BY PATRICK JARAMOGI
HOIMA, Uganda|SHIFTMEDIA| Security has been tightened in Bugoma Forest as Hoima Sugar Limited begins razing down part of the forest they claim is their land. We are talking of 21 plus square miles of virgin land located in the Bugoma Natural Central Forest Reserve.
Two weeks ago climate and environmental activists under the Climate Action Network Uganda (CAN-U) protested the move by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to grant a certificate of Environmental Impact Assessment to Hoima sugar (Read: https://shiftmedianews.com/battle-to-recover-bugoma-forest-flagged-off-activists-to-storm-nema-offices/). They have since petitioned the Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga who summoned the Water and Environment Minister Hon Sam Cheptoris to parliament to explain why the government had decided to give away the forest to Hoima Sugar for sugarcane growing. Now as the legal battle takes center stage, Hoima Sugar is on ground razing scores of trees as they plan to start growing sugar cane. At scene are two camps of Military and another of the Field Force Unit (FFU) on standby to sting whoever crosses.
But surprisingly, much as the area being razed down is less than a kilometre from the National Forestry Authority (NFA) offices, the pocket staff present have their hands tied, they can’t do much despite the siren of the power saws felling the trees and noise of bulldozers pulling tree trunks hurts their ears.
Activists Proceed With Protest Plans
Earlier this month, the Environmental activists wrote to the Inspector General of Police and the Police management notifying them of their intended peaceful match to NEMA offices in Kampala to protest NEMA’s move to issue EIA certificate to Hoima Sugar. But in a letter dated September 10, 2020, penned by the Director of Operations at the Uganda Police AIGP Edward Ochom, the IGP noted that due to the threats caused by COVID19 pandemic, it would be impossible to hold a demonstration.
Ochom in his letter (below) to the Commander Kampala Metropolitan and the Regional Police Commander Albertine said: “This is to inform you that in view of the threats currently caused by the COVID19 Pandemic, no demonstration can be allowed at this time. By copy of this letter, the organiser are notified accordingly.”
This letter, however, rubbed the environmentalists the wrong way. They accused the police management of double standards and vowed to proceed with the planned demos in Kampala and Hoima. “This is ridiculous, who didn’t see how the NRM voters abused the COVID19 SOPs during their party primaries? Many lined behind one another so close and with no mask. Our match to NEMA offices and in Hoima won’t attract a huge crowd like that of NRM supporters, so why stop us” queried Gaster Kiyingi from Tree Talk Plus.
Kiyingi noted that they were not seeking for police clearance but notifying them of their planned demo.
CAN-U and other environmentalists such as AFIEGO have planned peaceful demonstration starting today Monday 14th September 2020. They planned to match to NEMA offices to hand over a letter to the Executive Director demanding his resignation.
The match was then to proceed to the offices of the Ministry of Water and Environment in Luzira where they would hand over another letter to the minister.
According to Kiyingi, the demonstration by the Save Bugoma forest campaign in Hoima would be held on September 15. The Hoima group will be split into two, with one remaining in Hoima town and another group of 12 protestors heading to Kikuube where Bugoma Forest is located.
The demonstration will according to plans end on September 16 2020, when the peaceful match starts at Kikuube District Headquarters, to Nsozi NFA station, ending up at the Hoima Sugar Plant.
But Kampala Metropolitan Police Commander and the RPC Albertine said no permission has been granted for any demonstration whatsoever.