Over 1,000 evicted from forest reserve

Some of the residents who were evicted from Omyer Forest Reserve in Nebbi District at the weekend ponder their next move. PHOTO BY PATRICK OKABA

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Bleak future. The evicted residents appeal to government for help.

Nebbi. More than 1,000 people in Nebbi District are stranded after they were evicted from Omyer Forest Reserve by the National Forestry Authority (NFA) at the weekend.
The eviction follows a March 25 court ruling which declared that the 2500-acre piece of land belonged to NFA and not the residents who claimed it belonged to Alur Kingdom.
Evicted residents who spoke to Daily Monitor said they have nowhere to go to and appealed to government for help.
Some residents said the land should be reclaimed by Alur Kingdom. However, Alur Kingdom prime minister Edwin Wathum said they could not stop the eviction since it was directed by court.
“We could not do much because we wanted this issue to be resolved out of court but the community proceeded with it (court option),” he said.
The district chairman, Mr Robert Okumu, condemned the eviction.
“Why is the NFA concentrating on evicting people from the forest yet they have failed to plant and replace trees in Osi, Lendu and Awang forests? The people were utilising the idle land which to me was not bad,” he said.
However, NFA eviction and encroachment specialist officer Jimmy Ouna said: “The residents have been taking NFA to court which has hindered the development of the land by NFA. We need to protect the land from deforestation,” Mr Ouna said.
Asked about the fate of the evicted people, NFA public relations officer Gilbert Kadilo said: “We are rarely concerned what happens for as long as we have evicted them from the forest reserves.”
Some of the evictees have joined their relatives while others are still stranded.

The residents dragged NFA to court, claiming that the land on which the forest reserve is located was gazetted in the 1940s after colonialists hoodwinked the local chiefs into accepting to give away 5,000 hectares of farmland for a forest reserve.