Uganda — ARMY officers clearing and destroying mines planted by the LRA rebels in Agoro and Ngomoromo on the Uganda-Sudan border want the Government to increase their allowances and manpower.
Lt. Denis Labu, the supervisor of the officers, said increasing their allowances and manpower would enable them complete the work before the deadline of 2012.
He said the team also needed 70 more people to speed up the process of removing the mines.
According to Labu, there are four suspected mine fields around Agoro hills.
People living near the hills said mines are often detonated during bushfires, which puts their lives in danger.
These areas are hilly with valleys and streams. During the LRA insurgency, they were hideouts for rebels. As they fled to Sudan, they planted mines expecting to blow up UPDF soldiers after them, Labu said.
He noted that five civilians died and five others were injured when they were hit by mines as they returned to their villages in 2006.
Disaster preparedness minister Prof. Tarsis Kabwegyere with officials from the Prime Ministers Office trekked about 9km to the hills to hand over the cleared land to Lamwo local leaders.
The de-mining programme is being coordinated by the Office of the Prime Minister with financial and technical support from the United Nations Development Programme.
Land free of landmines is land ready for development. We have cleared Kony with all his landmines. If you double the size of your gardens, how can we stop development? Kabwegyere asked during the handover ceremony.
Residents of Lute village in Lamwo district said they were excited that they would resume cultivating the land that was previously inaccessible beacause of mines.
Kabwegyere said the Government and Lamwo district would make sure all the mines are removed, and assured the officers destroying the mines of support.
He added that people should also be senstised on how to protect themselves from mines.
Lamwo LC5 chairman Mathew Ocen Akiya said close to 10,000 people had been left landless due to landmines.
Vincent Woboya, the coordinator of the Uganda Mine Action Programme, said the biggest challenge was providing adequate allowances for the officers and acquiring metal detectors to complete the exercise as scheduled.
Lt. Col. Richard Wakayinja, the UPDF deputy engineer brigade commander, said little priority had been given to the de-mining programme.