By Wetondo Denis Julius
The new Mbale City Mayor has warned that whoever bought a plot(s) of land in Bugema forest reserve has bought ‘air’. Mbale forest reserve is located about 3km from Mbale central business town on the Mbale-Tororo road.
Cassim Namugali made this revelation on Friday 4th June in an exclusive interview with this reporter at his office in Mbale City Council.
Namugali revealed that there are conmen moving around masquerading as Mbale City Council staff collecting money from the unsuspecting public members allegedly in exchange for plots in the forest.
“Bugema forest is still under National Forestry Authority (NFA) since the degazettement has not been done,” Namugali revealed.
In December last year, President Museveni promised Bugisu leaders that he supports the degazettement of the forest reserve to enable the growth of the City.
But some Bugisu leaders led by Mr Nathan Nandala Mafabi, the Budadiri West MP, say they are ready to do anything to save the forest reserve from degradation.
They claim degazetting the forest is being championed by corrupt leaders in connivance with land grabbers.
Mr Nandala said then that President Museveni has no authority to allow the degazettement of the forest.
“It’s Parliament to degazette the forest according to sections 7 and 8 of the Environment Act. Mr Museveni just wanted to please the people but cannot break the law,” he said.
However, James Kutosi, the public relations officer of Mbale City, said degazetting the forest will help the urban authority to expand its geographical boundaries.
He said they purchased about 525 hectares of land in Bunambutye Sub-county, Bulambuli District, in 2009 to relocate Mbale forest reserve to pave way for the expansion of the town.
Now Namugali who was appealing to residents to be patient and wait for the degazettement to be concluded warned that transactions already made are null and void.
“Let people be patient till the official communication from Mbale City Council as regards the Bugema land,” Namugali said.