Mujuzi Central Forest Reserve in Masaka District is on the verge of its extinction due to encroachment by cultivators.
The forest measuring 6,078 hectares was gazetted in 1938 as protected land and acts as a buffer zone for the different landing sites on Lake Victoria. It is located between the sub-counties of Kyannamukaaka and Kyesiiga in Masaka district.
However, part of the forest was depleted by people who have replaced its natural trees with pineapple and coffee plantations, and other seasonal crops.
According to local leaders, the forest reserve is being destroyed by high-profile and well-connected people whom they accuse of irregularly obtaining freehold certificates of titles on part of its land.
Moses Ssenfuma and Andrew Mabirizi, both residents of Malembo landing site in Kyannamukaaka sub-county say that the forest has gradually been destroyed by people who claim to have obtained land titles and due permission to utilize it for cultivation.
Ssenfuma indicates that they repeatedly complained about the ongoing destruction of the forest, but to their disappointment, the leaders have been reluctant to curb the terrible destruction that is threatening the whole forest.
Cyrus Kalema, the Chairperson for Kyannamukaaka Sub County says that some of the people that have destroyed the forest reserve are prominent businessmen and army officers who are defying any cautions by local leaders.
Kalema wants the government to deploy a special unit of soldiers in the area to team with the local leaders and residents, to save the forest reserve from ongoing destruction.
Rose Nakyejjwe, the Masaka District Environment Officer who also visited the forest reserve indicated their natural resource office is working on the process of canceling all the illegal land titles and work permits issued.
According to Nakyejjwe, the encroachers used the Covid-19 lockdown period to secure titles in the forest reserve, hence destroying it with impunity.
Nakyejjwe explains that they had previously moved in to stop all human activities in the forest reserve, but they were overwhelmed by the encroachers that went on a rampage in the last three years.
In 2015, the former Masaka LCV Chairperson Jude Mbabali sued Prophet Samuel Kakande of the Synagogue Church of all Nations, and the then Chief Staff of Defense-now the Chief Defense Forces; General Wilson Mbadi among others business people for obtaining land titles in Mujuzi forest reserve.
However, the matter which was also raised to Justice Catherine Bamugerire-led land probe in 2019 has remained pending up to date, despite its grave effects.
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