Wednesday, May 12, 2021

ACBF ON THE RULING ON CAUSES 239 AND 255 OF 2020 BY CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS VERSUS NEMA AND HOIMA SUGAR: ANOTHER LOST OPPORTUNITY TO SAVE BUGOMA FOREST

 Kampala, 11th May 2021

On May 7TH 2021 the High Court of Uganda before Hon. Justice Ssekaana Musa issued the ruling in the matter of Cause number 239 and Cause number 255 of 2020 by WEMNET, NAPE and AFIEGO versus National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and Hoima Sugar Limited. The application was seeking Court intervention over procedural illegality and irregularity committed by NEMA in the process of issuing the ESIA and certificate of approval to Hoima Sugar. Unfortunately the Court dismissed the application stating that it was based on “unsubstantiated allegations to win public sympathy” and trying to mislead the court.


More in details, the Court while analyzing weather NEMA committed irregularities in the application of the Regulations governing Environmental Impact Assessments, states that the relevant stakeholders were consulted by NEMA and their opinions were taken into consideration. The stakeholders include National Forestry Authority, Uganda Wildlife Authority, 81 residents in the area of Bugoma forest (Nsozi) and even the civil society organizations themselves. Further, the Court specifies that there was no need for a public hearing in that process, because there was no controversy and no transboundary impact on the project activities. In the end, it is the view of Court that the Executive Director of NEMA had the authority to approve the ESIA to Hoima Sugar and, while exercising his legitimate power, he approved it, with or without taking into consideration other stakeholders opinions.

In his criticism of what he calls “unsubstantiated allegations” by the applicants civil society organizations, Hon. Justice Ssekaana Musa brings out  clearly what he considers the “facts” that form his judgment and which, by coincidence,  are copied from the statements by NEMA. First of all, that there is no controversy over the land ownership by Hoima Sugar as this matter was resolved by the Court of Masindi in 2019; the Judge considers to be a “weak argument” that the matter is still in Court for appeal. For the Court it is not a problem that Omukama of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and Hoima Sugar have occupied part of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve as it is clearly shown in the official maps of the gazetted reserve and that they have done so acquiring titles of dubious origin.

Secondly, that “the land hardly has any mature trees” and it only has shrubs vegetation; however it is well documented the fact that the “land” occupied by Hoima Sugar is not just a “land”, but a tropical forest of international relevance. This information can be easily verified by use of satellite images, by a site visit or simply by consulting National Forestry Authority that is the custodian of the forest reserve.

Thirdly, that it is not true that 21 square miles of forest is being cleared, but only part of it (2,400 hectares). How can the court be sure of this statement? In fact from the satellite images of the destruction done by Hoima Sugar we have the proof that the deforestation is wider than what the ESIA certificate was allowing. Court look at the destruction of 2,400 hectares of Bugoma Forest as a normal business without any implication.

While the Judge believes that there was a formal respect of the consultation process by Nema, he does not comment on the merit of its substance, as to say what all the stakeholders were actually saying and if it is true that the proposed sugar cane project was not controversial and that the ESIA could be easily be granted and not halted.

This is the biggest gap and shortcoming in the ruling: the judge does not mention the opinions of the stakeholders, but at the same time he considers legitimate and proper the procedure of acquiring the ESIA. The Court acquired in record the opinions of the stakeholders, which portray a completely different story.

This is the opinion written by National Forestry Authority in a letter to NEMA dated 20th July 2020: that “Bugoma CFR is an internationally recognized conservation area which requires key stakeholders to participate and provide inputs”, however NFA was not consulted. Therefore NFA recommended to NEMA the following: to consult the Ministry of Water and Environment, who was against the sugar project; to call for a public hearing because the impact of the project is totally not addressed in the ESIA; to advise the developer to look for an alternative land.

