The National Forestry Authority (NFA) has suspended opening boundaries at Kiwula Central Forest Reserve in Galillaaya Sub-county until court decides on the matter.
On June 6, 2019, NFA ran to Mukono High Court with a complaint that Mr Badru Ssemuga, a local businessman had encroached on Kiwula Central Forest Reserve land. Mr Ssemuga says he owns 1,152 acres of the forest reserve and has a title deed which NFA want canceled. A section of residents also own gardens on the disputed forest land measuring 2,000 acres.
Mr Tom Rukundo, the director natural forests management at NFA said the boundary opening exercise which kicked off on January 14 will resume after court giving its verdict on the matter.
“We suspended the opening of the boundaries because we are waiting for a court ruling expected on January 28. After the court decision, we will make a joint boundary opening with those claiming to have a land title,” Mr Rukundo said in a telephone interview on Saturday.
Mr Moses Muhumuza, a legal manager at NFA said Ssemuga secured a land title in the middle of a central reserve which is against the law.
"We sued Mr Ssemuga as a person, Kayunga District land board and commissioner land distribution. Around November last year, they applied for an injunction against NFA from using the land, so court issued an injunction. However, we later discovered that Mr Ssemuga had sold the land to a private company in June last year and the land title was transferred on July 3, 2019. So, we think court issued the order basing on wrong information."
Controversy surrounding ownership of forest land escalated early this month after former state minister for Information and Communication Technology, who is also the Kayunga District Woman Member of Parliament, Ms Adah Nantaba and NFA officials visited the forest and ordered Mr Ssemuga’s casual workers to stop destroying residents’ farms.
However, Mr Ssemuga defied the directive and continued using tractors to clear the disputed land.
This prompted angry residents, to burn and deflate tryes of two tractors on the site.
Ms Nantaba, had earlier told residents that a search at the Land registry zonal office in Mukono revealed the Mr Ssemuga’s land title was fake.
According to NFA records, government acquired the 2,000-acre forest reserve in 1932.
For over a decade, Kayunga district has been the scene of intense land wrangles.
In 2009, a landlord was burnt to death by people who accused him of attempting to displace them from their land.