14 September 2007

Uganda: Kibaale Encroachers Refuse to Vacate Forest

Kibaale — OVER 50 encroachers in Bwamiramira Forest Reserve have objected to a directive by the National Forestry Authority ordering them to leave the forest.

The Bwamiramira Sub-county councillor, Mr Januarious Rubaire, told Daily Monitor on Tuesday that he had received information that the encroachers had refused to leave.

"The encroachers claim they own land in the forest. It is unfortunate that they have deliberately refused to comply [with the NFA directive]," he said. Mr Rubaire said he toured the forest recently and interacted with the encroachers who are estimated to be 100.

In August, NFA directed all encroachers in the various forest reserves in Kibaale to vacate them, or be forcefully evicted.

The district NFA Sector Manager, Mr Wilfred Baguma, said the encroachers have put up houses and cultivated gardens in the forest.

He said they have also cut down trees for timber, thereby degrading the environment in contravention of Section 32 of the National Tree Planting Act, 2003.

However, some encroachers told Daily Monitor they would vacate the forest only if the government compensated them.

"The money we anticipate to receive from the government (as compensation) will enable us to buy land elsewhere," Mr. Francis Byarugondoro 42, one of the encroachers said.

But Mr Baguma said the encroachers should vacate the forest unconditionally.

"NFA will not hesitate to evict them," he said.

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