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Museveni’s Executive Order No.3 on Charcoal trade dead upon arrival in Apaa

The presidential Executive Order No.3, 2023, which was issued on May 19, 2023, banning the burning, transportation and sale of charcoal in Northern and Eastern Uganda is viewed by many as part of the reinforcement of the ministerial statement issued by the minister of state for Environment Betty Anywar,

OPINION:

Resolve the impasse in Apaa or forget about implementations of the Presidential Executive Order on Charcoal, because the settlers of Apaa are occupying government-gazetted land where there is almost no governance yet the state of affairs is fecund for charcoal business.

The presidential Executive Order No.3, 2023, which was issued on May 19, 2023, banning the burning, transportation and sale of charcoal in Northern and Eastern Uganda is viewed by many as part of the reinforcement of the ministerial statement issued by the minister of state for Environment Betty Anywar,

The instruction of Betty Anywar that isolated West Nile however turned out to be virtually impossible to enforce because the perpetrators of the illegal charcoal deal have been riding on the invisible orders from above meaning by all deceitful morals they are above ministerial directives.

Besides charcoal is one of the dependable energy for all circular domestic use in Uganda and the use of wood fuel is so distinct and obvious in urban areas due to the high prices of electricity and gas

In Uganda a gas cylinder of 3kilogram is sold at shs 28,000,6kilogram at 56.000 while the bill for 38 kg is shs 300,000 this price is for refill but the first charge is even more expensive, while a household kwh is charged shs 605.75 which is equivalent to US dollar 0.164 which is high compared to the prices of the same in developed nations.

This means if there is a total shutdown in charcoal production several households in the country shall be left without energy for cooking and the consequences will be depraved as it might attract several forms of protests and civil disobedience leading to a full-blown insecurity 

In Adjumani in particular the Executive Order could as well remain a paper declaration whose legality may not be challenged but the rulers of the jungles of Zoka forest and Apaa will find it easy to resist the Order and compromise the security arrangement whose superiors’ have at all times been part and parcel of the powerful and influential charcoal business cartels in Zoka.

President Museveni has learnt a lot of lessons in the interminable Apaa conflict which has dragged on for over two decades but he has been avoiding definitive coercion and aggravations of Acholi leaders who have of late become an undisputed political asset of the NRM government.

Stock piles of woods ready for burning for charcoal in Itirikwa sub county Adjumani district.

A section of Acholi MPs and other leaders have employed the rule of the game much cherished by the contemporary American Mafia groups that statuses; make no rules play no game, Amuru MPs Olanya Gilbert, Anthony Akol, and Betty AOL who were religiously backed by their cohorts or allies in Acholi sub-region have tactfully eluded attempts by government to counteract their insolence.

Therefore, without the government settling the conflict in Apaa it would be difficult to enforce the executive order because the settlers in Apaa have been surviving on activities that massively contributed to environmental degradation like charcoal trade, lumbering, logging and illegal land deals.

In the loose principle of let’s join the evils; high ranking government officials have combined with the miscreant and felon rings who appear to have close ties with those close to echelons ‘of power have been involved in cutthroat deals in the illicit massive charcoal, logging and lumbering deals.

Governments efforts to fight the vice achieved minimum results as those incriminated in the illegal deals in forest products were lightly reprimanded mostly by transferring them and replacing them with officers who proved even more determined to amass maximum wealth from the proceeds of the illegal trade that has left the environment bleeding

This approach was termed by many environmental activists in Adjumani as replacing old and tired thieves with officers who are more daring and heartless.

In 2006 when the Adjumani RDC Agnes Akello Ebong, DPC Richard Ojokuna and NFA Zoka forest supervisor Otim Joseph were incriminated in illegal lumbering and a committee set by the cabinet that was chaired by the then minister for presidency Easter Mbayo, met enraged residents Zoka who gave day by day account of the involvement of the trio in illegal lumbering but the committee instead recommend the transfer of the threesome.

