Bugoma conflict: Ministry to face Bunyoro kingdom over conservation

Water and Environment State Minister, Beatrice Anywar, speaks at Bugoma Jungle Lodge.

The Minister of State for Water and Environment, Beatrice Atim Anywar, has expressed her determination to face Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and Hoima Sugar Limited in a bid to disrupt a plot to replace part of Bugoma forest with sugarcane plantations.

The minister said this during the just concluded cross country tour of the European Union (EU) diplomats to environmentally sensitive areas in Bunyoro and northern Uganda that are at risk of high level degradation.

Ms Anywar told journalists that whether the forested land fearing degradation is under the central forest reserve or not, it must be protected in its natural form with its values to the current and subsequent generations.

According to the minister, the political will to defend Bugoma forest is still alive and the president has picked interest in the issue after an engagement with the EU ambassadors to Uganda.

Audio: Anywar on political will (English)

Ms Anywar who became popular in 2007 when she stood strongly to defend Mabira forest also against sugarcane plantation wants Ugandans to speak out boldly and fight illegalities going on in their homeland instead of lamenting ahead of disasters that must come with climate change.

The minister was nicknamed ‘Mama-Mabira’ loosely ‘Mother of Mabira forest’ relating to her struggle to defend Mabira forest against destruction.

Her intervention into the conflict over Bugoma, the second largest forest in Uganda after Budongo in Masindi district gives hope to many people of Bunyoro and environmental lovers elsewhere that Bugoma might survive the bulldozers, power saws and machetes assembled ready for the job in the neighbourhood. Some had entered at the end of last month (October).

“We are talking about the effects of climate change, the youth who want jobs and the future, we are talking about health and the future”, said Ms Anywar with an anguished facial expression.

The minister attributed the ongoing confusion threatening sustainable development to corruption; calling upon all citizens to join hands and fight it.

She did not ignore blacklisting companies that do not want to respect environment as a way forward.

Audio: Anywar on corruption (English)

Ms Anywar also blamed the judiciary for letting down the ministry when it comes to prosecuting the perpetrators of environmental degradation in a sense that their delays to decide upon cases shelters encroachers on fragile ecosystems.

On claims of some people having the so called ‘powers from above’ Ms Anywar said it is normally used by individuals to scare citizens and shelter illegalities.

Audio: Anywar on orders from above (English)

Hoima Sugar Limited told Kazi-njema News that they are willing to engage with different stakeholders including the EU diplomats as long as meetings are timely arranged.

In a meeting with the EU ambassadors to Uganda on Tuesday, Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Prime Minister, Andrew Byakutaga said that the impression created that Bunyoro is degrading environment is very wrong.

He, however, said that land in Muhangaizima traditionally belongs to Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom neighbouring Bugoma central forest reserve.

Meanwhile, local youths in Hoima city have this (Friday) morning held a peaceful demonstration around Hoima Taxi Park demanding the kingdom to make public all the agreements relating to the lease of a 22-square-mile piece of land adjacent to Bugoma central forest reserve.

They believe if the lease was in the interest of the kingdom subjects, there is no need to hide facts about the transaction.

Some members of the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Parliament (Orukurato) have on many occasions questioned when and where the motion to lease the forest was tabled and a resolution made to that effect.

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