Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | At least 55 families at Yandwe village in Luweero district are starving after their food crops were destroyed by National Forestry Authority-NFA.
The families occupy part of the 1,208 hectares of land belonging to Mbaale Central forest reserve in Butuntumula sub county, Luweero district.
Since last week, NFA officials led by the Area Supervisor Samuel Tainage and Officer In Charge of Police detach identified only as Wabwire launched several operations to forcefully evict the families from the forest reserve.
The destroyed gardens include coffee, bananas, pineapples, mangoes, oranges, cassava, sweet potatoes and eucalyptus among others worth millions of shillings.
The affected residents include Jimmy Tamale, Godfrey Ssentongo, John Mugerwa Stanley Kibalama Base Nampiima and Canan Ssekitoleko among others.
Cossy Buule Kizito, the LCI chairperson Yandwe village explains that the officials cut down plantations and sprayed others with poisonous chemicals.
Buule explained that the affected residents inherited the land from their grandparents who settled in the area in the early 1900’s before the area was gazetted as a forest reserve.
Buule adds that they have nowhere to go unless NFA compensates them before the eviction.
John Kibalama one of affected resident says that seven acres of his crops were destroyed by NFA in the raid leaving him crying foul.
Another resident Base Nampiima lost two acres of sweet potatoes and bananas whereas Jimmy Tamale lost 12 acres of food crops among others. The affected residents say they now face hunger.
Richard Luwondera, another affected resident explains that in November 2019 the matter was brought to the attention of the President at a local function but Luweero Resident District Commissioner Phoebe Namulindwa misled him and the President didn’t get a true account of how they occupied the land before he considered their petition to stay on the land.
Luwondera adds that NFA has committed several crimes against the residents which include malicious damages of their property, illegal detention and harassment but they have nowhere to report the cases.
On Friday evening the State Minister for Lands Persis Namuganza visited the destroyed gardens and condemned officials of NFA for defying Presidential directive not to evict any person during the lockdown.
Namuganza promised to bring the matter to the attention of President Museveni again to ensure that the residents get justice and the implicated NFA officials are held accountable for their actions.
Namuganza also grilled policemen at the detach to explain where they got orders to displace the families.
The NFA Area Supervisor Samuel Tainage was unavailable to comment on the matter.
In 2018 NFA ordered the families comprising of 726 people to vacate the land to pave way for tree growing but since then the tenants have protested and kept on growing food crops demanding for compensation before they leave.
In 2019, the affected families clashed with the Water and Environment Minister, Sam Cheptoris over the eviction. Cheptoris who visited the contested land described the families as encroachers and ordered them to respect the eviction notice and vacate the forest land.
But the families protested against the eviction demanding compensation and since then they have continued to live there as they grow crops.