The opinion by Uganda Wildlife Authority is not any different. In a letter dated 21th July 2020 to NEMA, UWA writes that it “strongly discourages conversion of the natural forest into a sugar cane plantation as this would cause irreversible impact on the ecosystem and wildlife” and that “the developer should be advised to keep the forest and not to replace it”; in fact, UWA writes, “chimpanzees are attracted to sugar cane and this makes the plantation incompatible with the surroundings”. UWA also notes that “the developer did not carry out comprehensive consultations with stakeholders as it was advised to do” and the ESIA refers to the Environmental Act of 1995, but that was changed by National Environment Act 2019 which should be the current legal basis for the ESIA. In the end, “the area is under consideration for upgrade to a national park status for better protection”, therefore it should not be interfered with.

Despite all the relevant stakeholders being against the sugar plantation project, Court says that the process of consultation was fair.

At a certain point the Judge states that “the consciousness for environment protection in this country is of recent origin and were justifiably made should be encouraged”. Indeed we agree with this statement as we express our dissatisfaction that once again a Court of law is wasting an opportunity to clear the ground on the shameful matters related to the destruction of Bugoma Forest. The Court chooses on the one hand not to enter into the merit of the decision made by the Executive Director of NEMA, recognizing his mandate of “power of death and life” over the national natural resources; on the other hands by giving full credit to the same false statements that NEMA and Hoima Sugar were spreading for the last one year concerning the nature of the habitat and the nature of the land ownership. This bipartisan choice by the court can set a precedent of making false statements to become true, therefore it can encourage further misconduct from the side of those who acquired forest reserve through dubious means at the expense of the citizens of Uganda, the biodiversity, the international civil societies, in the name of “private right of property”. Bugoma Forest is a resource of supreme importance and it is a pain that Court entirely failed to recognize it.

One year of Save Bugoma Forest Campaign was not an attempt to gain visibility and public support based on “sensationalism” and “unsubstantiated allegations” – as Court says -, on the contrary it was an attempt to make public the truth and the facts over the destruction of Bugoma Forest and that this process was reversed. It is only in the interest of Hoima Sugar (and the few powerful politicians behind it) that Bugoma forest should be destroyed. It is in the interest of everybody else, in the world and in Uganda, that environmental crimes are now considered as a number one danger to the social and economic development of our societies. The Court failed to read the changes of the current time, by standing on a very conservative ruling while only recognizing the “right of property” of Hoima Sugar, even when that property is a dubious one (pending court of appeal decision). The Court does not acknowledge that a very limited and improper procedure of acquiring the ESIA caused to the citizens of Uganda a violation of their rights to a clean and healthy environment, which the main government institutions tried to oppose, but NEMA and Hoima Sugar failed them.

The Board of the Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest (ACBF).

Robert Akugizibwe

Board Secretary

Tel: +256 771435809

Friday, February 19, 2021

Press release: Hoima Sugar LTD destroys the part of Bugoma Forest planned for eco-tourism development

 

February 12, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

KAMPALA

In a bid to further efforts to save Bugoma Forest from the ongoing destruction by Hoima Sugar Ltd and other claimants, members of Save Bugoma Forest campaign have been engaging key stakeholders to rally their support towards this cause.

Key among other stakeholders are engagements with;

1. Residents of over 15 Villages adjacent to Bugoma Forest

2. RDC of Kikuube district (Amlan Tumusiime) & Kikuube district CAO among other district leaders who have pledged support to conserve the environment.

SBFC team commends the residents adjacent to Bugoma forest who have formed vigilante groups to protect the forest and also began collection signatures to petition the president whom they strongly believe can prevail over Hoima Sugar Ltd investors to stop the degradation.

However we are dismayed that Hoima Sugar Ltd has failed to live up to key conditions in the erroneously issued Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) certificate of approval by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

Latest GPS images in the hands of the SBFC show that as at January 7, 2021, Hoima Sugar Ltd had cultivated 405 hectares of Bugoma forest land. This is all being with impunity in disregard of the ongoing court cases in both the high court and court of appeal contesting validity of the ESIA issued by NEMA and the titles issued by ministry of lands to Hoima Sugar Ltd and Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom.

Sadly, part of above 405 hectares destroyed by Hoima Sugar Ltd is that that was approved for ecotourism purposes, and not sugarcane growing.

