Although Ugandans woke up to an alarming video on social media showing blatant criminal land grabbing taking place a stone’s throw from State House Entebbe and next to the military barracks of Katabi, by the close of business sanity had been restored by the swift response of the National Forest Authority.
The man-planted forest in Entebbe covers 80 hectares (one-third of a square mile) and was gazetted in 1982 as Kitubuu Forest Reserve. Residents of Katabi Kitubulu and Katabi say the grabbers have been erecting a fence to cut off a chunk of the public forest over two nights, starting on NRM victory day January 26th. They continued on Thursday night of 27th and in the morning, one Maria Assumpta Nakamya shot a video of the many concrete poles used to erect the fence and posted it with a passionate appeal to the authorities to stop the blatant abuse.
Nakamya pleaded with Environment minister Beatrice Anywar to save Kitubulu Forest, reminding her that unlike Mabira which she fought hard to save that was ‘created’ or grew naturally, Kitubulu was planted by volunteers who started planting trees there in 1932 and their efforts and love of country and nature would not be abused.
Several residents of Kitubulu and Katabi actually recall how in the early 1980’s they used to participate in voluntary replanting of trees in the forest.
By midday, NFA had already swung into action, but they first had to get heavy backing from the environment protection police because residents had indicated that the grabbers were using armed UPDF personnel. The NFA crew proceeded to uproot all the posts that had been used to fence off at least two acres.
Entebbe local leaders and (Town Council) administrators are furious that Kitubulu forest can be grabbed yet it is the main remaining green space in Entebbe as many others including school playgrounds have been grabbed in recent years. They also expressed fear that an illegal establishment can be set up in a forest in easy proximity of State House at night, wondering about the security of the state.
According to NFA, the founder of the defunct Entebbe College School called Joshua Senkungu who died years back was given a permit to carry out strictly forest activities in 1998 for 28 years, but which permit did not allow the erection of any structure. Permits are usually given to replant trees.
However, LCs accuse a man who claims to be a son of the late Ssenkungu saying he is the one who is trying to grab the man-made forest, though the school which was supposed to carry out forestry activities ceased to exist. It is possible that an opportunist is invoking the defunct school,s permit, which would still be valid for another five years if the school was still existing.
In any even such permits are issued subject to periodic, frequent inspection and do not permit construction in forest reserves.
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