Friday, August 26, 2016

PRESS RELEASE – 26 TH AUGUST 2016 BUGOMA FOREST UNDER THREAT: THE BIGGEST ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER AT INTERNATIONAL LEVEL

The Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest expresses concern over the increasing insecurity in Bugoma Central Forest Reserve and the continuous threat of destruction.

On Sunday 21st August 2016 a group of about 300 people led by a surveyor entered Bugoma natural forest claiming to be opening the boundaries of the land for Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, according to a title issued inside the protected reserve. The activity started in Nyakatete village from Kaseeta moving towards Nyakatete in Nsozi. By Wednesday they have cleared a length of about six kilometers that are ten metres wide, using chainsaws cutting everything including big mature natural forest trees.
The area is well known to be the habitat of the internationally endangered and protected chimpanzees, plus endemic Ugandan Mangabeys.

The National Forestry Authority responded on Thursday 25th August (after 4 days) by sending a police enforcement of three pick up and 20 policemen of the Environmental Protection Police Unit, who stopped the activity of clearing; however the police force withdrew on Friday and clearing restarted. On 23rd August the National Forestry Authority sent a communication to the Commissioner Land Registration, Ministry of Land Housing and Urban Development requesting to cancel the illegal Freehold Certificate of Title issued in the name of Omukama of Bunyoro Kitara and, subsequently, the leasehold issued to Hoima Sugar Factory Limited. 

The affected area is a large portion of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, the Muhangaizima block for about 8.000 hectares. Considering that there are less than 5.000 chimpanzees left in Uganda (of which about 500 are believed to be in Bugoma Forest) and considering the huge amount of natural rain tropical forest under threat of destruction, this is the biggest environmental disaster in Uganda for many decades and possibly at international level. 

As a result of the escalation of insecurity and destruction, eco-tourism activities in Bugoma have been halted and nature walks cancelled, with losses for the State. Tourism is one of the top priorities for the Government of Uganda, while sugar cane expansion is not and deforestation implies losses of potential tourist attractions. Meantime, there is an escalation of illegal logging as the patrol by National Forestry Authority is no longer in place for security concern.

On 23rd August the Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Hon. Ephraim Kamuntu, wrote a communication to Ministry of Water and Environment, informing that a petition signed by 105 representatives of tour operators from the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) requested for urgent interventions to protect Bugoma Forest, the investments in eco-tourism and tourist accommodation. In the letter, the Minister says that “the reserve is one of the few remaining habitats and migratory routes for the endangered chimpanzees and other key wildlife species”, therefore requesting the urgent intervention of the Ministry.

We kindly urge all stakeholders involved to act responsibly, put into consideration that the forest is a public and international matter, which largely affects the future of the tourism sector as well as the local communities.

Monday, June 20, 2016

PRESS RELEASE – BUGOMA FOREST GIVE AWAY – 20 TH JUNE 2016

The Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest, Uganda Wildlife Society, Uganda Society, Destination Jungle LTD, Uganda Jungle Lodges LTD are expressing their concern and the condemnation over the current attempt of giving away a relevant block of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve in Hoima District.

An organized group of people has tried to encroach on the central part of the forest, Muhangaizima block claiming a total of 8.000 hectares of tropical forest under the mandate of the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom. The intention is to grade down the forest for the purpose of establishing sugar cane plantation. This situation is ongoing since February 2016 and the pressure is mounting.

This affected area is the central part of the gazetted Bugoma Forest, which means that encroaching is equal to compromise the survival of Bugoma Forest as a whole. Bugoma Forest is one of the most important forests in Uganda for biodiversity, which is explained in the geography of the Alberetine Rift Valley, crucial for the development of tourism in Uganda. It is home to the endangered and internationally protected chimpanzees; it is home to a large number of primates’ species like the endemic Ugandan mangabeys and it is a birding destination. To destroy the forest is equal to destroy as well the right of the wildlife and birds to survive. There are only less than 5.000 chimpanzees remaining in Uganda of which about 500 are believed to live in Bugoma forest.

The Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest has started in 2014 an enrichment tree-planting project for the regeneration of degraded areas. Even this project is under the target of the encroachers and the project cannot be currently accessed, leading to loss of the resources invested from the work of the association in collaboration with the CFM group of Kyangwali.

