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.
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