“Condition 4.7 of Hoima Sugar Ltd’s ESIA certificate of approval says that the company has to ‘Ensure that the [sugarcane] plantation is restricted to the areas indicated in the ESIS [Environmental and Social Impact Statement] …’

Moreover, Condition 4.5 of the certificate says that before developing an ecotourism center, cultural site, workers’ camps and others, Hoima Sugar is required to conduct separate ESIA studies for each of those projects.

Ongoing activities by Hoima Sugar are also a gross violation, disregard of the District development plan for the Host district Kikuube. According to the district land use plans, the section that Hoima Sugar is clearing is only meant conservation activities not Agriculture.

Map of the Area of Bugoma Forest given away to Hoima Sugar with current development.

OUR DEMANDS

1.   1. Government should urgently commence the pending boundary opening for Bugoma forest in a transparent way by allowing the participation of interested Ugandans.

2.    2. We reject the leadership of the Commissioner for maps and Surveys Ogalo Williams to reopen the boundaries of Bugoma forest. He is a man known for endless land scandals and the same man testified before court in 2016 that Bugoma forest doesn’t exist.

3.   2. We urge the courts to be patriotic and expedite the adjudication of cases in court concerning Bugoma forest in the best of Mother Nature.

4.    3. We call upon Bunyoro Kitara kingdom to true in all their dealings, state clearly its stand on the issue of Bugoma, and listen to voices of majority Banyoro who are calling for the conservation of Bugoma.

5.    4. We reject the recent cabinet decision to borrow billions of money from World bank to plant trees in the Albertine region yet the same government is allowing sugar Ltd to shave down a natural forest in Bugoma. This is myopic and unacceptable.

6.    5. We call upon all Ugandans mindful of their future that there is no way our future can secured without proper conservation of Bugoma forest, the time is now standup and conserve Bugoma forest.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

“BEST ENEMY OF THE PLANET” AWARD 2020 TO HOIMA SUGAR LIMITED

PRESS RELEASE – 31 DECEMBER 2020. The Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest (ACBF) wish to say good bye to the year 2020 by issuing the special award “Best Enemy of the Planet” for the year 2020.

This year 2020 has been very dramatic in terms of damages to the environment worldwide, whereby the arrival of the Coronavirus pandemic not only did not contribute to a better awareness and change of behavior in the human society especially the economic sectors, but on the contrary it contributed to trigger a faster degradation and strengthening of the criminal economy, in the world and in Uganda.

In Uganda in August 2020 the protected tropical forest reserve of Bugoma Forest started to be cleared, open air, by Hoima Sugar company under the guarding of heavy military personnel. In fact, this destruction cannot be explained as an attempt to bring “economic development”, like the paid propaganda said, because timber logging and sugar cane growing not only are of immensely lesser economic value than a pristine tropical forest, but also because they benefit only few individuals whose business is dubious and suspicious.

The number 15 of Sustainable Development Goals is to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Therefore, the year 2020 in Uganda will be remembered as the year in which Hoima Sugar Limited destroyed Bugoma Forest. For this reason, the Association decided to award the price “Best Enemy of the Planet” 2020 to Hoima Sugar Limited under this motivation: “for the great contribution to environmental devastation, with loss of prime tropical forest, attack to endangered species like the chimpanzees, violation of people’s right to health and disregard to Sustainable Development Goals”.

As we give out this award, we also would like to inform that the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development on 29th December 2020 published a Notice of a public hearing for 400 land titles owners in gazetted forest reserve to take place on 18th February 2021 with a notice to effect cancellation of the titles. Among them on number 116 is the plot 216 Block 2 of Kyangwali, the land title of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom leased to Hoima Sugar.

It is our prayer that 2021 will bring clarity to all the mismanagement and illegalities that brought to the current destruction of Bugoma Forest and that restoration of the damages be effected.

The Board of ACBF

E-mail: acbforest@gmail.com



Friday, October 2, 2020

SAVE BUGOMA FOREST ACTIVISTS PROTEST THE ISSUANCE OF THE CERTIFICATE OF APPROVAL OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT BY NEMA TO HOIMA SUGAR LTD.