On 17th April 2016 a group of 10 people from Kisaru Trading Center attacked 4 staff of National Forestry Authority with pangas and iron bars, seriously injuring them as they were on patrol during the day near Rwera site. Phone calls and intimidations are made daily to the personnel of the State, the Police, the National Forestry Authority who are doing their best to carry out their duties.

At the beginning of 2016 eco-tourism activities have started in the forest at Rwera, near the area which is currently encroached. Moreover, the National Forestry Authority has issued in 2015 new licenses to operate eco-tourism to private investors. There are also in-coming private investments in accommodation (the construction of Bugoma Forest Lodge by Uganda Jungle Lodges LTD) and in research on biodiversity like on the chimpanzees (by the Jane Goodall Institute). All this has the potential to make Bugoma Forest in the near future one of the new relevant tourist attractions in Uganda, with trickle down mechanisms for local communities where poverty and lack of jobs and investments are rampant.
All these future developments will be affected by the criminal behavior of who is trying to push forward selfish interests detrimental to the environment and in full illegality, since Bugoma Central Forest reserve is a protected forest under the State.

Recommendations
1.    We urge those who are encroaching to give up any attempt to break the law. The excuse that no boundaries have been ascertained is only the cover for a clearly illegal activity. Everybody, from the NFA to the local communities is very much aware about the forest’s boundaries.

2.    We urge a full investigation over the responsibilities of these illegal operations in Bugoma Forest and we recommend that any damage so far caused to the environment and to the State be compensated and that justice prevails.

3.    We urge those firms like Hoima Sugar Works LTD or individuals who are willing to deal or invest in sugar cane cultivation to do so legally, in areas where it is possible to carry out such an investment, by legal purchase of land and being far from this ecosystem of important biodiversity where wildlife is present. There are other areas available and more suitable than a protected reserve which is a tourist destination.

4.    We urge the leaders of Hoima District and Bunyoro kingdom to be responsible toward the development and the sustainable future of the area, considering that already more than 70 % of forest cover was lost in the last 20 years, which has affected climatic change and the livelihood of the people, losing important resources for the future and for tourism, creating a mechanism of permanent poverty. Leaders should now take care of the remaining forests and engage in forests regeneration, not in forest destruction.

5.    We urge the leaders, the private sector and the public sector to avoid, condemn and resist the temptation of corruption which will further exacerbate the development in the region by helping selfish interests to prevail over the respect of the law and over the interest of the local communities.


6.    We urge the Ministry of Water and Environment, the Government of Uganda and the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda to take action and to closely monitor the rampant escalation of illegality and violence in Bugoma Forest by increasing the presence of security and military personnel in the area to protect the staff and those civilians who are engaging in activities for the protection of the forest.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Eco-tourism Activities in Bugoma Forest


March 2016: From the Campaign to the Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest

