The conflict between Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, NFA and three residents of Masindi town over harvesting two acres of eucalyptus trees along Nyangahya stream in Central division in Masindi municipality has deepened.
Martin Mwede Kagere, the national forestry authority Budongo range system manager said that with the help of Masindi district police commander, Bosco Bakashaba, he has halted three residents of Masindi town identified as Amos Bendebule, Justus Ariho and Jackson Dolera from harvesting eucalyptus trees from the contested area.
However, the 2 acre eucalyptus forest which is over 20 years old is also being claimed by the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and the national forest authority. It is not yet clear who exactly owns the land between the Bunyoro Kingdom and the national forest authority.
According to Bendebule, they tried to harvest the tree in 2014 but the Omukama allegedly ordered National Forestry Authority (NFA) to stop them which they did. The trio however went to court which issued a decree allowing them to harvest their tree.
A ruling dated December 16, 2015 signed by Moses Angualia, the chief magistrate Masindi court indicates that the trio is the lawful owners of the said eucalyptus plantation and is entitled to harvest their trees. On 28th December 2015 in the morning, the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom minister in charge of forest, Mr. Rujumba Kahiigwa allegedly hired 30 youths from Kijura trading center and tried to block their work until the trio brought in police to guard them.
However; Kagere says that much as court ruling was in favor of the trio, it was subject to appeal therefore they would have not started harvesting the trees immediately. He said if NFA appealed when trees are harvested, their application would be render useless since exhibits would have been destroyed.
The system range manager adds that, court pronounced itself on ownership of the trees but not harvesting and for Bendebule and his companion to harvest trees, they should have receive an execution order from court that would have been implemented through a court bailiff, something they never sort out.
“To justify that those people had started harvesting those trees illegally, they have not paid dues to NFA because they planted the trees on central forest reserve land. They have to fulfill other requirements too as clearly stated in the permits or licenses they have”, Kagere noted.
The NFA boss also accused the trio for using power saws to harvest the Eucalyptus trees which is a contraband as per their regulations, clarifying that it is only sawmills and handsaws that are exonerated in central forest reserve.
Kagere disclosed that, NFA legal team had already filed an application to a higher court seeking to nullify the ruling that was made by the chief magistrate’s court claiming that by the time the trio were given a license, there had been existing trees already.