By Norman Isaac Mwambazi
Uganda is a country that is endowed with hundreds of natural resources some of which have not yet even been mined yet.
Those that have been explored and mining activities started have not gone without creating conflicts between landowners, large scale miners and artisanal miners.
To solve and prevent these conflicts, the Mineral Protection Unit (MPU) was created in the Police Force but it is sometimes used by the highest bidder to coarse land owners and evict artisanal miners from areas the big players want to use.
Artisanal miners have filed numerous petitions in Parliament asking for its intervention citing corruption and unfair treatment by the MPU, large scale mining companies, and abandonment by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development in protecting their rights.
The Chairperson of the Committee on Natural Resources, Hon Keefa Kiwanuka presented a report in Parliament on Wednesday, September 30, 2020 on the petition by the Uganda Association of Artisanal and Small scale Miners, the Ecological Christian Organisation, Transparency International, and the Africa Centre for Energy and Mineral Policy (ACEMP) over unlawful eviction, exploitation, abuse, neglect and mistreatment.
In the report, Kiwanuka, who is the MP for Kiboga East, advocates for the disbandment of the MPU, and having the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) come in if need be, such that the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development can be further empowered to regulate exploration and markets for Uganda’s minerals.
“The committee strongly recommends that, to save the name of our Police, and before more scandals erupt, the Mineral Protection Unit should be disbanded immediately such that we leave the Energy Ministry to do their work in a more professional manner. The Ministry can call in help of either the UPDF or the Police as and when it is required,” Kiwanuka said.
Kiwanuka added that; “Tthere is need for government to adopt practices demonstrating recognition of the artisanal and small-scale mining in the extractive sector as important players.”
He explained that; “This could, for instance, be through increased licensing of artisanal mining instead of preserving disproportionate mining areas exclusively to a few large scale miners.”
The report also recommends that government expedites the process of registering all artisanal and small scale miners throughout the country in order to have their activities formalized and to enable them benefit from the various government programs geared towards the developing the sector.