State minister for Trade Michael Kafabusa Werikhe, has been named among top government officials and other people who have encroached on Namanve Central Forest land in Wakiso District and acquired titles.
The minister’s name appeared on a list of eight encroachers who include individuals and companies that National Forestry Authority (NFA) officials presented before the Parliament’s Committee on Natural Resources yesterday.
The NFA team led by executive director, Mr Tom Okello, together with minister for Water and Environment, Mr Sam Cheptoris, appeared before the Committee chaired by Mr Keffa Kiwanuka.
The committee is investigating several cases relating to environmental degradation in the country.
Mr Okello, in his written presentation, cited encroachers as one of the major problems NFA is facing in managing public forests.
In the case of Namanve Central Forest Reserve, the NFA boss named minister Werikhe, who has a registered title on Plot 227, Block 115 Kyagwe, among the encroachers.
Others are East Africa Heavy Machinery (plot 242); Moses Ndege Bbosa (Plot 143); Lillian Winnie Nampewo (Plot 598); Frank Kalemera (plot 761); Mash Investments Limited (plot 555); and, C&G Andijes Group.
But Mr Werikhe yesterday said he was genuinely allocated the said land by Uganda Land Commission and denied it being in a forest reserve.
During his appearance in Parliament, MPs tasked Mr Cheptoris to explain whether he was aware that a colleague was among the encroaches on Namanve forest reserve.
“I have to confess that I had not got this matter in black and white but there was a rumour. I have to agree that we are in a crisis and we need your support,” Mr Cheptoris said.
He also cited “mafias” in government whom he said have been colluding with courts to win cases whenever NFA sues them for encroachment on public forests.
He told MPs that his ministry is working with Ministry of Lands to have illegal titles cancelled.
While confirming ownership of the one acre in Namanve, Mr Werikhe denied encroaching on the forest reserve.
He said he and other top government officials applied for land in 2007 when it was availed by the Uganda Land Commission for construction of low cost houses and they genuinely and lawfully acquired the property.
Mr Werikhe asked the Parliament’s committee to summon the Uganda Land Commission to explain the matter.
He said he acquired land in Namanve together with other government officials who applied and were allocated the land. He cited Uganda Ambassador to Burundi Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza, former ministers Urban Tibamanya, Kamanda Bataringaya and Daudi Migereko.
He also named Defence Minister Adolf Mwesige and State Minister for Finance Mr Kasirivu Atwoki, among them colleagues who applied for and acquired land on the same block.
Minister Werikhe said he has already started developing the land and wondered why NFA would single him out among all politicians and other individuals who applied and were allocated land on the same block.
Bunyoro officials deny
Meanwhile, Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom officials led by prime minister Andrew Byakutaga appeared before the same committee and denied the cultural institution encroaching on Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in Kikuube District.
He told MPs that the part of the Bugoma Forest Reserve which NFA claims was grabbed by the kingdom is known as Kyangwali ancestral land which is among the kingdom properties returned by the government.
Mr Byakutaga accused the NFA of neglecting its part of Bugoma Forest Reserve which has led to degradation of the environment.
He said all the forest reserves in Bunyoro are still surviving because they have been preserved by the kingdom subjects.