Monday June 30 2014

NFA official, army veterans arrested over encroaching on forest reserves

By Martin Ssebuyira & Francis Mugerwa

Kampala- A staff of National Forest Authority (NFA) has been arrested for allegedly encroaching on Kibego Central Forest Reserve in Kyenjojo District.
The suspect, a field patrol officer at the forest reserve in Kyarusozi Town Council, was arrested at the weekend by residents in Binunda Ward in collaboration with police and NFA rangers in an operation to wipe out illegal forest encroachers in the area.

The arrest follows a sensitisation exercise by NFA and Joint Efforts to Save the Environment, a civil society, to protect the environment.

Both bodies created a Collaborative Forest management in Kyarusozi where they encourage communities to arrest people cutting timber.

“They (some NFA staff) always enter the forest. Afterwards, we see trucks loaded with timber while they encourage us to keep the forests intact for environment conservation that is very unfortunate,” Mr Robert Nsungwa, a local defence secretary, said.

Mr Nsungwa said they had on several occasions impounded illegal timber but no is action taken against dealers.
The suspect asked for forgiveness, saying the authority had not paid his salary since 2012.

The NFA executive director, Mr Michael Mugisa, admitted that there are some staff who connive with timber dealers but they were weeding them out of their structures.

“Those are lower staff who take individual decisions but when we get them with evidence, they are dismissed immediately and the law takes its course on them,” he said.

Mr Michael Busula, the manager of Itwara sector, said they would end contracts of forest patrols by the end of this month and recruit new staff following reports about illegalities done by patrols, adding that the authority would clear their payments.

Meanwhile, the forest body began cracking down on encroachers in Bunyoro region last week.

Five army veterans suspected of encroaching on Bugoma Forest were arrested.

Mr Mugisa led the operation after holding consultative meetings with the Omukama of Bunyoro, Solomon Gafabusa Iguru and other stakeholders.

He called for concerted efforts to protect the environment, adding that they would not issue any licences to harvest timber on protected forests.