Bugoma Forest: Detained journalists get police bond

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Policeman at Hoima police station alert for any suspected Bugoma forest demonstrators after journalists' detention (Kazi-njema News)

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.

The duo has been charged with inciting violence to cause an unlawful assembly.

They will report back at police on October 7, 2020.

Journalists after release. (Photo: Kazi-njema News)

The issue of Bugoma forest is a centre for most journalists and activists with passion on conservation. This has not left their relationship with pro-development activists and institutions the same.

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.

Mutale (2nd L) with Watebawa (3rd L) soon after release. (Credit: Kazi-njema News)

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.

Bugoma Central Forest Reserve

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.

Statistics

Of a total of 1.7 million hectares of Uganda’s CFRs, 58,000 hectares (5%) had been degraded or depleted.

Overall, 14 of 500 forest reserves had been degraded, according to the African Journal of Ecology.

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