Uganda: Government Loses Bid to Save Bugoma Forest

Kampala — The High Court has rejected the application to halt the destruction of 22 square kilometres of Bugoma Forest in Hoima District, ruling that the land belongs to Hoima Sugar Limited and Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom.

The land is being cleared to pave way for sugarcane growing.

On Friday, Masindi High Court Judge Wilson Masalu Musene dismissed an application in which the National Forestry Authority (NFA) had sought a temporary order halting the move.

Justice Musene said there was no need to grant an injunction to NFA since the land is not part of the forest reserve.

He held that much as there is a pending appeal by NFA, it can be compensated if they win the case since the land cannot be taken away.

Justice Musene said Hoima Sugar Limited, a private company, was making losses.

Court documents indicate that on August 1, 2016, the king applied for the freehold title for the disputed land and transferred it to Hoima Sugar Limited on August 5 of the same year. The disputed land is in Buhaguzi in Hoima.

In an August 26, 2015 letter to the NFA executive director, the Solicitor General wrote that forest reserves were not returned to the Omukama of Bunyoro during the restoration of the kingdom's properties.

In the letter, interpreting the memorandum of understanding between the central government and Bunyoro on restituted properties, the government adviser said parts of the letter from then chairman of Uganda Land Commission (ULC) to the Registrar of Land Titles as presented by the kingdom are forgeries.

"The Omukama does not and cannot, whether by right hold any proprietary interest in the forest reserves," the Solicitor General stated.

"Forests are vested in the government in accordance with the Constitution, the Land Act, National Forest Reserves (declaration) Order 1998. If any certificates of title were issued on the basis of impugned letter of the chairman ULC or not, they were procured fraudulently or at least issued in error. NFA should take steps to have titles cancelled," he added.

It was signed by Mr John Bosco Suuza on behalf of the Solicitor General.

The Solicitor General was responding to an October 2011 letter by the then ULC chairman Mayanja Nkangi (deceased) directing the registrar of titles to release to Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom all the title deeds in his possession relating to various properties among them forest reserves.

Mr Suuza wrote that forest reserves are clearly vested in the government and therefore the ULC chairman could not have caused the handover or purport to cause handover of the contested forest lands to the Omukama.

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