By Media Lab Entebbe
Security beefed up at Kigombe forest in Kibaale District as High Court officials visit on a fact-finding expedition on land rows between National Forestry Authority – NFA and encroachers.
In 2010, the NFA opened up boundaries of the 11,331 hectare Kigombe forest in Kibaale District. The reports indicated that over 1300 families had encroached on NFA land and we’re to be evicted.
Disputing the NFA survey report, the affected families took the matter to court, citing incompetence by NFA who they in return accused of encroaching on private land.
The locals have on several occasions stormed statehouse Entebbe in protest, accusing NFA of unlawful destruction of their homes, gardens, leaving most of them homeless.
With the matter in court, an injunction was issued in 2015, halting all NFA operations on the contested land. However, the Authority allegedly defied this injunction and proceeded to evict locals, some of whom were incarcerated.
The matter, on Wednesday prompted the Nakawa High Court Judge, Lady Justice Cornelia Sabiiti Kakooza to visit the contested land for a fact finding mission before ruling on the case.
Justice Kakooza visited among others one of the demolished homes belonging to Hannington Bagonza in Bubango sub-county where the court proceeding was held.
Giving testimony on behalf of the plaintiffs, Bagonza accused the NFA of downing his house, clearing his garden and arresting his workers. To further verify these claims, Counsel for the plaintiffs, Boniface Ngaruye Ruhindi called on Muziizi LC1 Chairman, Emmanuel Kemerwa.
“They evicted people saying this is a forest, this land doesn’t belong to the forest. Take a look at those plantations, when did they become part of the forest?” Kemerwa…….. asks while pointing at coffee and banana plantations that once belonged to Bagonza’s garden.
The NFA legal officer Moses Muhumuza also faced the task of defending individuals who were accused of terrorizing residents in the name of enforcing evictions.
UPDF Captain Angola Andole, was summoned to answer to allegations of illegally detaining Bagonza’s workers, destroying his garden and spearheading the harassment of other residents in the area.
Other residents have accused security operatives of forcing residents to relocate burial grounds from the contested land into a banana plantation belonging to another local without seeking consent from the land owner.
“The soldiers just appeared one day and started burying people in my garden. My garden has been turned into a cemetery, and the ghosts of the people keep disturbing me at night. The soldiers also harvest my bananas without permission” says Mugisa Ezra.
Having heard from all sides, Justice Cornelia set September 10, 2020 as the date for delivering the final ruling on this case, at 10am in Kampala.
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