23 June 2006

Uganda: Developers Cut Down Entebbe Forest Reserve

Kampala — THE National Forest Authority (NFA) is embroiled in a conflict with high-ranking government officials over encroachment on part of Entebbe's Kitubulu forest reserve that protects Lake Victoria from silting.

Kitubulu has also been earmarked for commemorative tree planting by the Queen of England and delegates during the Commonwealth meeting to be held in Uganda next year.

Last week, NFA officials found houses said to belong to top government officials including former Chief of Staff, Major General Joshua Masaba and Edward Mpagi who works with Bank of Uganda.

Others were David Woods of Uganda Hotel and Catering Association who allegedly bought his land from Deborah Mbabazi, a former RDC.

However, the developers said Entebbe Municipal Council allocated the land to them and that they were not aware that they were residing in a forest reserve.

In a letter dated June 19, Paul Bagyenda, a lecturer at Makerere University, protested against the impending eviction, saying the land was allocated to him legally by the local authorities.

NFA's Gaster Kiyingi said four out of the 80-hectare reserve was encroached upon yet it was vital in protecting birds and primates that would be harnessed for urban tourism. "It is a lakeshore forest reserve supposed to protect the lake from consequences of soil erosion," Kiyingi said.

Other forests that protect the lakeshores include South Busoga, Zika, Jubia and Kyewaga. Kiyingi blamed the encroachment on political interference, saying, "We have been getting directives restraining us from evicting encroachers."

President Yoweri Museveni issued several directives warning forest officials against evicting over 180,000 encroachers in forest reserves during the recently concluded political campaigns. Ends

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