17 June 2005

Uganda: Maj. Mutale's Team Investigate Mayuge Forest Reserve Evictions

Mayuge — THE Special Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs, Maj. Roland Kakooza Mutale, has deployed a special team to investigate allegations of rape and destruction of property of encroachers on the South Busoga Forest.

The team is charged with hunting down officials of the National Forestry Authority (NFA), who are accused of committing crimes against the encroachers.

In a letter dated June 6 to the Resident District Commissioner, Mr George Abingwa, Mutale alerted the authorities on the deployment.

"I am availing my Special Security Personnel to liaise with your office to locate perpetrators of these insecurity incidents," the letter said.

Mutale said the deployment was prompted by a June 2, petition to President Yoweri Museveni by the residents, who were evicted from the forest reserve by NFA.

The people asked the President to intervene in the matter.

In the petition it was alleged that there were acts of violence during the evictions from land and that some of the encroachers' property had been destroyed.

In his letter, Mutale said his office and that of the RDC were guided by the principle that the government could not organise to displace its citizens, adding that displacement was against the government policy on development.

He said that a long lasting solution must be found to the stand off between the NFA and the encroachers to avoid an escalation of loss of lives and property.

Mutale slammed NFA, equating its operations in the South Busoga Forest to state inspired insecurity.

"The land dispute not withstanding, the practice of harassing citizens and destroying private property under the cover of protecting forests recreates scenes of state inspired insecurity reminiscent of 1980," he wrote.

He wondered why the office of the RDC had not given state protection to the encroachers.

The RDC could not be reached for a comment.

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