In the Kanungu district, the Batwa Community is asking the Uganda Wildlife Authority to use affirmative action when hiring game rangers.
In July of last year, the authority initiated a nationwide search for over 800 game rangers in an effort to improve wildlife protection in all gazetted wildlife conservation zones across the nation.
O’Level certification and English language proficiency were minimum qualifications for hiring, along with other criteria.
The community in Buhoma town council, the majority of whose members reside close to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, asserts that none of them matched the standards. They contend that even if they don’t meet the requirements, UWA should give them special attention because they used to live in the Park, which the government forcibly removed them from in 1992.
The Batwa add that after being expelled, they have drastically cut back on the poaching behaviors for which they were viewed as a menace to animals.
The Wildlife Authority has turned away many of Eliphaz Kapere’s relatives who have expressed interest in joining to serve as game rangers, according to the 65-year-old Mutwa from Bwanya village.
He claims that despite their continued financial hardships, many Batwa people still feel a connection to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Kapere contends that the government need to recognize the Batwa and provide them with possibilities free from onerous restrictions.
Elphael Kabwaana, a member of the same village, claims that only one of their colleagues was chosen to receive training as a game ranger as a result of strong support from non-governmental organizations in the region.
Since the Batwa have no land on which to practice agriculture, Kabwaana claims that once there is special recruitment, the Batwa can support themselves economically and stop gambling.
According to Sylvia Kokunda, the executive director of Action for Batwa Empowerment Group, a non-governmental organization that fights for the rights of the Batwa people, those interested in employment must be scar-free in addition to possessing an O-Level diploma and being proficient in English.
As a result of their way of life, it is exceedingly rare to find any Batwa without scars, according to Ms. Kokunda, who also notes that just three Batwa have so far accepted jobs as porters with UWA out of the approximately 1,033 Batwa living in 10 settlements in the Kanungu district.
Mr. Sam Arineitwe Kajojo, the chairman of the Kanungu district, reports that local officials have already contacted UWA with demands for special recruitment aimed at Batwa into game ranging and tour guiding. Kajojo asserts that if this is accomplished, many Batwa will be inspired to conserve the environment and put an end to their vice of poaching.
According to Kajojo, district leaders have chosen to begin educating the Batwa about mentality transformation and how they might engage in commercial agriculture to support themselves economically while they wait for UWA to look into requests.
According to UWA Communications Manager Bashir Hangi, there are some Batwa in Kanungu who work for UWA on a temporary basis. He also exhorts Batwa to continue applying for ranger and other posts.
We have recruitment facilities close to all protected areas since UWA recruitment considers the needs of local populations. The recruitment procedure for ranger and other roles is encouraged to include the Batwa. According to him, some Batwa currently provide casual labor for UWA.
Gad Rugaaju Ahimbisibwe, the deputy resident district commissioner for Kanungu, asserted that it would be difficult for UWA to alter the recruiting process for game rangers in order to favor the Batwa.
With the assistance of the United Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda, the Batwa filed a petition with the Constitutional Court on February 8, 2013, accusing the National Forestry Authority and the Uganda Wildlife Authority of evicting them from ancestral forests in 1992 without providing them with adequate compensation.
The Constitutional Court in Kampala decided in August 2021 that the Batwa have a native or original title stake in the contested protected forests in South Western Uganda. The court further stated that their forced expulsion from the aforementioned places without just compensation had increased their marginalization and reduced them to a lower class of citizens who were destined to intrude on other people’s property. However, the government has not yet made any payments to the Batwa.