 

23 August 2020

PRESS STATEMENT - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SAVE BUGOMA FOREST ACTIVISTS PROTEST THE ISSUANCE OF THE CERTIFICATE OF APPROVAL OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT BY NEMA TO HOIMA SUGAR LTD.

1. The undersigned civil society including: NGOs, environmental journalists, activists and members of the public under the umbrella body Save Bugoma Forest Campaign 2020 are protesting against National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) for issuing a certificate of approval for the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report authorizing Hoima Sugar limited to destroy over 21 square miles of Bogoma forest to plant sugarcane and other activities.

2. According to the ESIA Certificate issued by NEMA dated August 14, 2020 a copy of which we have, NEMA has permitted Hoima Sugar LTD to use 21 sq. miles out of the 22 Sq miles they (Hoima Sugar) leased from Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom at 3 billion shillings against the will of NFA the chief custodians of all Natural forests and against the calls by Ugandans.


3. In the ESIA certificate of approval, NEMA has tried to confuse the public that Hoima Sugar Ltd will plant sugarcane on 9.24 sq. miles, establish an urban Centre on 1.206 Sq. miles, establish an eco-tourism center on 1.97 sq. miles and restore forest on 3.13 sq. miles, among other economic activities but based on the way NEMA had facilitated the fraud and violated the laws of Uganda to issue the above certificate, no one should trust NEMA. The certificate of approve will facilitate Hoima Sugar destroy Bugoma forest. The conditions in the certificate are only intended to mislead the public. This is the same NEMA that gave a wrong permit to Lwera sand miners and later resulted into court awarding the degraders over UGX180 billion. Why should Ugandans trust NEMA?

4. As citizens committed to promote conservation of Bugoma forest and the environment generally, we strongly object to the ESIA certificate of approval by NEMA to Hoima sugar Ltd to destroy any part of Bugoma, not even one square mile or an acre. Bugoma forest must be conserved and all degraded areas restored.

5. We want to inform all Ugandans that the Environment and Social Impact Assessment report certificate of approval issued is simply a sugarcoated, well-crafted move smoothened by NEMA to legalize an illegal process to give away and destroy Bugoma forest by Hoima Sugar LTD. It is unfortunate that a government agency can engage in facilitating destruction of a forest amidst worsening impacts of climatic changes in and outside Uganda.

6. More so, it is absurd that NEMA opted to violate all environmental laws governing ESIA processes in Uganda. Among others, they violated the 1998 Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, especially regulations:

i. Regulation 12: which requires the developer to publically consult the public but the developer did not publicize any consultations.

ii. Regulations 19 and 20: NEMA was required to publically call for public comments on the complete ESIA report by Hoima Sugar Ltd but this, they did not.

iii. Regulations 21and 22: which require NEMA to order for a mandatory public hearing/s where the project in question is controversial. The Hoima Sugar Ltd’s Sugarcane project in Bugoma is controversial as there is still a case in court, citizens’ petitions to parliament, minister of water and environment, NFA, NEMA, Development partners, such European Union, Dutch Embassy, French Embassy and others.

iv. NEMA also violated regulations 24 and 25 regarding how a decision on the ESIA should be made.

v. NEMA processed and approved Hoima Sugar Ltd’s ESIA at a time when there is a case in court regarding the same subject matter and therefore NEMA violated the subjudice rule.

7. In view of the above, the ESIA certificate of approval issued by NEMA to Hoima Sugar Ltd must be revoked immediately.

Our demands and plans:

8. It is very clear that NEMA’s ESIA certificate of approval to Hoima Sugar Ltd is a product of fraud and it cannot be enforced in any democratic society.

9. We call upon all Ugandans to use their powers as enshrined in article 1 of the Constitution to Save Bugoma forest at all costs.

