The district chairman and the District Police Commander of Kalangala have been named in a grand scheme of theft, impunity, abuse of power and violating the rights of powerless residents.
The names of Kalangala district boss Willy Lugoloobi as well as that of the District Police Commander (DPC) Richard Musisi have come into the national spotlight for allegedly forcefully confiscating and selling more than 3000 pieces of timber belonging to one of the landlords in the district.
Omutaka Segaluma Stephen alleges that on November 23, 2018 Lugoloobi called for a meeting at Kamwanyi landing site in Bujumba Sub-county of Kalangala district where he publicly demanded that the landlord gives part of his land to the community to cultivate crops.
Omutaka Segaluma alleges that Lugoloobi’s populist move came after the landlord had legally cleared part of a nearby forest on his land to give way for the expansion of the landing site following a request from UPDF officers in charge of the operation against illegal fishing on Lake Victoria.
“I was approached by one of the commanders of the UPDF engaged in the control of illegal fishing on the lake to create space for the expansion of the landing site following the closure of several others on Bugala and nearby small islands,” Omutaka Segaluma narrated to The Sunrise reporter.
Aware of the law governing harvesting of forestry resources, Segaluma adds that he followed the right procedures by securing a permit to harvest 30 mature trees from his land. This reporter has seen a copy of the letter that was issued by the District Forestry Officer a one Bafirawala M as well as a bank slip indicating that he paid the permit fee for the same.
Rather than be happy with the expansion of the landing site, Segaluma argues that, Lugoloobi chose to take a populist scheme by trying to position himself as a defender of the fishing community, who gets them free land for cultivation.
Segaluma alleges that on November 23, 2018, Lugoloobi called for a meeting in which he publicly demanded that Segaluma gives more land to the community for agricultural purposes.
Segaluma flatly rejected the advance as a veiled plot to steal his land as it would constitute giving away his land to squatters.
Following the snub, Lugoloobi returned two weeks later, accompanied by DPC Musisi and confiscated more than 3000 pieces of precious timber that had been harvested, in blatant violation of the law.
“On December 5, 2018, the chairman returned to the landing site at 6pm with the DPC and other gun-wielding officers, loaded all the timber onto trucks and took it away.
“The DPC returned the following morning and took the remaining timber.
My efforts to seek justice at the nearby police was futile as the OC in charge declined to charge his boss,” claims Segaluma.
Segaluma’s efforts to secure justice from higher police authorities in Masaka have so far proved futile because their juniors back in Kalangala reportedly deliberately and stubbornly refused to open a file upon which any meaningful progress would be undertaken.
When The Sunrise contacted the Regional Forestry Office in Masaka which Segaluma claims to have arrested his timber, we were informed that indeed the timber had been dispatched by the Police.
This reporter received confirmation from the Regional Forestry Officer, identified only as Ssebuggwawo that he confiscated timber that had been dispatched by Kalangala Police.
Ssebugwawo told The Sunrise that: “It is true that I stopped the truck that was carrying timber which had been dispatched by police because it had not gone through the right channels. It is also true that Mzee Segaluma has approached me and told me that truck was carrying his timber which I cannot confirm because the police on many occasions stops timber from Kalangala.”
Ssebugwawo’s comment could be an indirect indictment to the police and indeed Lugoloobi that what they did was illegal and criminal. According to Segaluma, it’s not the job of Police to sell timber but rather to lend support to the forestry officers to enforce the law.
“This is a probable confirmation that the Police in Kalangala actually regularly engages in illegal sale of timber because it is not the job of the regular Police to arrest timber traders without the involvement of the forestry officers.
When The Sunrise contacted Kalangala district boss Lugoloobi to respond to the scathing allegations, he declined to comment. He also refused to pick subsequent calls from our reporters.