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NFA deployment fails to halt logging, charcoal burning in Kyenjojo

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Some of the timber from Oruha Central Forest Reserve awaiting transportation along the Kyenjojo-Fort Portal highway. Photo by Wilson Asiimwe

Local authorities claim that UPDF soldiers and the NFA officials connive with the illegal timber dealers to destroy the forests

Charcoal burning and illegal logging persist in Kyenjojo central forest reserves despite the deployment of Police and Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) officers attached to the National Forestry Authority (NFA).  

The forests of Itwara, Muzizi, Oruha, and Matiri are the most affected with a number of truckloads leaving the forests each day.

Residents around the forest say that often assorted timber is transported out of the forest on trucks without abandon.

Julius Alinitwe a resident of Matiri says that several sections of Matiri Forest have been cut down by timber dealers and a few parts of the forest have been left.

“We have been seeing a number of trucks loaded with timber and charcoal leaving the forests under the watch of the law enforcement officers and nothing has been done,” Alinitwe says.

Richard Businge the LC3 chairman for Bugaki sub-county which is near Itwara Central Forest Reserve says that as local leaders their efforts to fight the timber dealers have been hindered by the enforcement officers.

“Itwara Forest has been depleted and very soon the forest will be no more all the trees have been cut down by the illegal timber dealers,” Businge says.

Gilbert Kato a charcoal dealer in Matiri trading center says that it is difficult for locals to completely give up on charcoal burning despite its negative effects on the environment mainly because it yields quick money to enable them to support their families instead of struggling for loans.

Army, NFA officials blamed

John Baptist Kansiime the LC3 chairman for Kanyegaramire sub-county says that the UPDF soldiers and the NFA officials connive with the illegal timber dealers to destroy the forests.

“We have on several occasions intercepted lorries ferrying timbers and charcoal from the forests and when we inform the army and the NFA officials they release the trucks and because of that we have also lost morale and we no longer report,” Kansiime says.

Jackson Kamara a resident of Bugaki says that many of their colleagues have been tortured by the soldiers when they give out information about the destruction of the forest.

Apollo Bwebale the resident district commissioner for Kyenjojo says that leaders should come out and report all such cases so that they can be reported.

“I have had several allegations and am going to conduct investigations in some cases where it has been alleged that senior army officials are involved in illegal logging in Kyenjojo,” Bwebale says.

Bwebale says that several forests have been destroyed and encroached on and there was a need for the NFA to open up boundaries because people have encroached on the forest land.

Col Allan Kyangungu the commander of UPDF’s vital assets and installations unit addressing stakeholders in Kyenjojo last week. Photo by Wilson Asiimwe

Col Allan Kyangungu the UPDF commandant of vital assets and installations unit says that UPDF works with the police and the NFA enforcement officers to protect the forests.

“We work under very unfortunate circumstances we enter the forests knowing that it’s a matter of death and life some of our officers have been killed the situation is so tempting however if there is any soldier who does not act professionally report him and we shall deal with him,” Kyangungu says.

He adds that there are clear procedures involving the UPDF soldiers in NFA patrols.

“The NFA officials must write to the commandant of the vital assess and installation unit of the army and get guidance then the order must come from the commander land forces to the division commanders and anyone who goes contrary to that will get problems.”

Tom Rukundo the director of natural forests at NFA anticipates that any illegal practice that happens is a result of limited staff.

He also blames the practices on increasing numbers of residents within the forest areas who failed to adopt alternative means of income generation.

“We are going to move to the forests in Kyenjojo district to assess the level of depletion and we are going to open up boundaries because many of our forests have been encroached on,” Rukundo says.

According to a 2018 report by the Global Environment Facility-GEF up to 6 million tons of wood are annually transformed into 1.8 million tons of charcoal. This means increased greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion and flooding in formerly forested areas.

Source: New Vision 

Technology

Google Internet project closes in Uganda.

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Uganda will be among the 10 African countries that will lose out as Google winds up its Internet Balloon Project. 

The closure follows an announcement in which Google said the project was “an unsustainable business model”.

In 2019, Loon LLC, a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, signed a Letter of Agreement in Kampala with officials from Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, in which high altitude solar powered Internet balloons with floating masts over Uganda’s airspace, would be established at an altitude of 500,000 feet.

The balloons would create an aerial wireless network to provide Internet and telecom network connectivity to rural and remote areas.

Dr Anna Prouse, the Loon LLC head of government relations, had said then that Google would partner with telecoms to tap into their technology to allow connectivity.

However, Alastair Westgarth, the team lead of the project, last week announced in a statement the project would be closed.

