Earth Finds

Earth Finds

Bugoma Forest: Detained Journalists Get Police Bond

By George Busiinge

The two journalists arrested on allegations of plotting an unlawful protest against the move to degrade a forested land believed to be part of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve (CFR) have been released on police bond after spending two nights in Hoima Central Police custody.

The environmental journalists; Mr Venix Watebawa and Mr Joshua Mutale subscribing to Water and Environment Media Network (WEMNET) were arrested on Tuesday, September 15, 2020, at around 8pm some few minutes after arriving in Hoima City.

Bugoma forest land dispute between Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and the National Forest Authority (NFA) is now pending the Court of Appeal decision.

This is after NFA lost twice on its suit challenging the transaction for the 22-square-mile piece of land between Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and Hoima Sugar Limited.

NFA claims that Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom leased to Hoima Sugar Ltd part of Bugoma CFR which is a nationally recognised government conservation area in public interest.

The Shs3.9b approximately US$1m- transaction was made in 2016 when the kingdom leased the land to Hoima Sugar Ltd for 99 years in favour of sugarcane growing.

Bugoma forest in Kyangwali sub-county, in the current Kikuube district was gazetted in 1932. It is one of the major conservation areas in Uganda that stand to be relied on for wildlife which is one of the major tourist attractions.

Tourism is the leading foreign exchange income earner for Uganda.

Forestry is one of the major determinants of climate change since natural forests have a high capacity to absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Ecologists argue that Bugoma forest is also so important at this time when it is most wanted given the planned construction of an oil refinery in Hoima that will emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere requiring to be absorbed lest it harm people and fauna in the sphere of coverage.

They say the forest will be a good carbon absorber tapping the poisonous gas plummeting from the atmosphere once the oil refinery becomes operational.

CSOs Demand For Release Of Save Bugoma Forest Campaigners

Civil society actors and tourism operators working under the Save Bugoma Forest Campaign (SBC) to stop illegal sugarcane growing and oil activities in Bugoma forest and the ecosystems around the forest are demanding for an immediate release of nine of their members who were arrested by police in Hoima district.

“Our members travelled to Hoima to participate in a peaceful demonstration aimed at stopping the destruction of Bugoma forest for sugarcane growing and to stop the risks of oil activities to critical biodiversity resources.

Two of our group members were arrested on their way to a radio talk show at Spice FM in Hoima. The two were set to discuss the risks and dangers of destroying Bugoma forest for sugarcane growing and allowing oil activities in critical biodiversity areas including rivers, lakes, national parks, forests, wetlands and others.

The talk show was also aimed at providing information on the planned peaceful protests where the civil society leaders were supposed to walk from Hoima and Kikuube districts to Bugoma forest reserve to address a press conference,” Mr. Dickens Kamugisha, the CEO of AFIEGO and a member of SBC, says.

It is notable that the planned protest was aimed at expressing displeasure with government agencies that have connived to give away Bugoma forest for sugarcane growing.

It was also to expose how the rush for oil exploitation has attracted dubious companies that are conniving with government to conduct illegal and irregular Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIA), issue ESIA certificates of approval, proceed with illegal activities in forests, national parks, rivers, lakes, wetlands and others without complete and approved mitigation plans. These illegal and irregular activities are leading to the destruction of forests, waterfalls, national parks and other natural iconic futures.

Mr. Kamugisha adds, “In addition to the two who were arrested while on their way to the radio talk show, seven other SBC members and partners were also arrested. The seven were arrested at Hoima police station while trying to negotiate the release of the two who spent the night in the police cells.”

The arrested include AFIEGO's Sandra Atusinguza, journalists Venex Watebawa, Joshua Mutale, Sam Kayiwa and activists Vincent Sekitto, Joseph Mujuni, Ismail Kashokwa, John Kibego all of Save Bugoma Forest Campaign and Moses Mukiibi of Oil Refinery Residents Association.

“We are demanding for the immediate release of our campaigners from illegal detention. They were engaged in efforts to uphold Ugandans’ constitutional right to live in a clean and healthy environment. The Constitution, National Environment Act of 2019 and other laws empower Ugandans to defend the above right and police should not deter Ugandans, including our campaigners, from defending Ugandans’ environmental and other rights,” Mr. Kamugisha says.

Pan-African Private Sector Trade & Investment Committee Challenges WTO

Following a meeting convened by the Pan-African Private Sector Trade and Investment Committee (PAFTRAC) and hosted by the Afreximbank, a communiqué addressed to members of the WTO and the eight candidates who have been shortlisted as the institution's next Director General was released on Thursday calling for a wide range of reforms.

The communiqué was formulated following numerous consultations with PAFTRAC members, its institutional partners, and through a comprehensive survey of the African private sector. Within it, the Committee have highlighted a number of recommendations to ensure the institution is more effective in growing global trade but doing so in a manner that is fair to all.

The communiqué stated that "ignoring the voice of Africa and other emerging economies will have dramatic consequences for and undermine the relevance of the WTO and the rules-based system at a time when multilateralism is already under threat."

In the opening remarks at the meeting, the President of the Afreximbank stated that "Africa has played an important but largely under-valued role in the global economy." He cited that Africa's global share of trade has fallen from 4.4% in 1970 to 2.5% today, whilst the share of Asia has risen from 7.7% to 20% over that same period.

"Whilst this is the result of numerous factors, including fragmented markets and persistent supply-side constraints," he said, "tariff escalations and stringent standards on final goods in developed economies have limited Africa's potential to move up value chains."

The communiqué called for the WTO to ensure "that development issues are front and centre of its reform agenda." They specifically called for African countries to be afforded Special and Differential Treatment that will allow flexibilities and sufficient policy space to support local industries and advance development. The African private sector also emphasised the importance of addressing subsidises and state-aid in developed economies which continue to confine Africa to the bottom of global value chains.

With the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) coming into effect in 2021, they also requested that African integration under the AfCFTA and the establishment of an African Common Market is not undermined by multilateral negotiations.

The organisers called for the voice of the African private sector be "heard and considered under the multilateral framework," so that the private sector can not only compete fairly but also grow. Trade, they said, is vital to generate the volume and quality of jobs required to absorb over 17 million young Africans who are entering the labour market every year.

Uganda, Total Agree On Key Oil & Gas Issues

During a meeting between President Yoweri Museveni and Patrick Pouyanné, Chairman and CEO of Total, the Government of Uganda and Total have reached an agreement on the conditions of entry of the Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) in the project as well as on the Host Government Agreement (HGA) which will govern the export pipeline project in Uganda.

"We have today reached major milestones which pave the way to the Final Investment Decision in the coming months. We now look forward to concluding a similar HGA with the Government of Tanzania and to completing the tendering process for all major engineering, procurement and construction contracts." expressed Pierre Jessua, Managing Director of Total E&P Uganda.

The conditions are set for the ramp-up of project activities and in particular, we will resume the land acquisition activities in Uganda while respecting the highest human rights standards. Total E&P Uganda reiterates its willingness to pursue a constructive dialog with the communities and NGOs regarding all project activities.

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