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Artisanal and Small-scale Miners of Mubende Plan Strong Engagement with the President

MUSEVENI AT POINT FM 2They are irked by the delayed intervention by his Excellency to address their plight

Artisanal miners who were evicted from the gold mines in Mubende district last year have vowed to demonstrate against the President of Uganda, H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, if he insists on not allowing them to go back to gold mines from which they were evicted in August 2017. The artisanal miners expressed this during their meeting held at Mountain Pub Hotel in Mityana Municipality on 23rd/4/2018

This comes after the miners received a communication from the Woman Member of Parliament for Mubende District, Hon. Nalongo Benny Bugembe Namugwanya about a planned meeting between the President and the evicted miners slated for the 23rd/May/2018, which is yet to be confirmed.

According to the General Secretary of the Mubende United Miners Assembly, Mr. Kibirige Emmanuel, he mentioned that since the eviction nine months ago, the President has been promising them a dialogue  to solve this issue of unfair evictions, without provision of an alternative working area, but  he has never honored his promise.

“We have tried to contain ourselves for the last 9 months with hope that one day we will return and resume our work but we are running out of patience. In case we do not succeed this time with the forth-coming meeting with the President, we are ready to strip naked before him. May be that is when he will understand our grief,” he told this publication.

Mr Kibirige further explained that; ”we are no longer interested in the government’s strategy to provide us with machinery so that we can improve on our mining skills and our lives. All we need is to revive our survival because mining has been our source of livelihood for a long time.”

Mubende District Police Commander, Mr. Okoyo Martin has however advised these miners to handle the issue calmly by writing to the concerned offices for a solution instead of going rowdy, an act that may culminate into arrests.

Artisanal miners were evicted in August 2017 from several mining sites that included Lugongwe, “Kampala”, Lujinji A, Lujinji B, Kabadda, and Nfuka, all located in Kitumbi and Bukuya sub-counties in Mubende District. Over 60,000 artisanal miners and service providers who were operating several businesses including buying of gold, restaurants and bars, wholesale shops, salons, medical clinics, mobile money agents, chapatti stalls, entertainment halls, lodges, mechanical workshops, boda-boda riders and taxis drivers among others were ordered to vacate the gold mines within a very short period of about two hours. This followed several warnings of possible eviction for quite some time and the miners were also chasing for location licenses which did not yield since the area they were targeting had already been licensed to another investor. The final stroke that broke the camel’s back was the presidential directive on eviction of all the illegal artisanal miners in Mubende district on grounds that they were not registered and unknown to government authorities. Their activities were thus classified as detrimental to the economy and the environment overall since their output was not taxed and regulated and their methods of work caused environmental damages.

However, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development then, Dr. Stephen. R. Sabalija in the letter dated 02nd/August/2017  explained  that government was planning to put- in place intervention measures whereby all the local artisanal miners in all mining areas of Kitumbi and Bukuya sub-counties would be registered so that they can be organized into groups that shall ultimately be well regulated. All his aspiration is yet to be realized and the Mining Act (2003) under review also has new provision for legalization of Artisanal and Small scale mining operations in Uganda.

Josephine Nnabaale

Oil.Uganda@actionaid.org