Museveni orders probe into destruction of Mukono Forest

President Yoweri Museveni ordered State House Anti-corruption Unit to probe destruction of the forest; PPU Photo

The State House Anti Corruption Unit on Monday kicked off investigations into the alleged destruction Of Kisankobe forest reserve and wetland in Mukono District.

According to the head of State House Anti Corruption Unit, Lt. Col. Edith Nakalema, the probe kicked off with an interactive meeting with locals and leaders in the area.

The probe follows a directive by president Yoweri Museveni to have the unit visit the area and investigate the matter with a view of finding those responsible for the violation and holding them accountable.

The team today interacted with communities in Goma division and later moved to Ntenjeru Sub County.

“We have therefore decided to investigate it and the purpose of our of visit today is to establish; the ownership status of the land in question, is it a protected forest and what claims Buganda Land Board has to it. She also said the unit started with assessing the extent of damage to the forest.

The unit according to Nakalema is tasked to establish the state of the forest reserve and find out from the locals who is responsible for the destruction if any. They will also seek an explanation from National Forestry Authority (NFA) staff on the state of affairs of the forest and explore how the state of affairs can be remedied.

The land that is occupied by NFA which has planted trees on it is also claimed by Buganda Land Board that says it has documents of title.

In the last three months, groups of more than 2000 unknown people came and started clearing the land by cutting down trees, other plantations, and also chased away some tenants who had been on the land for a long time and paying revenues to the government.

On the 1st October 2020, Police in Mukono intervened and forcefully removed the people who had entered the land. This matter not only raises issues of encroachment of protected areas but also raises security concerns.

There was drama during today’s interaction meeting when a one Wilson Ogalo, a commissioner from the Ministry of Lands, denied the boundary opening report that had been shared by the audience but later owned up to the report upon seeing that he had signed the report.

The unit will also probe the steps being taken by NFA to protect its interests in the land -Nakalema said.

Nakalema says the investigation will ascertain persons behind the encroachment and settlement on the forest and taken action against them. The team will also compile evidence on titles created on the forest reserve land and how there were created.

Lt. Col. Edith Nakalema speaking to local leaders and locals during an interaction meeting on Monday; Courtesy Photo

Recently President Yoweri Museveni directed the Minister of Lands, Betty Amongi, to cancel all titles that have been privately acquired by citizens in forest reserves.

Museveni said that the major forest reserves were gazetted in 1932, and whoever got a land title after that year, such a title deed should be cancelled.

Museveni’s directive came at a time when the Lands Ministry had suspended over 50 forestry officials, who have been implicated in a forensic report that investigated the chain of corruption involving the giveaway of forest reserve land by senior government officials.

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