Yes, we decided to move forward. The Campaign for the Conservation for Bugoma Forest was launched in 2014 and it brought awareness about the importance of protecting Bugoma forest in particular and forests in general. We have been few people steering the whole process and making sure that our concern was always translated into plans and concrete actions.
The Chimpanzee Go! T-shirts
With one of the worst deforestation rates in the world, with politicians and communities requesting for commercial plantations of eucalyptus and pines (and showing no interest for the reforestation of indigenous trees), with a widespread disregard of any law and legality in regards to the protection of nationally protected forests, with increasing climatic change and worsening habitat disruption, with attacks to Bugoma forests orchestrated by politicians in the aftermath of the general elections of February 2016, in Uganda there is certainly need for people and organizations investing time and commitment for the environment and especially in favour of forest protection.
In the occasion of this year 21st March 2016 International Day of Forest, Destination Jungle LTD and Uganda Jungle Lodges LTD decided to move forward and register the Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest, a new membership association. The first Annual General Meeting will take place on 13th May and will decide and determine the leadership for the newly born association. All those individuals and organizations who have been supporting the campaign and participating to the cause will have their chance to contribute in a more organized and effective manner. As an association, we will be able to be recognized as stakeholders in the fight for forest protection; we will be able to receive donations from supporters and to initiate project proposals, to mention few points. Therefore, the membership campaign starts immediately until the day of the General meeting.
Meantime these are the progress which we have seen by 2016.
First of all, eco-tourism activities have started for the first time in Bugoma Forest, thanks to the strong commitment of the leadership of National Forestry Authority in the belief that eco-tourism is a direct, positive contribution in conservation. In February we experienced ourselves a number of nature trails (previously used by the illegal loggers) which are leading to monkeys and chimpanzees habitats. Particularly, we could see a group of Uganda mangabey, which is endemic to this forest.
Furthermore, tourists can be protagonists of active reforestation by planting trees in the site allocated for regeneration as a result of the project launched by Run for Nature 2014. This activity sees the engagement of the community through the collaborative management group of Kiangwali.
Bracelets and necklaces produced by Daniel Zenji
We developed promotional materials for tour operators which were distributed via the Association of Ugandan Tour Operators. The association must keep focusing on the promotion of eco-tourism to make local and international visitors aware and, therefore, bringing tangible changes to Bugoma forest. Exactly what we discussed in theory with the local communities can become a practical and visible change. Here is the source for guides as well as for patrolling teams.
Secondly, the “Chimpanzee Go!” initiative is ongoing. Ugandan artist Zenji Daniel made specifically for the campaign pieces of necklaces and bracelets with the symbols of the chimpanzees. This handicraft is for sale in order to fundraise for the three objectives of the campaign: proceed with the tree-planting in Bugoma; support law enforcement for the protection of the forest (which is facilitating monitoring exercises and the presence of the law); to give incentives to the community organized in the collaborative forest management groups for the purpose of maintaining forested cover in the area and reducing pressure into the protected reserve. Under the initiative, t-shirts were also made portraying the chimpanzees and the campaign logo. These items so far are displayed in the two lodges of Uganda Jungle Lodges (Ishasha Jungle Lodge and Bwindi Jungle Lodge) and advertised to all the tourists travelling with Destination Jungle LTD. More support is needed.

For this year 2016, we welcome the newly born Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Destination Jungle presents “The Chimpanzee Go!”

Destination Jungle in June 2015 launched the new initiative "The Chimpanzee Go!" under Bugoma Forest Conservation Campaign, to raise support and interest for the chimpanzees and the protection of Bugoma Forest in Uganda.
Logo Chimpanzee go!
This campaign comes following “Run for Nature 2014”, the sport event which was organized in September 2014 with the objective to start a project of tree-planting and reforestation of degraded areas of Bugoma Central Forest Reseve. Since Run for Nature, 5 acres of forest were identified and replanted in collaboration with the National Forestry Authority. 
Bugoma Central Forest Reserve is a very important and large forest of the Albertine Rift Valley ecosystem, hosting an endangered population of chimpanzees; however Bugoma does not enjoy the attention it deserves in terms of resources for its protection and in terms of investments, including eco-tourism, which could help the conservation.
During this period, we met the groups of Collaborative Forest Management, based on the communities surrounding Bugoma Forest and who should collaborate with the forest authorities in the protection of the forest and to identify good practices so that the pressure over resources is reduced. Particularly, we had an important meeting on 21st March 2015 in the occasion of the "International Day of Forests 2015", at Nsosi forest station (National Forestry Authority), when we discussed and agreed about the importance of supporting more tree-planting projects. We also talked about the need to respect the chimpanzees who are inhabitants of the tropical forest.
Banner of the Bugoma Conservation Campaign
            For this reason, we decided to launch “The Chimpanzee Go!”. This is a fundraising initiative open to the international public. The campaign will run between 2015 and 2016, with the first phase ending in December 2015 to make first assessments and contributions.
The logo of “The Chimpanzee Go!” is a chimpanzee running near a forest while holding a red flag with the word “Go!”, which symbolizes the expansion of the habitat of the chimpanzees contrary to the current trend of reduction of that habitat. The “chimpanzee go!” is a message of hope for the chimpanzees.  
The objectives of the campaign are three:
1) First of all, to continue to invest in the tree-planting exercise and restoration of degraded areas of Bugoma forest, following the activities already started by the proceeds of Run for Nature 2014. 
Meeting of 21st March 2015
2) Secondly, to raise funds for law enforcement. One of the major factors of destruction of Bugoma is illegal cutting of trees for timber. It is urgent to intervene by giving a signal to those operating illegal logging that the rule of law is restored. The project will give support in monitoring the forest and helping the law enforcement mechanisms. Much was achieved in the last two years, many people were arrested, but we should not lower our efforts.
3) The third objective is to give incentives to local private owners and farmers, so that they can maintain a forest cover in their land, in the areas surrounding Bugoma Forest and to expand forest cover through tree-planting. Considering that in the buffer zones there are many cases of human – wildlife conflicts and that there are sensitive areas where the presence of the wildlife and the chimpanzees is ancestral, we should target those sensitive areas as the priority. Therefore, our project is looking at giving support to those private farmers organized in the Collaborative Forest Management Groups to maintain and to expand their forested land, in order to reduce the pressure against the environment. When we look at the species of trees to be planted, we only look at indigenous, typical species of the tropical forest already present in Bugoma and with the purpose of conservation.
            How to contribute? Anyone can contribute a donation from 100 USD or 200 USD or 500 USD to the account of Destination Jungle (Account Name: Destination Jungle U. Ltd., Account number: 02013552640334 (USD), Bank Name and Address: DFCU BANK, Impala House, Plot 13 Kimathi Avenue, PO Box 70 Kampala, Swift code: DFCUUGKA; Reason: The Chimpanzee Go!)
            We target for this campaign all friends of Bugoma Forest Conservation Campaign, all the people who feels concerned for the future of forests and the chimpanzees in particular, and those friends and tourists travelling through Destination Jungle. We are going to offer specially made t-shirts which will be available for all 2015. This is the year of the “The Chimpanzee go!”.

