KAMPALA, Uganda — Two sugarcane companies have begun clearing thousands of hectares in disputed sections of Uganda’s Bugoma Forest. The National Forestry Authority (NFA) is challenging land titles granted to Hoima Sugar Limited and MZ Agencies, but a series of court defeats has forced the authority to remove its guards. Bugoma Forest spans 40,000 hectares (99,000 acres) along the northern tip of the Albertine Rift Valley, which divides Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is home to around 500 chimpanzees and is one the most biodiverse forests in the country. Mechanical graders began clearing 2,400 hectares (5,900 acres) of land to plant cane for Hoima Sugar here in August, after the National Environment Management Authority, a separate government department from the forestry authority, approved an environmental impact assessment. MZ Agencies employees with chainsaws began cutting down trees in another area in May, though no EIA has been approved for that company’s project. Under the 1998 Land Act, forest reserves like Bugoma are held in trust for the “common good of the citizens of Uganda” and may not be leased out or sold by the government. But in August 2016, the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom, one of five traditional kingdoms which hold autonomous powers to the central government in Kampala, successfully claimed 5,700 hectares (14,100 acres) here as ancestral land. Just four days later, the kingdom transferred title to this land to Hoima Sugar. Hoima Sugar has controversially leased other land near Bugoma Forest: between 2014 and 2015, Ugandan police forcibly evicted…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer