Activists have renewed the fight to save Bugoma forest given away by court to allow sugarcane growing.
Justice Frederick Egonda Ntende of the Court of Appeal last year allowed the razing down of the 22 Square mile Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in Hoima District to pave way for sugarcane growing when she dismissed an application by the National Forestry Authority that was intended to block implementation of orders of the High Court.
On March 10, 2020, court issued another orders chasing away National Forestry Authority (NFA) and UPDF soldiers that were guarding Bugoma forest reserve.
Addressing journalists on Friday, a group of activists including tourism enthusiasts and civil society organisations said they cannot allow any other activities that are not compatible with forest conservation.
“It is sad that threats to Bugoma forest have continued to increase at a time when there are cases in court. In 2019 cases against Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and Hoima Sugar Ltd were being fought. Today, MZ Agencies has also emerged to destroy Bugoma forest. Yet government has said that the lease title given to Hoima Sugar in 2016 was cancelled,” the activists said.
“Why did court reject NFA’s prayer to maintain the status quo of the forest until the main case was determined? Unfortunately, despite the case in court, Hoima Sugar Ltd continues to claim ownership of 8,000 acres of Bugoma forest and are holding a court allowing them to use the contested land even before final determination of the main appeal.”
The activists say it is high time government investigated court rulings in favour of land grabbers and cancel all the illegal titles.
“Government should investigate the Bugoma forest court processes to ensure that the court losses are not as a result of corruption where some court officials may connive against NFA. Moreover, too many actors, including cabinet ministers and judges, seem to have forgotten that Bugoma forest, with an area of 41,144 hectares, was gazetted by the Parliament of Uganda under Statutory Instrument No. 63 of 1998.”
The civil society and tourism enthusiasts says government ought to give Bugoma forest a chance to develop its full potential for econ-tourism and conservation related activities.
“Government should use its land acquisition powers under Article 26 of the Constitution to save Bugoma forest and its catchment areas from land grabbers.”
“Considering the importance of Bugoma forest, we call upon government to use its compulsory land acquisition powers to save it.”