Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom has distanced itself from allegations that it entered a Memorandum of Understanding with unidentified people to cut trees in Bugoma central forest reserve in Kikuube district.
This follows a rumor that started doing rounds last month indicating that the kingdom had signed an MoU with some individuals in Hoima and Kampala to harvest trees from Bugoma forest reserve for timber.
It came after over 300 people armed with power saws, axes, hoes and machetes were ferried to the forest to aid in the cutting of the trees. This triggered tension among the kingdom subjects, Civil society organizations-CSOs and environmentalists. They tasked the kingdom authorities to explain details in the MoU. However, the kingdom had been tight-lipped on the matter.
Andrew Byakutaga, the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom premier has told URN in an exclusive interview that the monarch has never signed any MoU with anyone to cut trees in Bugoma forest reserve nor on the kingdom ancestral land, adjacent to the forest reserve. He says whoever is cutting trees in the forest reserve is doing so on his own.
Byakutaga says the only MoU the kingdom signed is the one allowing Hoima Sugar Limited to grow sugarcane on the kingdom’s ancestral land adjacent to Bugoma forest reserve.
He asked the government to expedite the process of opening the boundaries of the forest reserve to allow justice to prevail so that National Forestry Authority-NFA, the kingdom as well the community near the forest reserve can know their boundaries.
Bunyoro-Kitara has been on the spotlight for allegedly leasing parts of Bugoma central forest reserve to Hoima Sugar Limited for sugarcane growing. The sugar factory leased close to 22 square miles of the contested Bugoma central forest reserve land from the Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom for 99 years.
However, the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA found 13 of the 22 square miles unfit for sugar growing and recommended their preservation since it’s a wetland and forest reserve.
The authority 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 centre 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 the cultural site and 6.17 square miles as a natural forest. Covering 410 square kilometers of a protected area and a stretch of forest measuring 40 kilometers, Bugoma is a tropical forest that was gazetted in 1932.
It is endowed with 24 species of mammals, 465 species of trees, 359 species of birds, 289 species of butterflies and 130 species of moths. The forest reserve is a migratory route for wild animals and a catchment for rivers that drain into Lake Albert.
However, the kingdom has maintained its position that the land that was leased to Hoima Sugar is not part of Bugoma forest but the kingdom’s ancestral land.