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Destroying Bugoma is ripping through the heart of Bunyoro’s culture



A chunk of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve is being cleared for sugarcane growing after NEMA gave the project a go-ahead, claiming the area was a grassland, an excuse conservationists say is fl awed. We look at the significance of Bugoma to the people of Bunyoro Kingdom and the region in general

Bugoma Central Forest is central to Bunyoro Kingdom and its people and culture, a Vision Group team discovered recently during a fact-fi nding mission, after part of the forest was leased to sugarcane growing. Not only is the forest part of the kingdom and its people, but has rare tree species too.

Over the years, the Banyoro have shown strong reverence to nature with a tradition of planting and preserving forests.

According to Apollo Rwamparo, the second deputy prime minister and minister of tourism in Bunyoro Kingdom, Bugoma and Budongo are cultural forests which were planted by Bunyoro kings, including the powerful Omukama Kabalega. However, Hoima Sugar Limited, which is seeking to cultivate sugarcane in part of Bugoma in Kikuube district, is disregarding such cultural importance.


According to Rwamparo, it is important to understand names such as Bugoma. He says the name Bugoma comes from drums.

“We have different drums, such as war drums and people would walk prepared for war,” he said, adding that Bugoma means a small drum. “Bugoma was partly planted with indigenous trees. Some of the tree species came from DR Congo and South Sudan. The trees were planted in Bugoma and parts of Budongo,” said.

He added, “This was the gene bank for Bunyoro region, so Bugoma and Budongo forests are cultural properties.” The trees in Budongo’s royal mile, where the Omukama used to train his army, Abarusura , and retired after his war expeditions, are still standing. Today, the area is a popular destination for visitors. “The royal mile was planted by Kabalega,” Rwamparo added.

He also said there are specific trees used in the making of canoes and for brewing local brew, known as mwenge bigere. The brew is extracted from bananas, then fermented to make alcohol.

“We have regalia and music instruments. They do not come from any piece of tree, there are specific trees in Bugoma and Budongo forest,” Rwamparo stressed.

He also pointed out that there was a lot of cultural coffee in Bugoma. “We have plenty of coffee in Bugoma,” he said, adding that there are also rattan , locally known as enga, which are used in the making of chairs and other furniture. The Bunyoro second deputy prime minister stated that totems of Banyoro are either animals or plants and most of them live in forests like Bugoma, explaining why the forest is treasured. “So when you destroy Bugoma, you are destroying the identity of Bunyoro,” he added.


According to Rwamparo, Omukama Kabalega’s palace was located at Muhangazima, which is being turned into a sugar plantation by Hoima Sugar Limited in Bugoma forest reserve.

The Vision Group team also learnt about a tree species believed to have mystical powers and revered by the Banyoro. Locally named Mwitansowera, the trees grow in Bugoma and the surrounding areas. They are never touched or cut down, even the fearless and hardcore charcoal burners or illegal loggers do not dare bring them down.  It is widely believed that Mwitansowera produces electric shocks that can kill anyone who gets close to it.

According to Peter Mautsi, a forest supervisor at Kisindi sector in Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, the trees (Mwitansowera species) are spared because many insects, including flies, are found dead near them and hence the name, Mwitansowera, literally translated to ‘killer of insects’.

It is believed that insects that approach it die of electric shocks emitted by the tree. Whether Mwitansowera produces electric shocks to prevent intrusion or not, the belief that it destroys anybody that goes close has been passed from one generation of Banyoro to another and it is supporting conservation. Fearing to be electrocuted, illegal loggers and charcoal burners have spared Mwitansowera from the chop.

But it is now feared that cutting part of Bugoma for sugarcane growing could see the end of the trees before modern scientists study its mystical powers.

The Vision Group team found out that no Munyoro dares cut Mwitansowera even when it is found outside the forest. It is said that upon approaching the tree, one finds dead insects littered under it, which locals use to confi rm their belief that the tree emits electric shocks.

