ARUA. Residents of Lazebu parish, Logiri sub county, Arua district have petitioned the Resident District Commissioner over what they said is suspected land grabbing by officials from National Forestry Authority.
 
According to the petition dated 24th of April 2021 and signed by Mr Ramandan Zidi, an elder in the parish, locals in the parish who have lived in the area continue to suffer in the hands of NFA officials and their collaborators by threatening and intimidating them to clandestinely grab their land to establish a forest reserve.
 
The petition has also been copied to the Arua district chairman, the district police commander, the area MP, the 409 brigade commander and Uganda Human Rights Commission West Nile among others.
 
“This is to bring to your attention what appears to be land grabbing by some people with assistance of National Forestry Authority officials and their collaborators within Logiri sub county, the purpose of this letter is therefore to petition you as higher authority in Arua district to let affected community to know the government involvement in the clandestine activities of NFA officials”, the letter reads in part. 
 
During the heated meeting, residents vowed not to give an inch of their land to NFA for a forestry reserve saying they have settled on the land for ages and that the forestry authority has no claim over their land.
 
The over 3000 residents are mostly I parishes of Lazebu, Oliba and Chiaba all in Logiri sub county.
 
“These suspected NFA people destroyed people’s crops in the field and threatened them with guns as they move with some UPDF officers planting trees in fields which locals have cleared to plant crops claiming that the land belongs to NFA, this is wrong, NFA has never had land here, who gave it to them and in what year’, Zidi asked. 
 
The Local Council I vice chairman of Okavu village, Lazebu parish, Mr Lazarus Leti said NFA officials have never come through his or the chairman’s office nor have they visited any local authority whenever they come to threaten people.
 
“The office of the LCI chairman or his vice is a public place in all these villages, people have been coming to us that they are being evicted by NFA but the same NFA has never come to our office to tell us that they are coming for such and such activity in our village, for us we think that NFA is doing an illegal activity and they will fall into problems with people”, Leti stated.
 
Ms Alice Ndaru, a resident from Chiaba said they now live in fear in their own ancestral land.
 
“They threatened us that if we didn't leave the place, they would come and set houses on fire and also destroy our crops in the garden but where should we go? Our great grandparents were born and buried here and they never told us that this place was a forest reserve”, Ndaru stated.
 
But Mr Festus Ayikobua, the then Resident District Commissioner of Arua before he was transferred to Maracha district promised to investigate and visit the affected people in June this year though he never but said he had a written circular from the president which directed that no evictions should be carried out in the country.
 
Mr Robert Kasigwa Owiny, the NFA range manager for West Nile region could not be reached by press time but on an earlier arrangement, he had promised to speak to this reporter about the matter but never materialised.