Luweero. The Minister without Portfolio, Hajj Abdul Nadduli, has criticised the National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Luweero District leaders for using excessive force to evict residents from the disputed Mbale Central Forest Reserve in Butuntumula Sub-county.
Hajj Nadduli said using excessive force during evictions is unnecessary and taints the image of government.
The minister said the continued arrests and destruction of property belonging to the alleged encroachers by police under the supervision of NFA officials is lack of respect for other government departments involved in harmonising the already volatile situation on Mbale Central Forest Reserve land.
“I am dismayed by the continued acts of arrests, destruction of property and harvesting of food from gardens by police officers stationed at the forest land yet we resolved to have a stakeholders meeting before further action,” the minister said in a September 18, 2018 letter addressed to the Resident District Commissioner, Ms Alice Muwanguzi.
“You cannot deny residents access to their respective homes and gardens at this time. The ongoing activity complicates the ongoing NRM party mobilisation activities,” he added. The letter was also copied to Minister of Water and Environment Sam Cheptoris, Luweero District Chairperson Ronald Ndawula, Savannah Region Police Commander Moses Kityo Mwanga and Luweero District Police Commander Benson Byaruhanga.
Hajj Nadduli said they had resolved at an earlier meeting to have the NFA eviction activities halted pending a stakeholders meeting chaired by environment minister but police in the area went against this and continued to threaten residents with eviction.
Police personnel have been pitching camp in the forest for the last three weeks. “The arrest and torture of the alleged encroachers which has persisted, is a thorn in our mobilisation activities as the NRM ruling party,” Hajj Nadduli asserts in his letter.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Ms Muwanguzi acknowledged receipt of the minister’s letter, saying her office will investigate allegations of torture against residents.
On September 19, Hajj Nadduli attempted to meet the affected residents near the reserve but police blocked him, citing unclear agenda for the meeting and that NFA was not represented.