Uganda clamps down on forest encroachers

Published: Thursday 15 June 2006

Ugandan forest authorities have said that forest encroachers in the country's Kiboga, Mityana and Mubende districts should vacate the government-owned Luwunga Forest Reserve by the middle of July.

Officials said when the deadline ended encroachers will be arrested and their property destroyed. The National Forestry Authority recently decided this at a joint meeting with district representatives. They said over 25,000 people may be affected.

For long, government officials have accused squatters of degrading the environment and of harbouring criminal gangs. In an earlier report, a security officer in Kiboga had claimed some of the squatters were from Rwanda and invited criminals to the reserve. But the squatters deny the allegations and say if evicted they would have nowhere to go.

Though an earlier district security meeting had resolved to merely impose restrictions on the encroachers, the authorities decided to take a tougher stance after they signed a 50-year licence agreement with a private company last year to develop a commercial timber plantation in the forest reserve.

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