Jinja: In a turn of events that has rocked Jinja district, residents of Buyengo town council, along with local leaders, engaged in a peaceful demonstration against stone quarry activities in the Butamiila parish. The demonstration, aimed at addressing grievances related to property damage, destruction of homes, and health concerns caused by explosions from the quarry, escalated into a situation of tension and unrest.
Led by Moses Batwala, the Jinja district chairperson, the leaders and residents voiced their concerns about the adverse effects of the stone quarry exercise. However, the demonstration was met with intervention by law enforcement personnel. Among those arrested and allegedly subjected to mistreatment were Samuel Akalyamawa, the councilor of Buyengo town council, and two others. These individuals were apprehended for organizing the demonstration without the required police permission.
The trio was presented before Jinja Grade One Magistrate, Yafeesi Ocieng, on Wednesday, facing charges of inciting violence. In a court session where the state Attorney was notably absent, the accused were remanded to Kirinya prison until August 29, 2023.
Isaac Kiwanuka, the defense lawyer for the accused, sought bail for his clients on the grounds of their alleged mistreatment and need for proper medical attention. However, the judge declined the bail application, asserting that the detainees would receive medical care within the facilities of Kirinya prison. Kiwanuka expressed confidence in securing bail for his clients before the scheduled date through a production warrant.
Amid the legal proceedings, residents have raised allegations against Richard Gulume Balyaino, the Jinja Resident District Commissioner (RDC), accusing him of orchestrating the arrests and mistreatment of the suspects. Residents claim that Balyaino has shown indifference to their concerns regarding the impact of the stone quarry on their lives. Moses Batwala, who himself claims to have faced physical aggression from security operatives, is resolute in his determination to advocate for his constituents until they receive compensation from the responsible company. He emphasizes that the company proceeded without obtaining the required approval from the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA).
Responding to these allegations, Jinja RDC Balyaino refuted any involvement in the arrests, blaming leaders for initiating unauthorized gatherings that led to security action. Balyaino called for calm among the locals and stressed the importance of constructive dialogue with relevant authorities. He also cautioned against the use of incendiary language and actions that might escalate tensions.
As the legal process unfolds and tensions simmer, the situation underscores the challenges in addressing environmental concerns and their impact on local communities. The case highlights the need for effective communication, community engagement, and adherence to regulatory procedures to ensure harmony between development initiatives and the welfare of residents.