Then followed DPC Samtsangira Simon, who was recorded by NTV reporters taking a bribe of shs 100.000 for creating free passage for trucks of logs out of Adjumani and the latest being DPC Benon Byamukama who has been accused of operational mishap in the enforcement of the presidential Executive order number 3.

The Executive Order does not carry clear standard operation procedures’ which has made it difficult to enforce, because it does not define the amount of charcoal not to produce sale and transport yet wood energy or charcoal is the dominant source of domestic fuel used in average Ugandan kitchens for cooking.

The degradation of the environment particularly massive depletion of trees species in Adjumani for charcoal and other uses started way back in 2006 after the 20 years of incursion of the rebels of Lord’s Resistance Army of rebel leader Kony.

Almost half of the arable land in Adjumani district belonged to the defunct East Madi Controlled Hunting area which was restricted to wildlife activities by the British colonial government covering large parts of the current Ukusijoni and Itirikwa sub counties when it covered over 1.600 kilometers of land.

Until 2002, about 5 years when Adjumani formerly East Moyo county gained district status when parts of East Madi Controlled Hunting area were degazetted for human settlement and farming reducing the wild life area to 827 kilometers square and renamed East Madi Wild Life Reserve.

The development followed discussions and negotiations that involved Adjumani district local government then headed by Mr. Owole Nixon as district chairman and Uganda Wild Life Authority.

In November 2006, former UPDF Gen. Oketa Julius (R.I.P) moved a group of people and occupied a large area of land in Ngoro West and set up an apiary farm that was heavily guarded by UPDF, but the council of Ofua sub-County dragged him to Adjumani magistrates’ grade one court over the illegal land occupation.

Maj. General Oketa whose motive of occupying the area though was not related to environmental degradation his presence attracted his kinsmen from Acholi subregion they, later on engaged in indiscriminate cutting of trees for charcoal, timber and logs.

SECURITY CHIEFS DISAGREE OVER ENFORCEMENT OF EXECUTIVE ORDER ON CHARCOAL BUSINESS.

The dilemma of failure to trace the person or officer behind the release of the magic 18 trucks of charcoal that were arrested by the police in Apaa Trading Centre has caused boisterous altercations in Adjumani district security and intelligence circles.

On June 12, 2023, the police in Adjumani arrested 18 trucks loaded with charcoal following the May 19, presidential executive order banning the burning, sale and transportation of charcoal in Northern Uganda following sustained outcries from leaders in the area.

Obongi district RDC Mr Hashaka Samuel Mpimbaza and district officials inspecting impounded bags of charcoal in Gimara sub county June 7, 2023.

The embattled Adjumani DPC Byamukama Benon rushed to the scene and chopped off all the number plates after the defiant drivers reportedly refused to drive the trucks to Adjumani central police station.

The botched operations of DPC Byamukama received serious security backlash some security officers accuse him of hoarding information while the police CID department faulted him for destroying evidence because the number plates he dumped in CID office could not be adduced as evidence in a case of transportation of charcoal in the instant case of breaching presidential Executive Order.

The DPC Byamukama was summoned to the police headquarters on June 14, 2023, in Kampala over an alleged operational mix-up or mistake and to date there is no official confirmation on his fate with unconfirmed reports indicating he has been detained over unclear disciplinary charges.

The OC CID Adjumani consequently ordered that the number plates be returned to the truck owners and the following day the 18 trucks left for their desired destinations and nothing was heard about the fleet of trucks loaded with charcoals again.

In its sitting on June 22, 2023, the district security committee resolved that the police draw operations plan for enforcing the Executive Order and the plan should be brought before the committee for scrutiny and blessing but the DPC did not submit the operation plan.

The acting DPC ASP Evans Musiige told a recent district security committee meeting that his office has been notified by the headquarters not to draw any operation plan for enforcing the Executive orders but instead rely on plans from the district forest department and National Forestry Authority.

The Executive Order does not carry clear standard operation procedures’ which has made it difficult to enforce, because it does not define the amount of charcoal to not produce sale and transport yet wood fuel or is the dominant source of domestic fuel used in our kitchens for cooking. 

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The writer; Amacha Goli, is a senior journalist at DailyExpress



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