Normally as the year comes to a close, different entities are recognized for making a positive contribution to making humanity.
Now, however, the Association for Conservation of Bugoma Forest has chosen to humiliate Hoima Sugar Limited, company bent on destroying the natural forest in Bunyoro region, with an Enemy of the Planet Award.
Constantino Teserino, the chairperson Association for Conservation of Bugoma Forest said the award is for the ‘great contribution towards environmental devastation with the loss of Prime tropical forest.’
Teserino goes on to explain why Hoima Sugar Factory is awarded this prize is because of its contribution in disregarding people’s health and environment and disregarding the rule of law that protects forest reserves.
“The prize will be delivered to Kinyara group (Hoima Sugar) in recognition to their great contribution as mentioned earlier with a belief that soon or later this nonsense will actually end because the target we have is never to allow this nonsense to take place because at stake is the life of people not just profits of someone which could be despicable, we are talking about the lives of people if the entire region.”- Teserino stresses
Teserino, who is also the Executive Officer of the Bugoma Jungle Lodge points out that this matter of Save Bugoma Forest cannot be a matter of one day, six months, one year or more of campaign, it will last until when it ends .
He suggests that the campaign will only end against this alliance of the so called developers who are nothing but Bandits and Criminals, no matter how powerful they are, in their attempt to extract economic profit out of a crime.
Destruction of Bugoma Forest is not only a matter of extreme environmental Injustice but also social and economic injustice because forest reserves are supposed to be protected and not illegally degazetted.
In this case degazettement of the forest should have been through parliament in consideration of the National Forestry and Tree planting Act 2003, which was not the case. We were only surprised to see an environmental impact assessment certificate to remove the forest by Hoima Sugar
“So this is really a an extreme rebellion by state agencies against the common sense and against the environment”- Teserino concludes
For Constantino, the move to give away Bugoma Central Forest reserve land has serious repercussions on this water catchment, a climate stabilizer for an agricultural district of Kikuube.
It can never be justified as an economic development that threatens the survival of the Chimpanzees which are categorized as some of the endangered species. The move further disregards the investments in Conservation, in eco-tourism that are recognized under the Sustainable Development Goal on Environment.
He claims that illegal loggers from different parts of the country have converged in Bugoma Forest to make profits out of timber and they are not regulated by the Kikuube district authorities.
Constantino asserts that the value of timber harvested by Hoima Sugar is much higher than the sugar cane to be planted, further alleging that these illegalities are being done under the knowledge of Kikuube District authorities.
“We have to revert back to the rule of law or otherwise we can change the name of Kikuube District to be called Hoima sugar District because the rule of law is not observed but rather the company is detecting its own rules”-the seemingly agitated Constantino suggests
However despite the losses the Save Bugoma Campaign Initiative has registered just like Constantino, the Executive Director Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED) Bashir Twesigye there is still hope, adding that all is not lost since the land question is yet to be addressed.
Twesigye qualifies his optimism when he says there are still pending cases filed in the High Court and the East African Court of Justice challenging the giveaway of Bugoma Forest Reserve land to Hoima Sugar Factory.
He adds that the land question can also be addressed by using the Cadastral Maps to open up the boundaries of the Bugoma central forest reserve.
Activists urge that the Cadastral maps were never considered when the Masindi High Court in April 2019 ruled that a certain area of the forest reserve claimed by Hoima Sugar upon which Bunyoro Kingdom granted a 99-year-old lease was actually not a forest reserve.
For Twesigye if the land question is resolved, Bugoma Forest currently being depleted can be restored after some time.
There is also a fear that some of the local people risk being evicted by Hoima Sugar, if the actual boundaries of the land title issued to the factory are not clearly demarcated.