NFA impounds timber as tension over Bugoma forest builds up

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A team of the NFA, Hoima Sugar Limited and Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom staff inspects the boundaries of Bugoma forest at Kaseeta Village in Kabwoya Sub-county, Kikuube District today Wednesday, October, 28, 2020.

The National Forestry Authority (NFA) has impounded timber worth about Shs12m illegally harvested from Bugoma Central Forest Reserve.

The over 600 pieces of timber is suspected to have been harvested in Nyairongo area where the land boundaries between the NFA, Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and community are in contest.

Mr Alex Obonyo, the Kisindi Sector Manager of the NFA has told Kazi-njema News that a Fuso truck registration number, UAN 274 U was intercepted between Bujaawe forest reserve and Kipapati trading centre in Kitoba sub-county, Hoima district heading to Hoima city at 6:30am on Friday last week.

He says the Authority started tracking the lorry after a tip off by one of their vigilantes in Nyairongo.

On interrogation, the truck driver revealed that the resource was destined for Ndeeba in Kampala city.

Nobody has come out to claim the timber until today which is a rare case, according to Mr Obonyo.

Audio: Obonyo on impounded timber (English)

The Director, Natural Forests Management at the NFA, Mr Tom Rukundo, has urged police to co-operate with the NFA staff on ground to investigate the actual source of the timber and the figures behind this illegal tree felling in the central forest reserve.

Mr Rukundo who was in Kikuube for an inspection of the state of major pillars of Bugoma forest boundaries neighbouring Hoima Sugar Limited, is optimistic that the pending border issues will be sorted out by a team from the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development who be in the area next week.

He did not like to talk much about the Nyairongo operations that caused a shoot-out at journalists.

However, Mr Rukundo said the inspected border pillars in Nsozi and Kaseeta areas that relate them with Hoima Sugar Limited land were found free from encroachment.

Audio: Rukundo on Bugoma forest (English)

The timber was impounded a day after a shoot-out at journalists and arrest of one of them along with the Rwembaaho village chairperson who had responded to allegations of more than 300 men that had started entering Bugoma forest with power saws and axes.

The Kikuube Resident District Commissioner, Mr Richard Tabaaro, told journalists that tree felling in that part was legally being conducted by Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom through their contractor, Capital Focus, ahead of sugarcane planting by Hoima Sugar Limited.

However, he suspended any activities in that disputed area until NFA, Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and the communities agreed on the boundaries.

Kazi-njema News investigations have ascertained that approximately 80% of the 300 men that entered the forest had disappeared in two days that followed the shoot-out, though suspicion remains that they could have changed location.

The law

Section 14 of the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act, 2003 stipulates prohibited activities in forest reserves.                           

(1) No person shall, in a forest reserve, cut, disturb, damage, burn or destroy any forest produce, or remove or receive any forest produce except— (a) in accordance with regulations or guidelines made for the proper management of the forest reserve; (b) in the course of the management of the forest reserve by the responsible body; (c) in terms of the exercise of a right or interest in the forest reserve; or (d) in accordance with a licence issued under this Act.

(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.

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