Bugoma Forest Reserve Encroachers Arrested

2274 Views Hoima, Uganda

In short
Albertine Regional Police Public Relations Officer Julius Hakiza says the arrested individuals are members of a veterans association claiming to have been given part of the forest reserve by President Yoweri Museveni. The veterans have been locked up in a boundary dispute with NFA for over five years.

Six men suspected to be encroachers on the Bugoma Central Forest Reserve have been arrested. They were netted during ongoing operations by National Forestry Authority and environmental police in Hoima district.

Albertine Regional Police Public Relations Officer Julius Hakiza says the arrested individuals are members of a veterans association claiming to have been given part of the forest reserve by President Yoweri Museveni. The veterans have been locked up in a boundary dispute with NFA for over five years.

The veterans under an umbrella body known Tulipona Veterans Association' descended on Bugoma forest in Nyairongo village in 2010 and distributed plots amongst themselves claiming that they were legally occupying public land. It is estimated that the group had depleted about 5000 hectares of Uganda's largest central forest reserves.

In 2012 NFA forcefully evicted the veterans and had some of their leaders arrested and prosecuted. Court later ordered for a joint boundary reopening exercise as a lasting solution to the problem.

Stuart Maniraguha, the NFA sector manager for Kisindi area told Uganda Radio Network that the suspects were found burning charcoal and clearing land for cultivation even after the conclusion of the official reopening of the forest reserve boundaries.

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Maniraguha says that the opening of the boundaries was done jointly by NFA and surrounding communities who brought their own surveyors to end the conflict that was involving the 41,142 hectare natural forest reserve early this year.
 
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Hoima deputy RDC Ambrose Mwesigye says that after the boundaries were opened, it was deemed necessary to protect the forest reserves. He adds that with the oil and gas extraction activities going on in the region, there is need to conserve the environment in order to avoid the hash effects of the emissions from the industrial activities on the population within the Albertine Graben.
 
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Mwesigye adds that all encroachers on protected natural resources will be treated as enemies of humanity.
 
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About the author

Thembo Kahungu
Thembo Kahungu is interested in journalism that changes lives. A recent example is when a suspect in state prosecutor Joan Kagezi was held longer than the law states. Kahungu is proud to note that it was his follow up on Geoffrey Kato's unlawful detention that led to the freedom of the boda boda rider.

Previously based in Kasese, Kahungu has been reposted to Hoima town. Kahungu is now the Uganda Radio Network Hoima bureau chief.

Kahungu has been a practicing journalist since 2007. He was a reporter for Radio Messiah and Kasese Guide Radio. He was also the Kasese Daily Monitor freelance writer. He has also been a teacher at Liberty College of Management and Journalism in Kasese district.

Kahungu is deeply interested in investigative journalism. Kahungu has developed a big interest in covering issues to do with Oil, Gas and Mining after attending a fellowship in Ghana in October 2015 under the sponsorship of Natural Resource Governance Institute.