5 May 2005

Uganda: Odongo Refuses to Enter Forest Row

Mayuge — The Minister of State for Environment, Lt. Gen. Jeje Odongo, has said he will not intervene in the wrangle between the National Forestry Authority (NFA) and encroachers on the South Busoga Forest in Mayuge.

He said the district Woman MP, Ms Isanga Nakadama, should first resolve the tension she created by inciting the forest intruders.

On April 18 Odongo wrote to Nakadama accusing her of making a speech on April 14, which encouraged an influx of more encroachers who destroyed the remaining part of the forest.

He reminded the MP that it's only Parliament that has powers to degazette forest reserves.

Odongo said Nakadama's statements put him in a difficult position that if he intervened, the encroachers could resort to violence.

"Go back to South Busoga Forest Reserve and explain to the population the benefits of working out a solution amicably and encourage respect for forest reserve boundaries and relaxing the tension you have created by your highly inflammatory speech," Odongo wrote.

"Then and only then can I go to Mayuge to find a lasting solution," he said.

He said it was regrettable for the MP to blame the government using sectarian statements that it employed non-Basoga to manage the forest reserves.

Nakadama said on Saturday that she received Odongo's letter, but declined to comment on it. She said she was preparing a written response.

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