Good fundraising and keep updated through the campaign Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bugoma-Forest-Conservation-Campaign/989113337780632

Costantino Tessarin

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Run for Nature 2014 - PRESS RELEASE 19th August 2014

Brief History of BFCC
Bugoma Forest Conservation Campaign is a consortium of private sector companies, NGOs and associations sharing the interest to work together for making positive steps in forest conservation in Uganda, particularly targeting the conservation of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve (Hoima District).

The current members of the Campaign group are: KUEMA (Kyambogo University Environmental Management Association), Uganda Wildlife Society, Insieme Si Può, Green Organization Africa Ltd., Chimpanzee Sanctuary & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Destination Jungle Ltd, Green Bio Energy Ltd, Star-Leo Ltd.

The idea to work together came in February 2014 during a public lecture at Kyambogo University organized by KUEMA, where it was discussed the current status of degradation, illegal logging and deforestation taking place in Bugoma Forest.

Bugoma was rated 12 out of 65 forests surveyed in Uganda for biodiversity importance (Uganda Forest Department, 2002). From a scientific survey carried out in 2010, it is estimated that in Bugoma Forest there are many animals, birds species and plants to be protected and that it is also important because is one of the last remaining forests along the wildlife migratory corridor of the Lake Albert region, between the Murchison Falls Conservation Area (in the North) and the Semliki reserve (in the South). Bugoma counts a record of 267 species of trees, 18 mammals, 278 butterflies. Among the mammals, the primates are abundant, with about 580 chimpanzees, a large number of black and white colobus Ugandan mangabey, red tailed monkeys, blue monkeys. The Ugandan mangabey only remains present in Bugoma, as it disappeared from other forests in the region. Among other animals, Bugoma hosts a small population of bush elephants, golden cats, side-striped jackals. There are 221 birds species recorded in Bugoma making the forest a birding sanctuary. Bugoma forest is a huge potential tourist destination along the Rift Valley circuit, yet a forgotten treasure of Uganda.

The official size of the reserve is 41.144 hectares equal to 411 sq km; however the encroachment which took place in Lwempunu sector in 2011 – 2012 resulted into the loss of about 50 sq km and that area was never restocked. Even in recent months the Ugandan newspapers published several articles about the situation of illegal encroachment of the reserve and the illegal logging which takes place, showing images of natural devastation. The National Forestry Authority is putting in place all their resources to combat the situation; however help is needed.
We decided to work together to take an action against all this destruction and because we feel that the private sector and the civil society can play a vital role in helping forest conservation.

