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File photo: Lusa
The Mozambican Minister of Agriculture, Higino Marule, on Wednesday defended the use of force by wardens of the Gorongosa National Park (PNG) who came under attack from poachers in February.
Marule was speaking in the Mozambican Parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, answering a question from the Parliamentary group of the former rebel movement, Renamo, who appeared to take the side of the poachers.
Renamo asked, “What measures is the government taking to compensate the victims of the shootings (in the PNG) and what measures are under way concerning the citizens who were detained by the police?”.
Marule answered that, in reality, a group of about 150 people ambushed four park wardens on 11 February. The group was armed with knives, clubs and stones while the wardens only had one gun between them. The attackers invaded and vandalised an inspection post at Chionde.
These were not defenceless people,” said Marule. “They were prepared to lynch the wardens on duty at the post. There was no excessive use of force because all the procedures were followed such as verbal warnings, and shots into the air even after one of the wardens had been assaulted.”
After this clash, he continued, a joint team of the police and park wardens followed the group and arrested eight of them.
Marule said that on the list of attackers identified by the authorities “More than half are repeat offenders. They had been detained in the past for illegal activities, notably poaching.”
In recent years, said the Minister, there has been a considerable influx of people into the park, mostly from Maringue and Chemba districts. They have set up residence inside the park where they are farming and undertaking other illegal activities such as poaching, fishing and destruction of the forest.
He said, “This invasion is resulting in the loss of 30 hectares a month of park land in the north west area alone”.
Mozambican legislation bans all agriculture, hunting, logging, mining and similar economic activities within the boundaries of national parks.”Source: AIM