What you need to know:
The forest reserve will be relocated to Nwoya District.
The National Forestry Authority (NFA) has said it is finalising arrangements to swap part of Gulu Central Forest Reserve with another 500 acres of land in Nwoya District to pave way for the expansion of Gulu University.
The university recently sought to gain ownership of 70 acres of the forest reserve.
On November 10, Parliament passed a resolution approving the degazettement of the 70 acres of the forest reserve following the presentation of a report by the Committee on Education.
On Monday, the NFA sector manager for West Acholi, Mr Haruna Busobozi, told Daily Monitor that the swapping process was in advanced stages.
“We are winding up that process. The Ministry of Water and Environment is preparing all the necessary documents for gazetting the alternative land the university is going to give us as well as preparing that for degazetting this one we are giving them,” Mr Busobozi said.
He added: “The handover could have been done but it is prudent that degazetting this land in town for university use and gazetting the one in the village for our use should happen concurrently and it is taking some more time.”
Mr Busobozi added that the entire 28 hectares (76 acres) of land was free of squatters except for a fraction of which ownership is currently being disputed by Crested Crane Secondary School, a private school, in Gulu City.
Presenting a report before Parliament on November 10, Mr John Twesige Ntamuhira, the chairperson of the Committee on Education, said the university had acquired 500 acres of land in Nwoya District for the establishment of a new forest reserve.
He added that Nwoya District Land Board told the committee that they would support Gulu University to have the leasehold certificate of a title comprising the 500 acres converted to freehold tenure to enable NFA own the land.
“The committee recommends that Gulu University fast-tracks other requirements like carrying out an environmental impact assessment to facilitate expeditious handling of the degazettement process,” he added.
On April 3, 2020, President Museveni directed then Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to degazette the land and avail it to Gulu University.
In September, Gulu West MP Martin Ojara Mapenduzi moved a motion seeking the degazettement of 70 of the 243-acre reserve to build key infrastructure including the faculty of medicine and of agriculture and environment, research laboratories and a hostel.
The Gulu University Council members led by the Vice Chancellor, Prof George Openjuru Ladaah on October 2 appeared before the Committee on Education and Sports to back with evidence the motion to degazette the reserve.
Ms Theresa Mary Obbo, the Gulu University Council chairperson, said NFA condition was met when they agreed to a swap with the university land in Nwoya.
“In view of the above, the university applied to the Ministry of Water, Lands and Environment initially asking for allocation of 50 acres of land of the Gulu Central Forest Reserve in Gulu Municipality,’’ Ms Obbo told the committee.
Meanwhile, Prof Openjuru told the committee that part of the 70 acres being requested already has government investments (university assets) worth billions of shillings.
The university council asked the committee to support the degazettement to enable it establish a teaching hospital, faculties of engineering, health sciences, and pharmacy.
Gulu University was established as a public university on June 25, 2003 under the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act, 2001 after it was enacted by Parliament on May 14 the same year.
The university was to be located in Laroo Division, Gulu Municipality, where land covering 742 hectares, had been identified.
However, the university was unable to acquire this land due to resistance from some of the local community members.
Later, the need to establish a faculty of medicine was felt but there was inadequate land.
In May 2005, the university wrote to NFA asking for a temporary licence for miscellaneous activities in the Gulu Central Forest Reserve, which was granted on condition the university finds an alternative land.