Specifically, we demand for the following:


a. NEMA’s Executive Director should immediately be interdicted and investigated for engaging and facilitating fraud to destroy Bugoma forest.

b. Parliament should use its oversight powers to investigate the actions of NEMA, Hoima Sugar Ltd and ministry of lands for issuing land titles in forest reserves, approving ESIA reports in disregarding of national laws and other illegal actions.

c. If NEMA does not revoke the ESIA certificate of approval to Hoima Sugar Ltd in the next 8 days from today 23 August 2020, we shall organize massive public demonstrations in both Kampala on 2nd September and in Kikube and Hoima districts on 6 September 2020 to express our disappointment against NEMA and government, and to enable the citizens to take control of Bugoma forest to stop NEMA’s fraud and Hoima Sugar Ltd’s plans to destroy Bugoma forest.

d. We call on the Sugar Producers Association of Uganda to dissociate themselves from the actions of Hoima Sugar Ltd and commit that they will use their influence to ensure that Hoima Sugar does not destroy Bugoma.

e. We call upon oil and gas companies to join the campaign to protect Bugoma forest from destruction because this forest is key in absorbing fossil gases that will be produced by oil activities.

f. We call upon the financiers of Hoima Sugar Ltd to withdraw their funding because this is a dirty investment.

g. If NEMA does not revoke the certificate of approval to Hoima Sugar Ltd, we shall call upon all Ugandans to boycott sugar from Hoima Sugar Ltd and its associates including Kinyara Sugar.

h. On Monday, the 24 August 2020, we shall file a case in the High Court of Uganda against NEMA and the Executive Director of NEMA as an individual for issuing the ESIA certificate of approval to Hoima Sugar Ltd to destroy Bugoma forest in total violation of the laws of Uganda.

Importance of Bugoma CFR Bio-diversity.

i. Bugoma CFR is a tourism hub. Its home to about 600 Chimpanzees’ and contains the highest density of the Nahan’s Francolin and Grey Parrot birds among other endangered bird spices.

ii. It is a migratory corridor for large mammals such as chimps and Elephants connecting to Budongo and Murchison Falls National Park from Queen Elizabeth National Park.

iii. It’s a western arm of the rift Valley.

iv. Central in Rain formation, it’s likely the region will be hit by adverse effects of climate change. This is in addition to the loss of soil fertility when the area starts to experience drought which will subsequently affect the factors of production and result into economic crisis in the region and at the household level.

v. Bugoma is home to several rivers sources that recharge Lake Albert and the surrounding wetlands which act as the breeding grounds for the fish in L. Albert.

vi. More significantly, Bugoma is centrally located at the heart of the Albertine oil exploration, and mining will soon start. It’s expected that oil explosives and production flares would be absorbed by the forest which acts as the carbon sink. Therefore, if depleted, all the pollution will directly be released into space to chock Ugandans.

For God and our country.

#SaveBugomaForest #ForestLivesmatter

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Press release: launch of Save Bugoma Forest Campaign 2020, "Forest Life Matters"


June 26, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Kampala, Uganda
CSOS & TOURISM ACTORS CALL FOR AN END TO BUGOMA FOREST DESTRUCTION BY LAND GRABBERS, LAUNCH THE INITIATIVE “FOREST LIFE MATTERS”
Press Conference 26 June 2020
The civil society organizations (CSOs) and tourism associations listed below met today to launch the initiative “FOREST LIFE MATTERS”. The CSOs and associations are working under the coalition, Save Bugoma Forest Campaign 2020.
The objective of the FOREST LIFE MATTERS initiative is to strongly object against the current attempt to destroy Bugoma forest by land grabbers for sugarcane growing, other destructive projects and to remind stakeholders that Bugoma is an important ancient tropical rainforest with ecological, climatological and socio-economic importance. Notably, the forest is a sanctuary for chimpanzees, an endangered species.
Despite the above, two companies, namely Hoima Sugar Ltd and MZ Agencies, are in the process of cutting down over 10,000 hectares of the forest for sugarcane growing.

