SBFC doubts ongoing Bugoma forest boundary opening exercise, demands independent overseers

The currently degraded Bugoma forest was once the second impenetrable forest in Uganda.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and private partners subscribing to the Save Bugoma Forest Campaign (SBFC), have petitioned the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development to officially invite independent overseers in order to have credible results of the Bugoma forest boundary opening exercise that is underway.

In their letter received by the ministry on August 29, 2022, the CSOs say the current exercise going on without representatives and other key stakeholders will absolutely not be accepted as trustworthy results which increases the risk of Bugoma forest degradation and its associated climate change dangers.

The petition seeks formal invitation of independent and professional stakeholders such as the SBFC, Institution of Surveyors -Uganda, Uganda Law Society (ULS), Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) and representatives of host communities in the boundary opening.

‘Without ensuring independent oversight, Ugandans cannot be assured that the Ministry of Lands, some of whose officials have been supportive of Bunyoro Kingdom and Hoima Sugar Ltd’s claims on Bugoma forest land, will share credible results,” the petitioner says.

“Notably, the Ministry’s Commissioner for Surveys and Mapping at one time testified against the National Forestry Authority in court, saying that the Bugoma forest land claimed by Bunyoro Kingdom and Hoima Sugar Ltd belongs to them,” adds the petitioner.

The petition is signed by 21 CSOs including the Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED), National Association for Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Water and Environment Media Network (WEMNET) and ECO Trust.

Last week, Ms Juliet Mubi, the Public Relations Officer at the National Forestry Authority (NFA), told Kazi-njema News that they were in Hoima district to observe the boundary opening exercise spearheaded by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development who are the authority in surveys and mapping.

She confirmed the exercise had started on August 15, 2022 and expected to end on September 2, 2022.

Asked about her hopes for the boundary opening exercise that has aborted thrice since 2020, Ms Mubi seemed unready to get into detailed discussions for that time.

The exercise aborted following a petition to the same ministry by the Chief Prince (Okwir) of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, Eng Fred Ruchunya.

He was aggrieved by the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom representatives in the boundary opening exercise who he said were already implicated in the forest grabbing plot. SBFC members were also complaining.

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