19 January 2006

Uganda: Museveni Stops Forest Evictions

Kampala — PRESDENT Yoweri Museveni has stopped evictions from forest reserves and wetlands nationwide.

Museveni, who is on a campaign trail in Busoga region, directed the environment ministry to implement the order immediately. Museveni also stopped the National Forestry Authority's operations on legal timber dealers.

He said the order would be reviewed after the Government meets all stakeholders. Robert Kabushenga, the director of the media centre, said, "The directive covers the entire country."

The directive was contained in a January 16 letter from the president to the Kyabazinga of Busoga, Henry Wako Muloki, on the issue of Kityerera forest reserve in Mayuge district.

The letter was copied to water, lands and environment minister Kahinda Otafiire. Museveni was responding to the Kyabazinga's letter of January 15 over the forest reserve.

The forest has been fraught with controversies and numerous evictions of encroachers. "I am directing the minister of water, lands and environment to, immediately, stop all the evictions in the forest reserves, the wetlands and the operations by the National Forestry Authority (NFA) against the legal timber sellers until the Government has had time to discuss with all the stakeholders," the letter said.

Museveni lauded the Kyabazinga for bringing the issue to his attention.

"I find the information you have provided me most useful. The information that there was a boundary and, then, forest expansion due to people vacating the area on account of tse-tse flies, is new information for me," Museveni said.

He said, "This is very useful. It is going to assist me in reaching a correct decision. Technical officials had never given me this information."

Meanwhile, Museveni on his second day of campaigning in the region, has warned voters not to gamble Uganda's future by electing any of the opposition candidates, report Henry Mukasa and Abubaker Mukose.

Museveni said by electing an FDC, UPC or DP candidate, the electorate would be like youth in a township who while away time by playing cards (gambling).

"It is only the Movement which can lead this country. It has done so for the last 20 years. Leadership is not gambling ...ani akalengedde. Do not gamble. Okofuga ensi si muzannyo gwa kyansi ... bwo'kalabako (guessing the winning card)," Museveni said. He was addressing a huge rally at Namayingo and Bukholi in Bugiri district.

Museveni, who drove from Jinja through Mayuge and Iganga, was accompanied by his daughter Natasha Karugire, the Libyan foreign affairs minister, Dr. Ali Trieki and Libyan ambassador Abdalla Bujeldian.

Museveni invited Trieki to greet the supporters. "I am very honoured to be here with the President," Trieki said, standing side-by-side with Museveni on a jeep.

"I am here as a special envoy from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to express our support and solidarity with President Museveni. We are enjoying good relations with Uganda.

"I think Uganda and Africa need President Museveni."

On Tuesday, a massive crowd of enthusiastic supporters overwhelmed Museveni in Jinja and derailed his plans on Tuesday.

Museveni, who was scheduled to address rallies at Bugembe, Butagaya and Busoga Square, was held up at mini-rallies in Butembe and Kagoma, reaching rally venues at night. He apologised to supporters at Butagaya and Busoga Square.

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