President advises settlers in forest reserves to vacate

Saturday 14th April 2012

President Yoweri Museveni has strongly advised all Ugandans who have settled on National Forestry Reserves to vacate them to save the country from severe environmental degradation that is a direct result of the encroachment on forestry reserves and wetlands.

The President gave the advice while responding to the cries about severe environmental degradation and deforestation in Kibaale district, Bunyoro Sub-Region in Western Uganda caused by acts of encroachment on forestry reserves and wetland by the population. This is was during the meeting with Kibaale district leaders at his country home in Rwakitura Kiruhuura district last Thursday12th April 2012.

Mr. Museveni said that encroachment on forestry reserves and destruction of wetlands posed an environmental threat to the country and urged all leaders to join hands to safeguard them. He cautioned leaders against politicizing matters of national importance such as the protection of the country’s environment. He said that he was not ready to join a bandwagon of leaders who lead people blindly for the sake of politics and fail to guide them on what is wrong and right for good of their country.

“We should not play with matters of human survival. There is no reason why any person should encroach on forestry reserves, wetlands and swamps”, he noted.

“Research has shown that 40 percent of the rain we receive annually is generated by the forests and wetlands we have in the country; so what will happen if all of them are destroyed and degraded by human activity”, he asked.

On the quest by the Kibaale district leaders to have new districts curved out of present day Kibaale, the President said that he does not believe that the granting of districts translates into the development of the area and warned leaders not to always engage citizens in cheap politicking about the creation of new administrative units which, he said, is simply diversionary rather than sensitizing them on how to engage in production and eradicate household poverty.

He said that although government had halted the creation of new districts, he was to advocate for affirmative action for the creation new districts in the counties of Buyaga and Bugangaizi that make Kibaale district because of the historical injustice the people of those counties suffered during the colonial period and even under post-colonial governments.

Regarding land tittles to squatters living on mile land of absentee land lords, the President urged the people to make good of the land where they are in order to produce and get out of poverty since they are protected from eviction by the recent land amendment Bill 2010.

He, however, cautioned people who are invading the land of legal occupants. He said that the act is illegal and is against development and said that people’s property needed to be protected.

He expressed happiness that the local conflicts that characterized Kibaale district had ended and the entire district of Kibaale was living in peace and harmony. He said that all Ugandan groups were in one way or another historically linked to each other adding that there was no plausible reason for them not to live together and harmoniously.

In a memorandum read by the Kibaale district LC5 Chairman, Mr. George William Nyamyaka, the Kibaale leaders asked for sufficient funds to be put in the Uganda Land Fund to expedite the process of compensating land lords and also enable the Bibanja holders to claim full possession of their Bibanja.

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