Another batch of 20 forest reserve encroachers has been sent to prison for illegally entering and destroying the national forest reserves
By Ismael Kasooha
KIBAALE - Another batch of 20 forest reserve encroachers has been sent to prison for illegally entering and destroying the national forest reserves in Kibaale district.
Appearing before the Kagadi grade I magistrate Teko Lokeris on Tuesday, 15 of the accused pleaded guilty to two charges while three others denied all the charges brought onto them.
All the 20 were charged with illegal entry and cutting of forest reserves contrary to section 14 (1&2) and illegal clearing of land in the forest reserve for planting or cultivation of crops contrary to section 32(1), (B), (IV), (2) of the National Forest and Tree Planting Act 2003.
Lokeris sent the convicts are to serve one year for each count but stressed that both counts would be served concurrently upon default of the set fine.
Those convicted included a 56 year old accountant with Mabale tea estate in Kyenjojo district identified as Edward Mutekanga who was slapped with a hefty fine of shs1.3 million for both counts or serve two years in case he failed to pay the money.
Mutekanga rushed to Centenary Bank Kagadi and paid the money to secure his release.
Mutekanga was arrested together with 7 other people who were his casual labourers but none of them could raise the money.
Those who denied the charges were Omuhereza Mugenyi, 51, a resident of Kikumbya village Kagadi sub county Kibaale district, David Kutegeka, 28, also from the same village, Emmanuel Katungi, 39, a resident of Kasongorero village Kanyabwanga sub county in Bushenyi district.
Others were: John Bagorogoza, 42, a resident of Nyakanamu village Biraha sub county Mbarara district and Boaz Atuhire, 30, a resident of Nyakanamu village Biraha sub county Mbarara district.
They were all remanded to Mambugu prison until the 18th July when there case will be heard.
The others who pleaded guilty were ordered to pay shs250, 000 for each of the two counts or serve one year in prison.
The others who were sent to Mambugu were Richard Ahumura, David Ategeka, Lawrence Niwagira, 29, Francis Kyalimpa, 21, Mike Byamukama, 45, Brian Tukwasibwe, 28 and Peter Sunday, 19.
Others were Silaguje Aliganyira, George Madaraka, 20, Moses Niwagaba, James Mushabe, 22, Pius Byamukama, 21, Benon Byamukama, 45 and George Batorogoza.
Two of the convicts were juveniles and the magistrate ordered that they should be transferred to Kampiringisa remand home in Mpingi district to serve their sentence.
The presiding magistrate said that encroachers will be given heavy punishment due to the destruction they have caused to the country’s forest cover.
“These deterrent sentences are meant to prevent those intending to go to the forest reserves to instil fear and spare our forests,” said Lokeris.
The law enforcement supervisor at the National Forest Authority headquarters Michael Kuro who was present in court said that this is just the beginning of such operations in the country to ensure the forests are protected.
“We shall continue to arrest anybody found in the national forest reserves until they are all secure,” said Kusuro.
Mid last month the Kagadi magistrate’s court sentenced 11 people to 4 years imprisonment for destroying forests without permission.
20 encroachers jailed