The Kwonga clan leader, Steven Nyakooj


Not far from the cultural treasure of Bugoma, a clan known as Kwonga is conserving a forest sitting on part of their land at Kitoole village in Kabwoya sub-county, Hoima district. This is about 40km from Hoima, along the Hoima-Kyenjojo road.

The forest is largely intact and is estimated to cover over 100 acres. The Kwonga is one of the clans in Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, whose totem is the bushbuck (one of the antelopes). The clan elders have established a legacy of handing over, from one generation to generation, a natural forest called Kwonga clan forest.

“Not only did the old men pass the forest to us, they also left behind over two square kilometres of land, where our clan members have lived for generations,” Dezi Irumba, one of the clan leaders, said.

Currently, Kwonga forest is better kept than the nearby Bugoma forest. Kwonga forest looks intact as opposed to Bugoma, which has become a theatre of destruction. Given that the only forest patch that is left is 4km away, Kwonga forest has become a refugee for the birds that were dispersed after destruction of the natural forests on private land.

The forest is also a catchment for rivers, springs and streams. It has one permanent spring well called Kamwiruki which was used as a source of water by the great grandparents of the Kwonga clan. The forest provides a catchment for three rivers; Nyakabaale, Waniaha and Wamparamba, all of which originate from Mpanga Central Forest Reserve, located 4km east of Bugoma.

The rivers feed Wambabya, where the 9MW Kabalega dam has been constructed. Wambabya empties into Lake Albert. The Kwonga people’s practice of conserving forests is similar to that of the people of Kilifi  in Kenya.

In Kilifi, north of Mombasa, a coastal clan known as the Kayas have conserved their forests for generations. The forests stretch from northern Kenya to southern Africa. The Kayas have preserved their forests and handed them from one generation to another.

The Kayas do not bury their dead in coffi ns and concrete graves. So, the bodies that have taken nutrients from the earth have to return them. As the clans conserve the forests, they also conserve water sources and also provide carbon sinks, which absorb emissions blamed for causing climate change.

**New Vision

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Complaint against unprofessional conduct of the DPC Kiryandongo district for aiding and abetting land grabbing in kiryandongo district.



The Commandant,

Professional Standards Unit, Uganda Police-Kampala.

Dear Sir/Madam;


We act for and behalf of the Lawful and bonafide occupants of Land described as LRV MAS 2 FOLIO 8 BLOCK 8 PLOT 22 (FORMERLY KNOWN AS RANCH 22).

Our Clients are residents of Nyamutende Village, Kitwara Parish in Kiryandongo District where they have lived for more than 30 years and sometime in 2017, they applied for a lease of the said Land to Kiryandongo District Land Board through the Directorate of Land Matters State House.

As they were still awaiting their Application to be processed, they were shocked to establish that the said land had been instead leased to and registered in the names of Isingoma Julius, Mwesige Simon, John Musokota William, Tumusiime Gerald, Wabwire Messener Gabriel, Ocema Richard and Wilson Shikhama, some of whom were not known to the Complainants. A copy of the Search is attached hereto

Our clients protested the above action and appealed to relevant offices, but were shocked to discover that the above persons had gone ahead and sold the same to a one Maseruka Robert.

Aggrieved by these actions, the Complainants appealed to the RDC who advised them to institute proceedings against the said persons, and assigned them a one Mbabazi Samuel to assist them to that effect. The said Mbabazi accordingly filed Civil Suit Noa 46 of 2019 against tne said registered proprietors at Masindi High Court challenging the illegal and fraudulent registration, sale and transfer of the subject land to Maseruka Robert.

While awaiting the progress of the case mentioned hereinabove, the Complainants were surprised to find that the said Mbabazi, instead of assisting them, he went into a consent settling the said suit on their behalf without their knowledge or consent. A copy of the Consent is attached hereto.

Among the terms of the said consent Judgment was that the residents would be compensated without specifying how much and would in return vacate the Land.

