Tuesday June 17 2014

Encroachers fail to show judge demolished houses

Justice Batema (in white shirt), together with other

Justice Batema (in white shirt), together with other officials speaks to residents during a visit at one of the site. Residents failed to show how NFA had demolished their houses and crops. Photo by Edison Amanyire. 

By Martin Ssebuyira & Edison Amanyire

Kyenjojo- Fort Portal High Court Judge David Batema Ndikabona Akiiki on Friday blamed alleged forest encroachers after they failed to show court any boundary stones and demolished houses at all visited sites as they had claimed in their sworn affidavit in court.

Forest encroachers led by Omuhereza Rwakaboyo sued National Forest Authority for illegal eviction from what they called their ‘ancestral lands’ bordering Matiri Central Forest Reserve.

“I may look a fool but am wise. Where are the boundary stones you have come to show court and where are the demolished houses you talked about?” Justice Batema asked residents who looked puzzled with no answer.

Residents sued NFA in 2009, claiming it had deprived them of their customary holdings by evicting them from their ancestral homes, destroyed their crops and homes as well as blocking them from accessing their gardens.

In their application, they had asked court to institute an injunction barring NFA from further evicting them from the reserve.

In a written statement, NFA denied the allegations, saying the forest reserve was a privately owned enclave that they had no control over. However, the statement added all land beside the enclave was a forest reserve that residents had encroached on.