By EPHRAIM KASOZI
Kampala. Court has allowed the destruction of 22 square miles of part of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in Hoima District to pave way for sugarcane growing, saying the land does not belong to the National Forestry Authority (NFA).
Masindi High Court judge Wilson Masalu Musene yesterday dismissed with costs the case that NFA filed against the Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom, Dr Solomon Iguru Gafabusa, for alleged encroachment and degradation of the forest reserve.
The king was jointly sued with Hoima Sugar Limited and the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) for alleged fraudulent concealment when he applied for a freehold title for part of the forest land, which was granted by the ULC.
Court documents indicate that on August 1, 2016, King Iguru applied for a freehold certificate of title for the disputed land and he transferred it to Hoima Sugar Limited on August 5, 2016.
However, Justice Musene ruled that the king and his co-accused did not commit any fraud in acquiring the title and that the transfer of the same title was lawful.
The court relied on the evidence by the Commissioner Surveys and Mapping, Mr George Wilson Ogaro, who testified that there is no information in regard to the survey and gazettement of the forest reserve.
Justice Musene took over the case on March 18 hardly three months after Masindi resident judge Albert Rugadya Atwooki pulled out of it in December last year when it had been set for judgment.
Since 2016, NFA had sought court declarations that the king’s stay and utilisation of part of the natural forest reserve was illegal and amounted to trespass.
In September 2016, the government cancelled Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom’s land title in Bugoma Forest.
NFA lawyers led by Mr Joseph Kwesiga yesterday filed a notice of appeal against the judgement on Bugoma forest.
Mr Kwesiga also wrote a letter to the court, asking for a certified record of proceedings to enable NFA prosecute its appeal.