A 45-year-old man from Kisoro district has been arrested by police for allegedly starting the fire that burnt down several acres of Echuya forest reserve.
The forest reserve is located in Rubanda and Kisoro districts in Kigezi sub region and stretches through to neighboring Rwanda. It is home to close to 150 species of birds.
The suspect identified as Kaben Mfitumukiza is a resident of Gitebe cell, Kagezi parish in Kanaba Sub County, Kisoro District. Mfitumukiza is reported to have been harvest honey from the beehives put there by the forestry authorities at the time of the tragedy.
Echuya forest reserve supervisor Hebert Turyahabwa says that the fire destroyed over 30 acres of the forest before it was put off by locals, with the help of Police fire brigade and Uganda peoples defense forces.
The incident also paralyzed transport along the Kabale-Kisoro road for the bigger part of Sunday as vehicles could not drive through the plume of smoke forming out of the forest.
Kisoro District Police Commander Edgar Akankwasa says that inquiries and leads from the locals led them to the suspect who was later arrested with freshly harvested honey and fresh bamboo stems at his home. He faces charges of arson.
Mfitumukiza, now held at Kisoro police station, accepted having started the fire to scare away the bees as he harvested honey, but hastens to add that his intentions were not to burn the forest. He explains that he failed to control the fire once it spread through the thick dry grasses.