Parliament prioritises debate on forest reserves

Parliament is set to debate a motion on the decision taken by Cabinet to gazette forests in the country.
Presiding over the plenary sitting on Tuesday, 06 November 2018, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, tasked the Minister for Lands to move a motion for processing so as address contentious matters in the forest areas.
Oulanyah noted that the motion had been one of the pending items on the order of business of the House for a long time adding that that its activation would give the Lands Minister ways of solving the conflicts in some of the forested areas.
“Can we debate his motion and take decisions that might help the ministry in dealing with the forests in contention,” said Oulanyah.
The directive followed a concern by Mukono South MP Hon. Johnson Muyanja Ssenyonga who said that the failure by government to open up forest boundaries in Mukono district had affected families living near forests.
He added that officials from the forestry department had destroyed plantations of families living near forest areas because there had been no clear demarcations of where forest land ends.
“These people were not given a chance to harvest their crops. I had to get the intervention of the Mukono DPC to stop soldiers who had already destroyed plantations of over 100 families,” Muyanja said.
He added that he had earlier requested the Prime Minister to intervene but no action had been taken.
“Can the government quickly open up forest boundaries in those areas so that we know where they stop,” said Muyanja, adding that, “can they also sit with the individuals occupying the land and give them a period to harvest their crops.”
The Government Chief Whip, Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa, noted that the opening of forest boundaries by government was a continuous process but blamed locals for encroaching on forest land.
“People have been attracted to invade forest reserves because this is where we still have fertile soils. Even where people are given notices to vacate, they continue planting every day,” said Nankabirwa.
She called on the Lands Minister to prioritise Mukono district for opening up forest boundaries, adding that the district forest officers ought to be engaged given that they know where the boundaries pass.