Kikuube Chairman arrested over Bugoma forest conflict

Mr Desire Nkurunziza, the Nyairongo Village Chairman in Kabwoya Sub-county, Kikuube District.

Mr Desire Nkurunziza, the Nyairongo Village Chairman in Kabwoya Sub-county, Kikuube District has been arrested.

SP Julius Allan Hakiza, the Albertine Regional Police Public Relations Officer, says Mr Nkurunziza was arrested yesterday (Sunday) July 16, 2023, and detained at Kikuube Police Station on accusations of inciting violence and trespass.

He was arrested by security forces guarding the long disputed part of Bugoma forest where Hoima Sugar Limited is a recognised developer after leasing it from Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom.

The security forces accused him of allegedly inciting the population to encroach on Bugoma forest for agriculture and illegal forest resource harvesting.

SP Hakiza adds that investigations are underway and once complete, the suspected 36-year-old village leader will be arraigned before the magistrate to respond to the charges preferred against him.

Kazi-njema online radio reporter, Joseph Uzelle, has learnt that Mr Nkurunziza’s arrest follows a grave dispute between some residents and individual fraudsters who have been exchanging money to cultivate on the disputed parts of Bugoma forest.

A source says some people claiming to have authority over the disputed parts of the forest land have been extorting money from local residents earlier evicted by the Kikuube security over encroachment on the land belonging to Hoima Sugar Limited in order to be allowed to reoccupy and cultivate.

Trouble came at the time of harvest when the security forces allegedly started arresting them as encroachers.

Before his arrest, Mr Nkurunziza had told a  Kazi-njema investigator that many of his residents were stuck after being denied access to their crops.

His arrest comes as police investigate the disappearance of two young women in the same village who allegedly fled into the forest as security forces arrested their mother accusing her of trespass.

They had gone to harvest their crops in the area where many residents of Nyairongo believe they are theirs.

The land boundary between Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, Hoima Sugar Limited and local residents remains unclear as they await the boundary opening report from the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development since November last year. 

Each of the entities cited in this story on its own denies involvement in any form of extortion and other illegalities.

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