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Residents Protest Deployment in Bugoma Forest Reserve

According to the residents, the heavy deployment is scaring them since they are now being denied access to the forest reserve. They say no one is currently allowed to step even at the entrance of the forest reserve since Wednesday this week
Bugoma Forest Reserve. Photo by Emmanuel Okello.

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Residents in areas adjacent to Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in Kyangwali and Kabwoya sub-counties are protesting the heavy deployment of both the anti-riot police and Uganda Peoples Defense Forces-UPDF inside Bugoma forest and in areas adjacent to the forest reserve.   

According to the residents, the heavy deployment is scaring them since they are now being denied access to the forest reserve. They say no one is currently allowed to step even at the entrance of the forest reserve since Wednesday this week. The major deployment is seen in areas of Nsonzi, Kololo and Nyairongo in Kyangwali and Kabwoya sub counties.

Benon Tusingwire, a resident says the deployment is dubious if it is done by the government against the government itself that supposed to protect the protected forest (through NFA). He says the deployment could be intended to intimidate the locals and environmentalists who are opposing the giveaway of Bugoma central forest reserve to Hoima Sugar Limited for sugarcane growing.

He says as locals who are opposed to the giveaway of the forest, they will use all the possible means to protect the forest from being destroyed. The forest reserve is under NFA but a certificate issued by NEMA is being used to justify the destruction of the reserve in favour of sugar cane planting.  

//cue in;”The going of…

Cue out:…betrayed by government.”//  

Bruhan Mubangizi, a resident of Nsonzi village in Kangwali sub county says with or without the deployment they will not get intimidated so long as they are protecting the forest from being destroyed for "selfish interest," saying the forest is of great importance to the community around. He wants government to explain the motive of the deployment.  

//cue in;”The forest has…

Cue out:…Challenge of rain.”//  

Robert Agenonga, a resident of Kabwoya sub county says government should not at any point scare and intimidate locals fighting for the protection of Bugoma forest reserve. He says by deploying heavily government can be suspected of having a role in the giveaway and destruction of the protected forest reserve.

//cue in;”In my opinion…

Cue out:…of Bugoma forest.”//  

John Bizimungu also a residents say currently women in the area cannot access the forest to collect firewood twigs due to the deployment since the security personnel cannot allow anyone to access the forest.

Micheal Businge from Bunyoro Albertine Petroleum Network on Environmental Conservation- BAPENECO says the deployment seems like government involvement in the giveaway of the forest reserve for sugarcane growing adding that the move should be strongly condemned.  

//cue in;”That is a…

Cue out:…forest is conserved.”//  

Julius Hakiiza,the Albertine region police spokesperson says the deployment is normal and is not intended to intimidate the locals settling adjacent to the forest reserve. He however declined to divulge more details on the deployment.    

On Tuesday, two environmental Journalists were arrested by police in Hoima over peaceful demonstration against the giveaway of Bugoma central forest reserve to Hoima sugar Limited for sugarcane growing.   They are Joshua Mutale and Vennex Watebawa, both members of the Water and Environment Media Network-WEMNET.  

The journalists were detained after intelligence information indicated that they are the masterminds of the save Bugoma demonstration campaign. They were released on police bond on Thursday. 

The demonstration was expected to start on Wednesday morning from Hoima City and stop in Bugoma central forest reserve in Kikuube district but it did not take place due to the arrest and detention of the journalists.

Recently, environmentalists under the "Save Bugoma Forest Reserve Campaign" made announcements on local stations inviting people in Bunyoro sub-region to join them in a peaceful demonstration to oppose the allocation of Bugoma forest to Hoima sugar limited for sugar cane growing.   

Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, covering 410 square kilometres of a protected area, and a stretch of forest measuring 40 kilometres, is a tropical forest in Kikuube district, gazzeted in 1932 and taken over by the National Forestry Authority in 2003.  

It is endowed with a high Biodiversity with 24 species of mammals, 465 species of trees, 359 species of birds, 289 species of butterflies and 130 species of moths.

The mammals include monkeys, chimpanzees, buffaloes, Uganda Kobs and at times elephants. 

A 2012 Chimpanzee census discovered that 10 per cent of Uganda’s Chimpanzee population was in Bugoma forest. 

   

The forest is also a migratory route for wild animals connecting to game parks and a catchment area for rivers that drain into Lake Albert and river Nguse where government plans to build a hydro power dam.   Situated near the Kingfisher oil field, the Forest is expected to play a crucial role in absorbing the greenhouse gas emissions during oil drilling and also act as a rain modifier to boost agriculture.

Civil Society Organizations and Environmentalists under their Umbrella Save Bugoma Campaign are currently demanding the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA to reverse its decision on Bugoma forest give away. 

This comes at a time when NEMA issued a certificate of approval for the Environmental and social Impact Assessment-ESIA authorizing Hoima Sugar Limited to clear over 21 square miles of Bugoma forest to plat sugar cane.  

The Certificate of approval will automatically facilitate Hoima Sugar to clear the NFA protected forest reserve.  

The ESIA Certificate issued by NEMA dated August,14,2020, NEMA has permitted Hoima sugar Limited to use 21 square miles out of the 22 square miles leased out to Hoima sugar by Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom at 3 billion shillings against the will of National Forestry Authority-NFA which is the chief custodian of all the Natural forests in the country.

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