By Peter Abaanabasazi
There was tension in Hoima district after security blocked a match protest by conservationists who are against the giveaway of Bugoma central forest reserve by Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom.
Conservationists under their umbrella, “Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest” are protesting the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom giveaway of 8,000 hectares of part of Bugoma forest land in Muhangaizima village, Kyangwali Sub County to Hoima Sugar Limited, a Hoima based Sugar factory.
The Kingdom for the last two years has been feuding with National Forestry Authority (NFA) over ownership of the land in Muhangaizima village, claiming it is part of the restituted assets.
Last month NFA stopped the Sugar Company graders on site with NFA Executive Director maintaining that forestry land must remain not tampered with.
But the issue has attracted the attention of conservationists from within outside the County who on Wednesday organized a protest walk against the giveaway of the forest.
Group of over 20 conservationists from Kampala led by Constantine Tessarin, the Chairman of the Association stormed Hoima to have a peaceful protest walk. But before the protesters set off from Hoima town, to Nsozi village in Kyangwali where the walk was meant to start, security blocked them.
During a meeting chaired by Hoima Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Ambrose Mwesigye and attended by Joseph Kabale, the Regional security officer, Hoima DPC Bernard Akakwasa and regional police commander Apollo Kateba, the group was ordered to halt the their demonstration on ground that their walk was a security threat.
It was alleged that security had learnt that a group of Bunyoro Kitara kingdom royalists had blocked the way and armed to harm the conservation protesters. Security claimed that locals had been misled that the group had plans of grabbing their land.
Mwesigye advised them to call off the protest and organize another day when the area is secure for them.
The group condemned the act and accused security for being compromised by the forest encroachers. They said their move was meant to highlight a concern by conservationists on the continued depletion of Uganda’s largest central reserve.
Constantine tasked security officials to give them genuine reason why they were stopping them yet police had cleared them. He noted that Bugoma forest is one of the most treasured forests because of its richness in endangered species such as chimpanzees, Endemic Monkey that are found in few areas globally and endangered birds such as Nahan’s francolin but government has failed to protect it. He added, Bugoma is a growing tourism destination and vowed not stop their campaign.
Mwesigye later moved to address the Kingdom loyalists, who had barricaded the Kabwoya-Kyangwali road at Nsozi village and ordered them to unblock the road.
The Kingdom loyalists most of them from Kyangwali were armed with Machetes, spears, bowls and arrows.
The group numbering about 200 told the RDC, that the land in question belonged to Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and would not allow anybody, including National Forest Authority to lay claim it.
Led by Yabezi Kaguna Kabona, residents claimed that the protesters had hidden intensions of turning the Kingdom land into a chimpanzee conservation area which they cannot allow.