Nyamatembe village. Courtesy Photo

Jessica Kyomuntu, a Mutwa from Rutajenjeri village says that the UPDF soldiers last month reportedly battered to death one Mateeka Rujabarande, a Mutwa from Nyamatembe village after he was found collecting firewood in the park. She wonders why they are not allowed to cross to the forest yet they were ordered to vacate without compensation.

Seperiano Matariza and Samuel Byenayisho all from Rutajenjeri village say that whenever they are found grazing or collecting firewood adjacent to the forest, they are beaten and their animals taken. They say that sometimes they are arrested and later released without charges.

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Lieutenant Colonel Robert Nahamya, the Commander of 19th Battalion told this publication that he has not received any complaint from the Batwa community.

He however asked the victims to come out and report their complaints either to him or to the nearest police or any other security agency so that the implicated officers can be brought to book.