On March 10, 2020, MZ Agencies obtained a court order to chase away National Forestry Authority (NFA) and UPDF soldiers that were guarding Bugoma Forest. The NFA and UPDF were protecting the forest from being destroyed for sugarcane growing and other land grabbers. On May 14, 2020, all security personnel guarding Plot 115 Nyangabi and Plot 105 Nyaigugu, which make up part of Bugoma forest (Nkwaki South sector), left. Consequently, up to 100 MZ Agencies workers started cutting down over 2,000 hectares of Bugoma forest. This happened even before determination of the main case that NFA filed to prevent destruction of the forest in the High Court.

Before this, on December 3, 2019, Hoima Sugar Ltd and Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom got a favorable ruling from the Masindi High court ordering NFA and her agents to stop guarding the contested part of the forest (Muhangaizima sector of Bugoma) for Hoima Sugar to use the said land as it wishes. In the appeal, NFA requested that the status quo of maintaining Bugoma as a forest is preserved. However, the judge ruled that the applicant, NFA, failed to prove that there is a threat to the status quo but NFA’s prayer was rejected in favor of Hoima Sugar to cut down the forest.
Today, Hoima Sugar Ltd has approved Terms of Reference (ToR) from NEMA and is in the final stages of an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) process that may pave way for a certificate of approval from NEMA to commence destruction of Bugoma forest. There is no reason why NEMA, the country’s overall environmental regulator is processing tools to allow land grabbers to destroy a central forest reserve at a time when the project land is still being contested in court. Why NEMA is not working with NFA to defend and protect the national forest remains a big question.
Converting Bugoma forest into a sugarcane plantation among other land uses that are not compatible with forest conservation is not only illegal but is also a danger to the environment and to humanity. The CSOs and tourism associations that are launching the FOREST LIFE MATTERS initiative today are calling upon government and the land grabbers including the above companies to stop the destruction of Bugoma forest. We are also making the following demands:
Mr. Dickens Kamugisha, Spokesperson
1.      Land grabbers remain a threat to Bugoma forest amidst ongoing court cases:  It is sad that threats to Bugoma forest have continued to increase at a time when there are cases in court. In 2019 cases against Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and Hoima Sugar Ltd were being fought. Today, MZ Agencies has also emerged to destroy Bugoma forest. Yet government has said that the lease title given to Hoima Sugar in 2016 was cancelled. Why did court reject NFA’s prayer to maintain the status quo of the forest until the main case was determined?  Unfortunately, despite the case in court, Hoima Sugar Ltd continues to claim ownership of 8,000 acres of Bugoma forest and are holding a court allowing them to use the contested land even before final determination of the main appeal. We request that the status quo is maintained until final judgements are made.

2.      Investigate court rulings which were given in favour of land grabbers and cancel all the illegal titles: the NFA and government have continued to lose court cases against land grabbers who are determined to destroy Bugoma forest. As was earlier noted, NFA has lost cases to Bunyoro Kingdom, Hoima Sugar Ltd and MZ Agencies. This is unfortunate. Government should investigate the Bugoma forest court processes to ensure that the court losses are not as a result of corruption where some court officials may connive against NFA. Moreover, too many actors, including cabinet ministers and judges, seem to have forgotten that Bugoma forest, with an area of 41,144 hectares, was gazetted by the Parliament of Uganda under Statutory Instrument No. 63 of 1998.  The Parliament of Uganda has never changed this gazettement, therefore all the titles are illegal and must be cancelled.

3.      Investigate and prosecute all government officials who processed the land titles in parts of Bugoma forest: Bugoma forest is part of a long list of protected areas for which land titles have been processed by the lands office under the Ministry of Lands and the Uganda Land Commission. The titles have been issued to private investors. These illegal actions are being facilitated by corruption in government offices. It is necessary that the perpetrators of these illegal actions are prosecuted and if found guilty, be punished.

4.      Enable public access to cadastral maps of the boundaries of Bugoma:  The NFA and government should immediately make public all the relevant cadastral maps regarding the boundaries of Bugoma forest and its catchment areas.  Under Article 41 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution, citizens have a right of access to information including information on protected areas such as Bugoma forest. The maps will help citizens determine the boundaries of Bugoma forest, which are under dispute for easy protection.

