Hoima Catholic Priest detained over illegal timber cutting

Rev Fr Rodgers Alituha Matovu (R) attached to Rwemisanga Catholic Priest under Hoima Catholic Diocese arrested for alleged illegal timber harvesting in Kikuube District. Left is Rev Fr Alituha's labourer. (Image: National Forestry Authority)

A Catholic Priest attached to Rwemisanga Parish in Hoima Catholic Diocese has been arrested and detained in Kampala for allegedly illegally harvesting timber from Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in Kyangwali Sub-county, Kikuube District.

Rev Fr Rodgers Alituha Matovu was apprehended by the National Forestry Authority (NFA) law enforcers after intelligence information revealed that he was cutting timber from the government forest without any authorisation from the government.

Mr Alex Obonyo, the NFA Kisindi Sector Manager, under which Bugoma central forest reserve falls told journalists that Rev Fr Matovu was arrested from his timber yard at Rwemisanga on Sunday after intelligence agents tipped off the authorities about the illegality.

Following the information, the NFA team mounted an operation to where the Catholic priest kept the timber that was harvested from a gazette forest. During the operation, several tree species including mahogany and mvule among others that feature in Bugoma Central Forest Reserve were impounded at the priest’s timber yard, he revealed.

The Sector Manager disclosed that due to mounting duress from politicians, the NFA authorities immediately conveyed him to Kampala NFA Head Office for further legal management.

Mr Obonyo continued that Fr Matovu is currently detained in Kampala awaiting arraignment before the court of law on charges of illegal timber cutting in a protected forest contrary to Section 14 and 23 of the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act 2003.

Once convicted, Rev Fr Matovu can either pay a fine or be imprisoned for a term not exceeding five years.

The law

Section 14 (1) of the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act on Prohibited activities in forest reserves states that “No person shall, in a forest reserve, cut, disturb, damage, burn or destroy any forest produce, or remove or receive any forest produce……

(2) A person who contravenes this section commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding fifty currency points or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or both.

Section 23 on Contractual or other arrangements (1) “Any person may enter any contractual or other arrangement with the owner or holder of an interest in a private forest, for the right to harvest, purchase, or sale of all or any part of the forest produce in the private forest.”

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