THE Police and army yesterday fired teargas and live bullets in Namungona, a Kampala suburb, to evict encroachers in the Lubigi wetland.
The eviction was ordered by water and environment minister Maria Mutagamba.
The wetland, which is about five kilometres off Kampala City on the Kampala-Hoima road, shields northern parts of Kampala from flooding.
The swamp takes water from River Nsooba, whose flood plain at Bwaise has been destroyed after years of reclamation to pave way for settlement.
The eviction started at dawn when the security officers, who had camped at the site overnight, battled with groups claiming to be army veterans and urban poor, who had occupied the place since Thursday.
The encroachers first gathered near the round–about with placards protesting the eviction and hurling insults at the Police.
Kampala North Metropolitan Police boss Michael Mugabi and Kampala Metropilitan Police political commissar Emilian Kayima tried to calm the situation in vain.
The group later marched towards the cleared site (swamp) but were blocked.
In the process, the protesters threw stones at the armed troops, prompting the military and anti-riot Police to use tear gas to disperse them.
The encroachers insisted they would continue the fight.
“We can never give up on this land. This is Kabaka’s land. We do not need permission from anyone,” their leader, Richard Lubwama, said.
He said they had registered over 40,000 occupants. The Police arrested 10 people accused of violent protests. Lubwama is on the run.
The fracas paralysed traffic for about two hours, while roadside traders also abandoned their merchandise as they fled to safety.
Mutagamba had also disclosed that the encroachers were selling market stalls erected in the swamp and warned that ring leaders would face the law.
Lubwama told New Vision that each stall cost about sh200,000 and that over 30,000 make-shift stalls estimated to cost about sh6m had been constructed.
Wetlands are public trust properties for which ownership is prohibited.
Citing Article 237, clause (2) section (b) of the Constitution, Mutagamba said: “The Government or local government shall hold in trust for the people and protect lakes, wetlands and any other land reserved for ecological and tourist purposes for the common good of the citizens of Uganda.”
Other regulations and laws outlawing use of the wetlands include the Land Act, the National Environment Management Act and regulations on rivers and lakes implemented by the National Environment Management Authority.
The minister also dismissed as false reports that an investor had been allocated part of the swamp.
“We are establishing a sewage treatment facility as part of the decentralised strategy for sewage handling within the Greater Kampala Master Plan. The facility will ensure proper treatment of sewerage and storm flow from Kawempe, Mulago, Bwaise, Makerere, Kalerwe and Nansana,” Mutagamba explained.
Kampala Police spokesperson Idi Ssenkumbi said they would camp in the area until Kampala City Council demolishes all the makeshift stalls.
About 10 acres of the swamp had been occupied.