5.      NEMA’s approval of  Hoima Sugar Ltd’s ESIA ToR is in bad faith: Further, while NFA is in court fighting land grabbers who have taken over Bugoma forest, NEMA, a government agency charged with regulating and promoting environmental conservation efforts, is going ahead to process Hoima Sugar’s ToR and ESIA applications. The role being played by NEMA is more of a political one as opposed to the technical role that the authority should play. This is unacceptable. Government agencies must work together to promote conservation.

6.      Publicize ministerial and parliamentary reports on Bugoma forest: For the last five or so years, both government and parliament have either failed or ignored to release the investigation reports regarding claims of land ownership of Bugoma forest by Bunyoro Kingdom. Government should publicize these reports to enable the public understand the progress made to stop destruction of Bugoma forest. The reports are also important for the cases in court.

7.      Operationalize draft ESIA regulations to guard against illegal projects: The Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) should urgently consult the public, complete and operationalize the 2019 draft ESIA regulations. The new regulations should provide against commencement of any ESIA process for a project that is subject to court proceedings and/or is being investigated by government and surrounding communities have not been consulted and consented.

8.      Government should give Bugoma forest a chance to develop its full potential for eco-tourism and conservation-related activities. Currently all licenses, permits, Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and contracts for Bugoma forest are on hold pending all the cases in court. This has greatly damaged private sector investments in eco-tourism, accommodation and other activities aimed at increasing tourism in Bugoma forest. The activities started in Bugoma only in 2018 with introduction of nature walks and need to be strengthened, not weakened. The ecofriendly private project developers in Bugoma forest need to be reassured of the rule of law and about the fact that Bugoma is and will remain a tropical rainforest of high biodiversity importance. The forest should not be degraded for sugarcane plantations. It should be noted that currently, Uganda earns over $1.6 billion in revenues from tourism per year. Destroying Bugoma forest will lead to loss of these revenues at the expense of Ugandans, especially local communities.
 
From right: Benedict Ntale, Joshua Rukundo, David Kureeba, Aggrey Malinga, Venex Watebawa, Cynthia Nantumbwe, Joshua Mutale, Dickens Kamugisha.
9.      The people of Kikuube district, local leaders, smallholder farmers and other businesses in the area of Bugoma are tired of years of uncertainty of their landscape and their environment. People are tired of seeing the arrogance of land grabbers that want to make them victims and impoverished on their own land. For many years, the communities have suffered intimidation, attacks and evictions of smallholder farmers. The land grabbers are using sensitization meetings held at community level to tell lies to communities about how sugarcane development will benefit communities and yet we know it is a curse. We demand an end of abuse of community rights.

10.  Oil activities attracting more land grabbers: It is clear that the new oil sector in the Albertine Graben that has led to construction of roads and other facilities in and around protected areas including forests, national parks and reserves, wetlands, around lakes and rivers, etc are a major cause attracting all politically, economically and corrupt people to acquire titles and destroy protected areas. This is what is called the oil curse and it is sad that it has started in Uganda even before commencement of oil exploitation.

11.  Government should use its land acquisition powers under Article 26 of the Constitution to save Bugoma forest and its catchment areas from land grabbers. Considering the importance of Bugoma forest, we call upon government to use its compulsory land acquisition powers to save Bugoma forest. This should be done as a last resort after all other options including cancelling the land titles in Bugoma forest have been exploited. However, the practice of compensating people who illegally acquire titles over Bugoma forest and other protected areas should be discouraged as it will worsen corruption and destruction of environment in Uganda.

12.  Once again, we would like to reiterate that FOREST LIFE MATTERS and we call on every citizen to stand up and protect Bugoma forest from destruction.                                                  
ENDS

#SaveBugomaForest
#ForestLifeMatters

For more information, contact:

·        Dickens Kamugisha – Tel: 0782407085
·        Benedict Ntale – Tel: 0772151904
E-mail: bugomacampaign@gmail.com