Kikuube, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Kikuube District Security Committee has ordered more than 300 squatters on part of the land Hoima sugar limited leased from Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom in Bugoma forest to vacate with immediate effect. The affected are part of more than 20,000 people who encroached on part of the land that Hoima sugar limited leased from the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom for 99 years for sugarcane growing.
In April, police backed by Uganda Peoples Defense Forces-UPDF stormed Bugoma central forest reserve and forcefully evicted more than 20,000 people who were carrying out different activities such as charcoal burning, cultivation, and timber harvesting. The encroachers had occupied over 4,000 acres of land belonging to Hoima Sugar Limited.
During the eviction, the joint security forces slashed crops, destroyed houses, and torched several bags of charcoal from the squatters. Security intervened following protests from Hoima Sugar accusing the encroachers of frustrating their efforts to utilize the land for sugarcane growing. However, Kikuube authorities pleaded with Hoima Sugar Limited to allow some of the encroachers to harvest their crops and leave.
In June this year, Hoima Sugar Limited gave the encroachers a three-month ultimatum to harvest their crops and leave. However, some of the encroachers have remained adamant. Now, Amlan Tumusiime, the Kikuube Resident District Commissioner-RDC, says they have resolved that the encroachers vacate the area immediately.
He says that security has since established that some of the encroachers are wrong elements and have become a security threat. To prove his point, he says that one of the encroachers disarmed a soldier in the forest reserve last week and disappeared with his firearm.
He says they have deployed UPDF and other sister security agencies to ensure that the encroachers vacate the area immediately.
Ganesan Suresh, the Estate Manager of Hoima Sugar Limited, says that the presence of the encroachers is frustrating their efforts to utilize the land. Michael Kwezira, one of the farmers accused of encroaching on the land appeals to the district security committee and Hoima sugar limited to give them more time to harvest their crops, which are yet to mature.
Alice Bonabana, another farmer says despite the fact that there are some wrong elements among them, not all of them have such behavior. She appeals to the district security committee to allow them some time to harvest their crops. Hoima Sugar Limited leased close to 22 square miles of the contested Bugoma Central Forest reserve land from the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom for sugarcane growing for 99 years.
However, the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA found that 13 of the 22 square miles are unfit for a sugar plantation and recommended their preservation since it is a wetland and forest reserve.
As a result, NEMA allowed Hoima Sugar factory to cultivate sugarcane on the remaining 9.24 square miles covering the grassland, establish an urban center on 1.26 square miles, an eco-tourism center on 1.97 square miles, and restore 3.13 square miles of the forest reserve. They also recommended the preservation of another 0.156 hectares for a cultural site and 6.17 square miles as a natural forest.