A debate on a motion to degazette Wamale, Kiula and Bajo Central Forest Reserves in Kayunga District was deferred by Parliament following a disagreement among the area Members of Parliament.
Bbale County Member of Parliament, Hon Charles Tebandeke moved the motion that seeks to have the reserves degazetted for human settlement and industrialization.
“These forest reserves are occupied by about 70,000 households, which have resulted into the establishment of trading centres, seven parishes and twenty nine villages in two sub counties,” he said.
Tabandeke added that due to increased urbanisation, there is an opportunity to improve the livelihoods of the residents in Kayunga District.
“With the availability of agricultural products to be used as raw materials in agro processing industries, the land currently occupied by the forest reserves is suitable for establishing industrial parks which will in turn create more jobs, ease accessibility of land for investments, introduce new research technologies and skills development as well as boost Uganda’s exports,” he said.
However, Kayunga District Woman Representative, Hon Idah Nantaba raised a procedural point saying the land in question is a matter before court and therefore, the debate would amount to sub-judice.
“NFA went to court to seek the nullification of the land titles given to fraudulent land grabbers. I am seeking to secure this land for purposes of its protection. If we allow de-gazetting of the land, our efforts are going to waste,” Nantaba said.
Ntenjeru County South MP, Hon Patrick Nsanja said that the land is already encroached on and asked Government to gazette it for the development of Kayunga District.
“Most of the residents residing on this land do not have land titles. There are other residents who claim rightful ownership of the land despite the fact that it is a forest reserve,” Nsanja said.
Hon. David Livingstone Zijjan (Indep., Butembe County) said that as much as he supported environmental preservation, the land in question was already occupied.
“The said forest reserve is just a reserve on paper. In this case, the rights of the people should prevail; they should get their titles because a forest reserve without trees and animals is not a reserve at all,” Zijjan said.
The Minister of State for Finance (Planning), Hon Amos Lugoloobi said that the current status of Kayunga district needed more land for settlement since the recent floods left many people homeless.
“The circumstances border around human relations. We have many villages that were displaced by the floods caused by River Nile and Lake Kyoga. The lake claimed many villages and the people were displaced. If this land is degazetted, then it will provide jobs and better livelihoods,” Lugoolobi said.
The Government Chief Whip, Hon Thomas Tayebwa revealed that the land matter is before Cabinet.
“The Minister of Water and Environment was tasked to make a report on all the districts with forest reserves so that government can deal with them case by case. For the case of Kayunga, the District Land Board without the knowledge of NFA distributed land titles to investors in the area,” Tayebwa said.
The Deputy Speaker, Anita Among who chaired the House sitting on Thursday, 28 October 2021 deferred debate on the motion following the impasse “The matter that has been raised is sub-judice. National Forest Authority (NFA) holds land in trust of the people of Uganda and the land belongs to the people. The debate is suspended,” Among said.