As if that was not enough, Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel are going ahead to execute the said Consent Judgment by forcefully evicting the occupants without compensation which has prompted the complainants to challenge the said Consent by applying for its review and setting aside at Masindi High Court which is coming up for hearing on the 29th March 2023. A copy of the Application is attached hereto.

Sensing the imminent threat of eviction, we also filed an application for interim stay of execution of the said consent to avoid rendering their application for review nugatory but unfortunately the same could not be heard on the date it was fixed for hearing (6th February 2023). A copy of the Application is attached hereto

On Thursday last week, three tractors being operated by 6 workers of a one Mbabazi Samuel [the very person who had been entrusted to represent our Clients to secure their Land through Civil Suit No.46 of 2019] encroached close to 50 acres of our Clients’ land and started ploughing it but our Client’s protested and chased them away.

We have however been shocked to receive information from our Clients that on Sunday at Mid night, 3 police patrols invaded the community in the night and arrested community members; Mulenje Jack, Steven Kagyenji, Mulekwa David, Ntambala Geoffrey, Tumukunde Isaac 15 years, Kanunu Innocent, Mukombozi Frank, Kuzara, Rwamunyankole Enock, and took them to Kiryandongo Police Station where they are currently detained.

We strongly protest the illegal arrests and detention of our Clients as this is a carefully orchestrated land grabbing scheme by Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel who are  receiving support from the DPC Kiryandongo.

The purpose of this Letter therefore is to request your good office to investigate the misconduct, abuse of office and unprofessionalism of the said DPC Kiryandongo District and all his involvement in the land grabbing schemes on land formerly known as Ranch 22.

Looking forward to your urgent intervention,

C.C The Head Police Land Protection Unit Police Head Quarters Naguru

CC The RDC Kiryandongo District

CC The Chairman LCVKityadongo District

CC The Regional Police CommanderAlbertine Region

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The Executive Director of Witness Radio Uganda talks about the role played by Witness Radio in protecting communities affected by large-scale agribusinesses in Kiryandongo district in an interview with the ILC.



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Witness Radio Uganda wins the best CSO land rights defenders award at the National Land Forum Awards.



By Witness Radio Team

Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog, Witness Radio has been awarded the best CSO land rights defender award 2022 in the recently concluded National Land Forum Awards held last week at Mestil hotel in Kampala.

Witness Radio’s executive Director, Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala attributed the award to the community land and environmental rights defenders who stand up against the intimidation and different forms of harassment from land grabbers (economically powerful and politically connected companies and individual investors).

“This is an award for defenders at a community level. They work in very deadly environments filled with harassment, torture, death threats, arrest, trumped-up charges, and kidnaps among others to advocate for community land and environment rights. This is happening at a spate where criminalization and silencing of  community land rights defenders are at increase.” Jeff added.

The award has come at a time when hundreds of Ugandans in different parts of the country are accessing services provided by the organization ranging from legal service provisions, non-judicial mechanism engagements, empowerment to help them understand their rights, and using the same knowledge to use the same skills to push back against illegal and forced evictions

The chairman of the organizing committee of the second National Land Forum, Mr. Jimmy Ochom noted some progress on legislation in Uganda’s land Governance. He cited growing inequalities on land where the poor are more vulnerable.

During awards, the state minister for housing, Hon persis Namuganza revealed that the government approved the plan for 2018-2040 that maps the land use in the country.

According to the minister, the government had identified land for settlement, game reserves, wildlife, arable land for farming, and water bodies among others in the plan which she said was passed a few weeks ago.

The event was organized by Oxfam and partners and provided a platform for discussions by the different actors in the land sector on issues around land governance, including land rights, land administration, and land governance for improved collaboration, cooperation between the actors, and improved land service delivery for Ugandans under a theme “Taking stock of the National Land Policy in addressing Land inequality in addressing Land inequality in Uganda.”

Other categories of awards that were won by different organizations and individuals including Mr. Eddie Nsamba-Gayiiya for his contribution to research on land rights, Justice Centers Uganda for Promoting Access to Land Justice, and Mr. Henry Harrison Irumba for Championing Legal Reforms among others.

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