“We talk a lot about connecting the next billion users, but the reality is Loon has been chasing the hardest problem of all in connectivity – the last billion users: The communities in areas are too difficult or remote to reach, or the areas where delivering service with existing technologies is just too expensive for everyday people,” he said.

While Loon had found a number of willing partners along the way, he said, they had not found a way to get the costs low enough to build a long-term, sustainable business.

“Developing radical new technology is inherently risky. I am sad to share that Loon will be winding down,” he said.

Loon had had similar arrangements in Botswana, Nigeria, South Africa, Mauritius, Seychelles, DR Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Mozambique and Kenya, but are expected to close as well.

The Loon project was expected to be a game changer in Uganda’s telecomm sector through enhancing connectivity in remote areas, and contributing to the development of the national backbone infrastructure project.

The demand for Internet among Ugandans has grown exponentially in the recent past with Covid-19 being a serious catalyst.

Internet status  

A UCC report published recently indicated telecom and Internet service providers registered an increase in demand for data in the third quarter of 2020 with more than 20 million subscriptions – nearly 50 per cent of the population being connected.

The growth was mainly attributed to the shifting work culture driven by Covid-19, which led many businesses to adopt remote working methods.

Original Source: Daily Monitor

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Environment

Human Rights Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo is out on bail…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Kampala – Uganda Human Rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo has been granted bail pending trial in regard to accusations of money laundering.

Justice Jane Okuo of the Anti-corruption Court has on December, 30th, 2020 ordered for the release of Mr. Opiyo on bail but ordered him to deposit cash of Shs15m in the bank.

The court also ordered Mr. Opiyo to deposit his passport in court to restrict his movements out of the country and each of the four sureties were bonded at Shs100m, not cash.

Justice Okuo ruled that Mr. Opiyo has a legal right to bail based on the presumption of innocence.

His lawyers, David Mpanga, Robert Mackay, and Elison Karuhanga argued that Mr. Opiyo is a lawyer in courts of law, a human rights international award winner with substantial sureties.

They said that Mr. Opiyo knows his obligations to bail.

Mr. Opiyo appeared before the High Court judge by way of a video conference at Buganda Road, hardly a week after a lower court remanded him until January 11, next year.

Mr. Opiyo, the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda was arrested last week from a city restaurant and detained at the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Kireka. He was charged with money laundering, a charge that can only be heard by the High Court judge.

Mr. Opiyo was abducted alongside two members of Witness Radio – Uganda legal team Esomu Simon Peter Obure and Anthony Odur. Others were Herbert Dakasi and Hamid Tenywa who were later granted a police bond on December, 24th, 2020.

The prosecution alleges that Mr. Opiyo on October 8, 2020, at ABSA Bank Garden City Branch, in Kampala District acquired $340,000 (about Shs1.2 billion) through ABSA Bank account No.6004078045 in the names of Chapter Four Uganda, knowing at the time of receipt that the said funds were proceeds of crime.

Opiyo is the lawyer representing two NGOs including the Uganda National NGO Forum and Uganda Women’s Network whose accounts were recently frozen by the Financial Intelligence Authority over alleged involvement in moving money to finance terrorism activities.

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Environment

Human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo denied bail, remanded again…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Buganda Road court on Monday remanded human rights lawyer Mr. Nicholas Opiyo to Kitalya prison till January 11, 2021.
Opiyo was arrested last week on Tuesday and detained at Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Kireka. He was charged with money laundering.
Mr. Opiyo on Monday appeared before Buganda Road Chief Magistrates court through video conferencing where the case was read to him.

The Chief Magistrate, Mr. Moses Mabende however denied him bail arguing that he has no jurisdiction to hear his case.

The magistrate said the charges against Opiyo who is the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda, can only be heard by the High Court.

He sent him back to Kitalya prison till January 11, 2021, to come for mentioning of the case.

“The accused can apply for bail in the High Court on Wednesday because the case is before Justice Jane Kajuba at the anti-corruption high court,” the Magistrate said.

The other four suspects, who included lawyers Herbert Dakasi, Esomu Obure, Anthony Odur, and Human Rights officer, Hamid Tenywa were given police bonds last Thursday.

The prosecution alleges that Mr. Opiyo on October 8, 2020, at ABSA Bank Garden City Branch, in Kampala District acquired $340,000 (about Shs1.2 billion) through ABSA Bank account No.6004078045 in the names of Chapter Four Uganda, knowing at the time of receipt that the said funds were proceeds of crime.

Opiyo is the lawyer representing two NGOs including the Uganda National NGO Forum and the Uganda Women’s Network whose accounts were recently frozen by the Financial Intelligence Authority over alleged involvement in moving money to finance terrorism activities.

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