10 May 2005

Uganda: Forest Authority Lost in the Woods


Unless a quick fix is found soon, the National Forest Authority might start getting bunched together with other notorious enforcement arms of the government.

This would be a shame because the authority's motive of saving our forests is both noble and urgent.

Uganda has 506 Central Forest Reserves, which until the authority was formed, were virtually at the mercy of small-time encroachers and timber merchants.

Since its formation, the authority has sought to regulate the activity in these reserves by evicting encroachers, managing replanting projects, and licencing forest users.

Unfortunately, the authourity's campaign has run into trouble with villagers who are determined to resist eviction.

Local politicians who mislead villagers for populist motives worsen the situation.

They accuse the authority's staff of brutality, rape, and theft during evictions.

In some instances, the authority's officials have been beaten up by mobs of angry villagers.

It is naïve to imagine that evicting encroachers, some of whom have lived unchallenged in gazzetted reserves for a long time, would be a picnic for the authority.

Therefore in the short-run, the police must act quickly to ensure the safety of all involved and investigate all crimes committed during the campaign, both by and against the authority officials.

The authority must meanwhile intensify its civic information effort to explain their mission, teach the value of forest conservation, and prepare affected communities for the inevitable evictions.

Strategically, the government's Forest Inspection Division must rise up to its mandate of providing a policy framework for the sector.

The government must critically assess the viability of decentralising the management of the Central Forest Reserves.

As a first step, it must facilitate the District Forestry Services to safeguard this resource at the district level.

Bravo Villa

May your name go down in history as the greatest Jogoos for your victory in the Cecafa Club Championship tournament in Tanzania.

You have given hope to our country, where local football is on a limb without a league and with a suspended federation.

We salute your record as the first team to win a Cecafa title without conceding a goal.

We salute you for striker Bernard Mwalala's record as top scorer.

We salute you.

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