Kabarole District Fails to Evict Butebe Forest Encroachers

3075 Views Fort Portal, Uganda

In short
Kabarole district has failed to implement a report by the Inspector General of Government (IGG) on the eviction of people who encroached on Butebe Forest Reserve.

Kabarole district has failed to implement a report by the Inspector General of Government (IGG) on the eviction of people who encroached on Butebe Forest Reserve.

In 2011, the IGG received complaints from residents of Butebe parish in Karambi Sub County, that the forest reserve had been encroached on by Muhenda Rujumba, the Chief Administrative Officer Kamwenge district and Kwebiiha Basiima, a businessman in Mbarara. 

The IGG carried out investigations and established that Rujumba encroached on about 7 acres of the forest reserve and set up a dairy farm, while Basiima used 13 acres of the land to plant Eucalyptus trees.

The IGG further indicates that after encroaching on the forest reserve, Rujumba and Basiima applied to Kabarole district land board to purchase leases for the same land they had illegally acquired. The district land board went ahead to lease the land to the duo.

The IGG recommended that the lease be revoked and the duo be evicted . 

However, the district has taken no step to implement the recommendations, which has drawn protests from local leaders of Karambi Sub County and civil society organizations in the district. 

When Uganda Radio Network visited the forest reserve, at least 20 acres of the forest land had been fenced off and plain clothed armed men were guarding them. The forest reserve is about 160 acres. 

Joseph Mashuhuko, the Karambi sub county councillor, says that the sub county leadership wasn’t consulted when they were leasing out the forest reserve.

Mashuhuko says that when the forest reserve was encroached on, it became difficult for leaders and residents to access it. He says that the forest reserve is a source of income for the sub county through selling firewood to residents and awarding permits to plant trees.

Peter Alinda, the Kabarole district lands officer, told Uganda Radio Network that they couldn’t implement the recommendations without first opening the boundaries to ascertain which part of the reserve was encroached on by Rujumba and Basiima. 

According to Alinda, a survey on the reserve was carried out and a report was compiled and given to the district executive committee for action.

Angela Byangwa, the Coordinator Ruwenzori Anti-Corruption Coalition, says they have petitioned the district to take action based on the findings of the IGG report, but in vain.

She says that since the forest reserve is held in trust of the people by the district, the survey report should also be made public. 

//Cue in: “We petitioned the…
Cue out: …back government land.”//

Richard Rwabuhinga, the district chairperson, was hesitant to reveal what the district plans to do even after receiving the IGG’s report and that of the district surveyor. Rwabuhinga said that he will first consult the executive members.

Butebe Forest Reserve was gazetted in 1953. It was then declared a central government forest reserve in 1967 and in 1988, management of the forest reserve was decentralized to Kabarole district local government.

 

About the author

Emmanuel Kajubu
Emmanuel Kajubu is proud to have been the first Ugandan journalist to write in depth pieces about the Tooro Kingdom institution. His knowledge of the inner workings of the Tooro Kingdom is what made him privy to the splits in the royal family. These splits almost challenged Tooro Omukama Oyo Nyimba Iguru's reign.

Culture, agriculture and the environment are just two areas of many of interest to Kajubu. As long as he has held a pen, Kajubu has also written about public policy, health and crime.

Kajubu is keen on impacting his society not just as a writer but also a trainer and mentor. Bundibugyo and Ntoroko districts fall under his docket. Kajubu has been a URN staff member since 2008.