The island had until now remained a tourist site for both locals and international visitors. However, residents went up in arms on Tuesday when they saw Mathias Muhereza, a State House official and former Rubanda West county parliamentary candidate taking over the Island forcefully.
According to residents, they saw Muhereza and his workers clearing and erecting a wooden dock on the island under the tight protection of the Police Presidential Guards-PPG.
Drake Diaz Owoyesigire, a resident and a tour guide at Lake Buyonyi, said they are angered by Muhereza’s decision to destroy the community owned island to erect a bar.
Owoyesigyire has filed a case of threatening violence case against Muhereza at Kabale police station vide reference: SD33/17/01/2018.
George Tukwasiibwe, a canoe operator on Lake Bunyonyi and resident of Burimba cell in Rubaya Sub County in Kabale district said that the takeover of the Punishment Island threatens the tourism sector since it has been one of the tourist attractions.
He accuses Muhereza of using his state house connections to intimidate residents opposed to his takeover of the Island.
Engineer Ivan Mbabazi Batuma, the chairperson Kigezi Tourism Cluster, an association and advocacy platform promoting the interests of tourism development in the region, wondered why Muhereza was destroying nature at the Punishment Island without the knowledge of tourism stakeholders.
Muhereza said nobody will stop him from erecting structures at the island. He claimed that the Island belongs to the Bakongwe Clan, where he belongs, adding that those complaining are from Basigyi clan and nonresidents.
Muhereza said he is planning to plant trees and natural grass as a way of preserving the punishment island.