The Minerals Protection Unit of the Uganda Police has been accused of over-stepping its mandate and doing the work of Ministry of Energy in regards mining.
The police unit was formed last year to handle issues such as illegal mining, unsafe mining methods and environmental protection.
The unit is currently deployed in a number of areas with minerals around the country including Mubende and Busia among others.
Speaking during the two-day all people’s conference at Hotel African organised by Global Rights Alert this week, a number of people accused the police of taking up the role of licensing miners yet it is not their mandate.
“The mineral protection police is now doing work of issuing licenses yet it is not their role. On many occasions, they determine who get a license and who does not,” said Paul Mugoya, a miner from Mubende.
The participants said on many occasions the police favour mainly the big and rich miners at the expense of the small miners.
Buhweju County MP Francis Mwijukye said that on a number of occasions police officers have been involved in mining themselves yet they are only supposed to enforce laws.
“They are targeting artisanal miners and land owners leaving out the big investors. In Buhweju we had a problem of police officers directly getting involved in mining until I intervened,”Mwijukye said.
He insisted that cases where police is involved in issuing licenses are many but warned them to back off because it is not their duty.
Bunya County South MP Robert Ntende said many police units including the Mineral Protection Unit are not well facilitated prompting the police officers to engage in activities that would get them money directly.
Ndorwa East’s Wilfred Nuwagaba asked police to refrain from technical issues but only focus on enforcing penal provisions of the law in regard mining.
Police defend self
Superintendent of Police Edson Muhangi, who represented the Police Mineral Protection Unit commander, denied the allegations against the unit noting that all they do is within their mandate.
“It is not that we are taking over the roles of commissioner in charge of minerals. We are only following the mandate and we did not come to usurp anyone’s mandate,” Muhangi said.
On police officers engaged in mining, the representative of the mineral protection police said any officer involved is doing it criminally and in case they are caught, they ought to be prosecuted.
“In Mubende we stopped police and army officers who were engaged in mining,” he noted.
On targeting artisanal miners, Muhangi denied the allegations but noted that their only duty is to protect and also guide the locals on how to operate within the law.
“Large scale miners always adhere to laws and so we should not be seen as being in bed with them,” he said.
The two-day all people’s conference was organised under the theme ‘Promoting inclusiveness in the governance of Uganda’s mineral wealth.’