Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The National Forest Authority-NFA will next week start the process of reclaiming degraded forest land.
Last month, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development summoned registered proprietors of 475 land titles allegedly issued in central forest reserves across the country for a hearing.
The summoned persons are expected to present their documents to defend their ownership for the contested plots of land at the hearing starting September 24 to November 4.
According to the notice, the hearing is slated to take place at the Ministry’s zonal offices at Wakiso, Mukono and Mpigi.
The ministry said that the move followed complaints by the Executive Director of the NFA concerning the titles issued on the forest reserves of Kyewaga in Entebbe, Namanve, Mugomba, Kitubulu Central Forest Reserve, Nonve Central Forest Reserve and Kajjansi.
It is alleged that the titles were issued to individual developers as well as companies and they have since cleared the forests to establish the developments while others have since changed the land use. The developers have since deployed armed guards or workers at the disputed areas.
Among those summoned are companies including East Africa Heavy Machinery Limited with a title at Bukasa-Kirinya, Bouch Uganda Limited holding a freehold title, Mash Investments Limited and C&G Andijes group limited all holding titles at Namanve Central Forest reserve.
In Kitubulu Central Forest Reserve, the companies include Megha Industries and Mulkin Enterprises Ltd in Entebbe among others. The individuals include Denis Abasa, Phoebe Kiconco Abaasa, Haruna Ssemakula, and a senior UPDF officer Brig Hudson Mukasa who are holding titles in Kajjansi, Kyewaga and Namanve forest reserves.
According to NFA, Semakula, a real estate dealer alone surveyed and curved 75 plots in Nonve Central Forest Reserve in Kakiri, Wakiso district while John Baluruno holds numerous titles in Kajjansi Forest reserve.
In June this year, Cabinet approved the cancellation of all land titles issued in wetlands and central forest reserves especially in the district of Wakiso.
The Environment State Minister Beatrice Anywar said that forests and wetlands have been disappearing at a fast rate and the trend is likely to cause problems in future. She said that the country’s forest cover has dropped from 24 percent to 12.4 percent.
Dennis Obbo, the Spokesperson of the Lands Ministry says that NFA will mention the affected forest reserves where the titles were acquired erroneously at the hearing.
According to NFA, in their mandate to protect and sustainably manage Central Forest Reserves across the country, they have discovered that certificates of title were erroneously and illegally issued on land forming part and parcel of various Central Forest Reserves in Uganda.
Moses Muhumuza, the NFA legal manager explained that some of the titles were acquired by some people who are NFA clients after they acquired licences in the forests but fraudulently converted the licenses and applied for titles from the ministry through the Area Land Committees and the District Land Boards.
“We looked at the records and whoever appears on the title, are the ones we know but I have not had any interface with them. Unless we are in court maybe,” he said.
Muhumuza also says that the first phase is to cancel the titles, then sensitize the people and ask them to vacate the forest land. According to Muhumuza, in some instances, people have moved in and established developments and have been engaging them to ensure that they peacefully leave the forest land and those doing lawful activities that coincide with the forest work.