More than 22,000 squatters in Bukaleeba forest reserve in Mayuge district are living in uncertainty. The affected people were allegedly evicted by government from their ancestral land in Bukatuube Sub County in 1989 and resettled in Bukaleeba forest reserve. The families were evicted from Kasaali, Luwelele, Buwolelo, Bukaleeba, Nakalanga, Namugongo, Bukatuube, Buyobo and Budala villages to pave way for the establishment of Busoga Forest Company.
Some of the squatters claim that they lost their property such as permanent houses and livestock during the eviction exercise but they were never compensated. Alphonse Ongom, the LC 1 chairperson Bukaleeba village says the affected families have been tortured and traumatized because of government’s failure to compensate them. He says they have been confined to living in camps like destitute without land to grow crops, rear animals and construct houses and places of worship.
Ongom says the families are also barred from burying their loved ones in the forest reserve. He says the 22,000 people families have only six hectares of land to share amongst themselves.
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Sulait Maganda, the land secretary Bukatuube Sub County says people live with continuous stress because of lack of sufficient food and continuous threats of eviction.
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Government promised the communities 500 hectares for collaborative forest management in 2011 but the parliament is yet to endorse the proposal. Peter Loru, a resident of Bukaleeba village says the available health centre is poorly staffed and equipped.
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Paul Mukhooli, Mayuge District Community Development Officer says the affected people lack access to social services since they are looked as encroachers on the forest reserve.
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Margeret Mbeiza, Mayuge RDC says the issue of the squatters is being handled by the president’s office and will soon be tabled in parliament. Teddy Nsamba, the Manager Busoga Forest Company says they are waiting for the government’s decision on whether the 500 hectares of land have been given to the community or not.
She believes this could end the tension between the residents and the management of Busoga Forest Company.