Bugoma Forest Conservation Campaign decided to make steps in different directions: promoting awareness about forest conservation with public events; working on research and preparation of a long term conservation project for the forest and the surrounding communities; planning eco-tourism development to improve on conservation and job creation in the area.

For this reason, all members of the consortium are vital and each member contributes with its specialties in making a positive joint effort. The Chimpanzee Sanctuary & Wildlife Conservation Trust is bringing its leadership in developing conservation project in forest habitats. Green Bio Energy is contributing with the idea of an alternative source of charcoal to replace traditional charcoal which leads to deforestation. Destination Jungle is promoting the image of Bugoma Forest as a possible potential tourism destination in Uganda. KUEMA is providing the support of a strong membership serving the needs of the organization and they carried out a field survey in Bugoma in April. The analysis of the survey was done in collaboration with Uganda Wildlife Society. “Insieme Si Può” (ISP) is one of the leading Italian NGOs in Uganda with strong interest for the environment, the sustainability and agro-forestry practices. 

Run for Nature 2014
Bugoma Forest Conservation Campaign decided to launch the first edition of Run For Nature, an annual run event having the objective to raise awareness and to fundraise over important aspects of conservation for Bugoma Forest. The first Run For Nature will take place on 7th September 2014 in Kampala, from Kati Kati Restaurant at 7 am. The target is to reach a number of registrations of 1000 people, who can register the 5 km or the 10 km run. The logo of the event represents the closeness between chimpanzees and human beings representing a running chimpanzee and a standing tree.
All the registration fees and donations will be directly invested in the first reforestation exercise of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve after many years in which no such an exercise took place. We intend to invest in reforesting degraded areas by planting indigenous trees and important species which are so much needed by the eco-system, to sustain the chimpanzee population and the other animals. We are targeting to collect an amount of 20.000.000 Ugx.

Registrations are targeting the students of the Universities, who can pay a small fee of 10.000 UGX, the general public who can pay a minimum fee of 20.000 UGX for running or 30.000 UGX for running as donor. Finally the corporate world can support with a minimum contribution of 100.000 UGX for sponsoring the cause.

The promotion of the event will also have a special target in the involvement of the Association of Ugandan Tour Operators and Tour Guides. The Ugandan tour operators and Tour Guides play a role in supporting conservation in Uganda through developing and encouraging eco-tourist activities, whereby tourists can take an activity in nature but with the aim to conserve that nature and at the same time delivering a positive income. We would like to inform the tour operators and Tour Guides about the importance of Bugoma Forest for potential eco-tourism activities; this will help the conservation of the forest in future.

Organization of the event
The logistic organization of the event is done by Activate Uganda (www.activateuganda.com), a leading company in Uganda in providing logistics for sport events. Between today and the 7th September, registration centers for the run are active at the Uganda Society Library thanks to Kuema and at the office of Destination Jungle Pan Africa House. Registration Tables will be organized in Kimathi Avenue at Pan Africa House, at Café Pub in town, at Kyambogo University and at Makerere University. All registration fees and sponsorship are paid to KUEMA.
Activate Uganda will design the route of the run which will be along Lugogo By Pass then Kololo area.

Prizes of the Run
The first prize of the RUN was offered by Wildplaces Uganda and it will be given to the 1st position for male and female in the 10 km Run. The prize consists of 2 nights in Full Board and game drives at Semliki Safari Lodge for 2 people each, a prize worth each  3.570.000 UGX. Thanks to Wildplaces.
The prize for the 5km run is sponsored by one of the organizer, Green Bio Energy and consists of 1 Eco-stove and Briketi 5.5 kg each winner. The Run for Nature intends to sensitize the people of Uganda about the importance of using alternative source of fuel, like Briketi, which is made with recycled materials and banana fibers. The production of traditional charcoal is actually one of the main causes of deforestation in Uganda and in Bugoma Forest specifically.
Other cash prizes will be supplementing the main prices.

