A combined force from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), the army and the Police have arrested six people suspected of involvement in the shooting of a Belgian tourist in Mt. Elgon National Park two weeks ago, a statement from UWA said yesterday.
At the same time, 100 Fresian cows, allegedly stolen from Kenya, were impounded in the mountain.
“The suspects all come from Kapchorwa district, which is notorious for having illegal guns and crossing into Kenya to rustle cattle,” the statement by UWA’s public relations officer, Lillian Nsubuga, said.
“It has been established that when the killers saw the campfire the rangers had lit to keep them warm, they thought it was a ranger patrol. Their plan was to kill the rangers and steal their guns.”
Belgian tourist Annick Van De Venster was shot by unknown gunmen at Hunters’ Cave, 3,870m above sea level, in the evening of February 5.
The 35-year-old mountain climber had arrived in Uganda on January 28 for a one-month tour.
Upon hearing gunshots, she came out of her tent with a headlight and was shot in the waist.
A UPDF plane that was sent to pick her, failed to land due to poor visibility caused by bad weather conditions.
Following the shooting, UWA together with UPDF sent deployments to the mountain to hunt for the culprits.
“One of the tragedies happening in Mt. Elgon is the rampant encroachment on the park, coupled by heavily armed community members that wantonly attack and injure or kill UWA’s law enforcement staff,” Nsubuga noted.
She cited an incident four years ago when two UWA rangers were shot dead while on patrol in the mountain, and their guns stolen.
“UWA will ensure that incidents of this nature never happen again. All avenues of ensuring absolute safety for our tourists in Mt. Elgon National Park are being implemented,” Nsubuga vowed.
She pointed out that tourism in the park had tremendously grown in recent years and that the surrounding communities had benefited from the increase.
“The districts of Mbale, Sironko and Kapchorwa have received large amounts of money through UWA’s Revenue Sharing programme, whereby neighbouring communities receive 20% of the annual park entry fees.”