“Between 2015 and 2018, some charcoal cartels counted among their members a senior cabinet minister, two senior army commanders and an assistant commissioner of the Ugandan Police Force,” the report says.
A report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized crime has faulted the Uganda Police and the Army for their
role in illegal charcoal trade.
The research conducted in Uganda, Kenya
and South Sudan interviewed 348 people with direct involvement in the value
chain as producers, transporters or dealers and traders. Others were government
officials, academics, civil society actors, journalists among others.
The report comes when the country is facing challenges with depleting forest cover as a result of illegal logging. Charcoal dealers have systematically cut down trees especially shea nut trees from Northern Uganda. Recently, the Deputy Police chief Paul
Lokech blamed the Resident District Commissioners (RDC)’s who are also
head of security in the districts for their role in charcoal logging and
The March 2021 Report indicates that
while there is no massive organized crime problem, poor, ineffective or
inappropriate regulation has given rise to forms of market organization with
organized crime qualities, including cartels, high-level corruption and violence in some locations.
Accordingly, this has undermined
law enforcement capacity, jeopardized environmental protection efforts and
expanded the exploitation and coercion of vulnerable populations.
to the findings of the report, Uganda serves as a producer, consumer and regional transit country of
charcoal with much of its transported to Kenya.
who carry Ugandan charcoal to Kenya often accompany it with a certificate of
origin, which serves as protection against confiscation and/or extortion.
The report also says that the main
sites of charcoal production in Uganda are found in the northern parts of the
country, mainly West Nile and Acholi, and upon production, this charcoal is
transported south to Kampala and Mbale with an annual turnover of the charcoal
trade in Kampala estimated to be well over US$182 million. The most
sought-after tree species for charcoal production are shea (Vitellaria
paradoxa), Afzelia Africana and various Acacia trees.
The report indicates that dealers in
Kampala establish local trade organizations that lobby the districts for
changes that would ensure that charcoal still flowed to Kampala.
The report documents corruption and
criminality at several points along the Ugandan charcoal value chain.
“During the transport phase, bribes
are paid to police to avoid scrutiny of charcoal licences, while influential
charcoal dealers enter into arrangements with government officials for
‘protection’ of their business interests.And while most of charcoal
production takes place in private forests, there is illegal harvesting of wood
in protected forests ,where the military is implicated” the report reads.
Police Pinned in protecting cartels
According to the report, dealers in
illegal charcoal trade seek relationships with state officials who do not
themselves participate directly in the trade but exert enormous influence in
the civil service and with the police and military.
The report says that these contacts ensure safe passage
of charcoal so that it is not impounded by the National Forestry Authority,
local district authorities or any other regulatory or enforcement body.
“The District Police often provide
dealers with security and protection from a number of risks, such as robbery
and confiscation by environmental enforcement officials, but dealers are also
able to use their relationships with police to undermine competitors.
to a dealer, confiscation of charcoal by certain officials is "a tactic used to
destabilize competitors,” the report reads. It further states that dealers with
political protection have also been able to use their contacts to secure
industrial charcoal contracts.
“Between 2015 and 2018, some
charcoal cartels counted among their members a senior cabinet minister, two senior army commanders and an assistant
commissioner of the Ugandan Police Force,” the report says.
According to the report, these
groups obtained a monopoly on the supply of charcoal to factories in Jinja,
where businesses used it to process vegetable oil and smelt iron, and other
factories in Kampala and nearby Wakiso district, where small factories refine
steel and produce plastic products.
A lieutenant general in the army who the report
does not name has also reportedly used
his influence to order the release of impounded charcoal on at least two
occasions, once in Gulu and
Arua. Military Accused
According to the report, the
Ugandan army has been implicated in both logging and charcoal crimes in public
forests, particularly in the forests where they have been deployed to prevent
The report says that from 2005
until the present, Zoka forest, in Adjumani district, has witnessed heavy deployment of
environmental police and military to protect the forest from encroachment by
loggers, charcoal dealers and farmers but in vain.
“Enforcement units actively removed
competition for forest resources to the benefit of charcoal producers and dealers
by evicting people, including refugees, who had fled to the forest as a result
of insecurity in northern Uganda and South Sudan.” The report reads.
Although there were evictions by
the National Forestry Authority, the evictions did not result in a reduction in
logging and charcoal burning.
“After the removal of refugees and
other forest dwellers, loggers and burners moved in, protected by the army and
the Environmental Protection Police Unit. Tree felling continued, with the
exception that refugees and other dwellers were barred from accessing the
forest.” It reads.
Local government corruption
The report pins officials in
district local councils who receive bribes from producers and dealers to irregularly
issue permits even if requirements are not met or instruct law enforcement
officials not to impound trucks.The report indicates that corruption
at this level has also undermined efforts to introduce stricter legislation in
“In 2016, district local
governments in West Nile and Acholi began discussions about regulating the
trade, including by instituting bans and formulating ordinances. Dealers in
Kampala reportedly swung these procedures in their favor by establishing local
trade organizations that lobbied the districts for changes that would ensure
that charcoal still flowed to Kampala.” The report
The report says that the effectiveness
of the by-laws has been mixed; some have not been strictly enforced or have
been undermined by corruption, but they have had a positive effect in some
In Acholi sub region, a joint
initiative of district local government, the military and the police led to the
introduction of intensive night operations to impound trucks carrying
charcoal, and imposed a total ban.
The report states that there needs
to be emphasis on improving charcoal governance and regulation. They have called on Government to accurately
measure the environmental impacts of charcoal production through use of methods
that can capture the impact of charcoal on tree cover loss, and not only other
methods which are biased to other forms of impact.
They also recommend for the
monitoring of value chains, pricing and illicit financial flows since revenue
is being lost due to ineffective regulation of the trade, and financial flows
from the trade that are partly illicit, often funding low-level corruption and
in some cases securing high-level cooperation from political figures.
The report also calls for the
involvement of communities, civil society and local authorities in preserving
environmental resources and regulating local production among others.
Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga told URN that they will take
interest in the report and look at the areas indicated. He says that police
does not take issues of unprofessionalism lightly, and the officers if any can
be tasked to account.
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UPDF Spokesperson Flavia Byekwaso asked URN to allow her read the report before she can comment.