Special Thanks to
We would like to extend our thanks to the following organizations for their support to the event:
-The National Forestry Authority for the patronage of the event and for helping in the reforestation project.
-Café Pub, which offered to host our registration tables
-Wildplaces for the support and contributing to the prizes
-SVI (Italian Cooperation) for the support;
-Business Club Italia (BCI) and particularly the Chairman Ing. Giorgio Petrangeli of Sobetra and the companies Draco, Stirling and Italaluminium for the support;
-The Uganda Breweries for helping with cartons of water;
-Pepsi Cola for offering cartons of soda during the event and some tents.
-The Association of Uganda tour operators (AUTO) for the promotion of the event among all the members.


Costantino Tessarin
Coordinator of Bugoma Forest Conservation Campaign
Director of Destination Jungle
Tel: +256701385446
E-mail: d.jungle@safaritoeastafrica.com

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bugoma Forest Conservation Campaign Appeal

Background: the importance of Bugoma Forest
Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, with about 410 sq km of protected area, a long forested stretch of about 40 km, was rated 12 out of 65 forests surveyed in Uganda for biodiversity importance. Bugoma is the largest remaining block of forest along the Albertine Rift Valley between Budongo and Semliki and it is a chimpanzee sanctuary. 

Mission of the campaign
To work for the conservation of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve and neighboring buffer zones areas, working with stakeholders and changing the current trend of deforestation in both protected forest and the private lands.

Deforestation along the boundaries of the Forest, March 2014
Problematic issues observed in Bugoma Forest and surroundings:
-Rampant deforestation in and around Bugoma, Hoima District, affecting protected areas but also the private lands.
-The forest boundaries are not clear and much area is degraded.
-Timber “mafia” type of society is affecting the lives of people living around Bugoma.
-The chimpanzee of Bugoma forest are “beleaguered” and endangered as the wildlife migratory corridors between Bugoma and Budongo are disappearing with the loss of habitats.
-The control of the forest by the police and forestry authorities is not sufficient and more concerted efforts should be put in place and more partnership.
-NGOs are not present in Bugoma forest
-The private sector is not present in Bugoma
-Ugandan Universities are not carrying out research in Bugoma
-The future construction of an oil refinery near the forest is a serious threat.
-Bugoma forest does not host any eco-tourist site.

Objectives, ideas and actions of the campaign:
-A partnership approach should be encouraged for the conservation of the forest, involving the local communities and their leaders, as it is foreseen by the National Forestry Act about the creation of Forest Committees to support the management of the protected areas.
-A request for expansion of the current protected area should be made and a clear demarcation exercise of the boundaries, considering important sites and wildlife corridors.
- A joint effort public / private would help and bring more resources for the protection of the forest
-In the private areas and buffer zones, the District Forest Department should be encouraged to enforce and enact more regulations for the conservation of forests.
-Owners of private forests should be encouraged to register their forests with the District Land Board and preserve them, according to the Law cap 21.
-Incentives for private forest owners are important and urgent for a better forest management and to encourage reforestation.
-People should be encouraged to purchase land with the purpose of protecting the forest, in buffer zones areas.
-Carbon incentives would also help to reduce the rate of deforestation and encouraging active reforestation.
-The degraded areas of the protected forest must be restocked.
-Universities should start pilot projects of scientific research in and around Bugoma Central Forest Reserve. This could also help policy makers and drive the efforts of NGOs.
-An urgent project is the restoration of the wildlife migratory corridor between Bugoma and Budongo.
-NGOs should come and invest in restoration of the forest, both in protected areas and in private areas. NGOs should work with local communities creating income generating activities (like crops incentives) and at the same time promoting tree-planting and forest regeneration.
-Projects can generate more jobs in the area and may help changing faster the current trend of deforestation.
-Creating eco-tourism activities in Bugoma is crucial to the future of the forest and should be encouraged. Licenses from National Forestry Authority should not only be given for timber cutting, but also for eco-tourism.

Targeted groups:
-NFA and District Forest Services
-Students and Universities
-Civil society organizations
-NGOs for the environment
-Private sector enterprises (especially sugar cane and tea plantations)
-Private forest owners
-Political leaders
-Bunyoro kingdom
-Medias

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