Four Arrested for Illegal Logging in Bugoma Forest Reserve

A joint security operation involving the police and Uganda Peoples Defense Forces-UPDF personnel has netted four people accused of engaging in illegal activities in Bugoma forest reserve in Kikuube district. The suspects are Vereriano Byamukama, Justus Agaba, Robert Muhwezi, and Hillary Byarugaba, all residents of Karwensanga Parish in Rubindi town Council Mbarara District.

The four were picked up on Tuesday afternoon for carrying out illegal activities in the forest reserve together with several others on the run. Amlan Tumusiime, the Kikuube Resident District Commissioner-RDC told Uganda Radio Network in an interview on Wednesday afternoon that they received intelligence that unknown people had invaded the forest reserve. 

He says that they immediately swung into action and raided the forest reserve where they found the group cutting trees. According to Tumusiime, they managed to arrest four suspects while their colleagues managed to get away. He says that they recovered gumboots, power saw machines, machetes, and food as exhibits from the suspects.

According to Tumusiime, upon interrogations, the suspects alleged that they were ferried from Mbarara district by an unidentified person to come and work as casual laborers in the forest reserve. Tumusiime says that they are on high alert after receiving threats from the ADF rebels operating in the Democratic of Congo, which borders the district.  

John Bosco Alinaitwe, who neighbors Bugoma forest reserve, says that they became suspicious after seeing the group invading the Forest Reserve and immediately alerted the office of the RDC. The suspects are currently in custody at Kikuube central police station. On Monday, the government warned of possible attacks by rebels from the Democratic Republic of Congo and tasked security in the border districts to be on high alert. 

Covering 410 square kilometers of a protected area and a stretch of forest measuring 40 kilometers, Bugoma is a tropical forest that was gazetted in 1932. It is endowed with 24 species of mammals, 465 species of trees, 359 species of birds, 289 species of butterflies, and 130 species of moths. 

The mammals include monkeys, chimpanzees, buffaloes, Uganda Kobs, and at times elephants.  The forest reserve is a migratory route for wild animals and a catchment for rivers that drain into Lake Albert where oil has been discovered.

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