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Residents reject opening of Lukodi Central Forest Reserve boundary

Lukodi Community Memory Centre, part of it is claimed to be in the affected area. URN_Photo

Gulu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Over 1,800 residents of Bungatira Sub County in Gulu district have opposed the Lukodi Central Forest Reserve boundary opening exercise by the National Forestry Authority-NFA. On Thursday, NFA officials backed by soldiers and police started the Lukodi Central Forest Reserve boundary opening exercise to pave way for development, saying it is part of the Aswa River Range Forest Reserve.

The Lukodi Central Forest Reserve measures approximately 165 hectares but it has been heavily encroached on by residents. The area covers Lukodi Village, an area that is currently occupied by returnees, survivors, and victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who either fled their homes or did not return back after the insurgency.

On Thursday evening, security forces wrestled with residents as they blocked the boundary opening exercise claiming ancestral ownership of the area while others say they have nowhere to relocate. The over 400 residents who are part of the over 1,800 occupants were led by the Bungatira Sub County LCV councilor, Ballington Pa Ongwech who was arrested and detained by the police for several hours.

Ventorina Acaa, 70, says that the contested land does not belong to NFA but was rather offered to BAT for tobacco growing, adding that the trees in the area were used for drying tobacco. David Nyeko, 50, also alleged that they are not aware of the coordination between NFA and BAT since the land belonged to the community.

David Acire, the Lukodi Village LC I Chairperson, who shares the same sentiment explained that on Thursday evening security was forced to fire live bullets and teargas to disperse the protesting residents. Jimmy Ouna, the Aswa River Range Forest Reserve Manager declined to comment on the matter, saying that he was engaged in an official meeting.

Earlier, Ouna had told URN that the land belonged to NFA and they wanted to open the boundaries in order to start planting trees Bungatira Sub County LC 3 Chairperson Ojara Lutada says that they are seeking a peaceful mechanism to solve the disputes between the community and NFA.

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