The outgoing State Minister for ICT, Ms Idah Nantaba, has blocked a businessman from encroaching on part of Kiwula Forest Reserve in Galilaaya Sub-county in Kayunga District.
Residents of Kiwula, Kirasa and Kisalizi villages in Galilaaya led Ms Nantaba, also the district Woman MP, and officials from National Forestry Authority (NFA) to the disputed land where a one Badru Ssemuga reportedly encroached on more than 200 acres of the forest reserve.
Ms Nantaba said despite acquiring a land title on the land illegally, Mr Ssemuga had started evicting residents.
She ordered drivers of two tractors, who were destroying crops, to leave the site.
Ms Nantaba later told residents that a search at the land registry zonal office in Mukono revealed that Mr Ssemuga’s title was fake.
“I did a research at Mukono land’s office and I found out that Mr Ssemuga’s land title was not anywhere because they opened file by file. He took advantage of the nine months when I had problems to forge a land title and his aim is to take over the entire forest reserve which I will not accept,” she said.
NFA speaks out
According to Mr Tom Rukondo, the director of natural resources at NFA, government acquired the 2,000-acre forest reserve in 1932.
“I cannot say much about these issues because the matter is still in court but as of now, we are continuing to manage the remaining part of the forest reserve and we still believe that the entire place is a forest reserve because it was never degazzeted,” Mr Rukundo said.
He promised to take NFA surveyors and open boundaries of the forest reserve this week.
Mr Moses Wakisa, a resident of Kiwula Village, said they might lose all their crops to encroachers.
“I think Nantaba is fighting people who are more powerful than her because as soon she leaves, they will come back and start destroying our property,” Mr Wakisa said.
When contacted, Mr Ssemuga said he rightfully acquired the disputed piece of land, adding that NFA had no right over it.
“That land is mine. I own 1,152 acres. My workers had extended a bit in the forest reserve but I stopped them,” he said.
Mr Ssemuga also said NFA officials cannot survey the land unless they get a court order.
Ms Nantaba is no stranger to controversy. In 2016, residents in Kitimbwa Sub-county, Kayunga District threatened to beat up the legislator, accusing her of interfering in land matters in the area.
They claimed that the Lands State minister, Ms Persis Namuganza, was the right person to save them from an impending eviction.