Police accused of aiding illegal logging in Moyo as culprits are held

MOYO – Two trucks loaded with logs estimated to be worth more than Shs 150 million have been impounded at Laropi ferry landing site in Moyo district by the police in Laropi Sub-county.

The police officer who refused to be named due to the sensitives of the matter said they arrested the drivers of the trucks with registration numbers UBK 836E and UBK 565E, respectively after receiving “orders from above”.

Much as the arrested truck drivers said the logs were from South Sudan, local environmental activists in Moyo district claimed the logs were cut from Metu Sub-county. The local activists claim the police in the sub-county had been compromised to clear the trucks loaded with the logs.

One of the documents seized indicated that one of the arrested drivers, Francis Olanya, from Kawempe in Kampala was cleared on October 25, 2022, to enter South Sudan after making a payment of Shs 10,000, although some officials say he turned around to load logs within Ugandan.

The deputy Resident District commissioner of Moyo Julian Sekamwa said the trucks loaded with the logs were stopped because transportation and harvesting of the endangered Afzelia Africana species was banned by President Museveni in 2017.

“We also acted because the illegal logging at the borders is becoming a source of insecurity. In our cross-border meeting with authorities from South Sudan, it was one of the issues we discussed and resolved not to allow inter-border illegal logging,” Sekamwa said.

He added the logs were not allowed to pass because they are very heavy and would cause the ferry to sink down or capsize.

“We are verifying their documents to ascertain if they were truly coming from South Sudan, and we are processing files for them to appear in court,” Sekamwa stated.

William Amanzuru Leslie, the team leader of Friends of Zoka, a local environmental non-governmental organisation, said intelligence reports showed the logs were cut from Metu Sub-county but not from neighbouring South Sudan as the truck drivers had claimed.

“There is an interplay of documentation to try to deceive people that the trucks loaded with the logs were from South Sudan. We have notified the security in Moyo and Kampala to try and ensure the illegal loggers are brought to book,” Amanzuru said.

Amanzuru also noted that the illegal human activities that affect the environment in the West Nile region are illegal. He said the illegal activities include; lumbering, commercial charcoal burning, and the logging of the endangered trees species of Afzelia Africana and shea nut trees.

Although police have been accused of receiving bribes from the illegal loggers to allow the logs, the regional police commander North West Nile Region, Denis Okuja denied the allegations saying police are still holding the documents of the loggers pending verification and upon clarification, he said the loggers will appear in court.

“The documents are still with us, we are still cross-checking with South Sudan to find out the authenticity of the documents. We have checked with the forest department. These trucks were supposed to go through Arua. We have not received any bribe to clear the logs,” Okuja said.

The Moyo district LCV chairperson, Williams Anyama condemned the rate at which the endangered tree species are being cut, adding that the district is trying to fight against the vice although he noted that their efforts are being frustrated by the cartel involved in the illegal activity.

“We have agreed with the district authorities to arraign them [drivers] in court and we are going to provide some investigators. Just know that they are going to be prosecuted and the owners shall be established,” the assistant commissioner of police, Enock Abaine confirmed.

He also revealed that some of the police officers accused of receiving bribes will be dealt with using internal systems. This is despite the fact that in December 2011 government created environment protection police unit [EPPU] to support the Ministry of Water and Environment in enforcing environmental laws and regulations.

According to a recent report released by National Forest Authority [NFA], Uganda’s forests and woodland stand at 24 percent of the total land area. Of these 9,242.08 square kilometers [sq.kms] is tropical rainforest, 350.60sq.kms are forest plantations and 39,741.02 sq.kms is woodland. 30 percent of these areas are protected as national parks, wildlife reserves, or central forest reserves.


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