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Zambia promises to evict KU National Park encroachers

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Zambian President, Edgar Lungu, has promised that people from the country’s Eastern Province district, Chipata, who invaded and occupied about 20 square kilometres of Malawi’s Kasungu National Park land, will be moved out of the tourism site.

Lungu, who was in the country for the Independence Celebrations, made the pledge on Tuesday when, together with President Peter Mutharika, he signed a Trans-frontier Conservation Area (TFCA) Treaty in Blantyre.

According to Director of Wildlife and Parks, Brighton Kunchedwa, there are about 100 families, whose total population is estimated to be more than 800 staying in the park.

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Kunchedwa said the encroachers are the subjects of Chief Chanje in Chipata.

Lungu said the Zambian government will tell the chief to move his people out of the park with a vow that there will be strict joint effort to ensure the implementation of the treaty.

“This agreement will allow us to talk about all the challenges that we are facing. Currently, Mr President [Mutharika], I have learnt, whilst here, that in Kasungu National Park, people have built permanent houses there and these people are believed to be from Zambia.

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“The chief there claims that it is his land and indeed they are of the same tribe. He doesn’t know that there are friendship boundaries between Zambia and Malawi. He says people are the same and he can do whatever he wants to do. But after signing this agreement, I am sure we will talk to him and he will get to understand why we have to respect this arrangement of preserving nature so that him and his people benefit,” Lungu said.

He said there are benefits in conserving natural resources but in the absence of knowledge those people will think they are being inhibited and being stopped from staying where they have to settle.

Reacting to the promise, Kunchedwa said it is encouraging to have political support at the highest level.

“We feel this issue is now going to be resolved amicably and with the multi-sectoral team that will be put in place we will use appropriate channels. We are very optimistic that this issue is going to be sorted out,” he said.

Kunchedwa said half of the encroachers moved into the park from around 1980 to 1999 and Chief Chanje allocated land to the other half in 2005.

He said the government of Malawi went to the area to evict the encroachers but met resistance.

He then said another Zambian chief, Mwasemphangwe, also allocated some of the park’s land to his subjects, but that group moved out between 2013 and 2014 after the government successfully discussed with them.

“We have even made a number of arrests. Some Zambians have been convicted in the court of law, for example, in Kasungu but still we have got these resistant communities that claimed it is their homeland,” he said.

Kunchedwa said the encroachers’ life in the park is characterised by serious poaching, charcoal burning, cultivation, and livestock grazing and substantial tree cutting for other domestic purposes

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