Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Conservationists have petitioned the Principal Judge Dr. Flavian Zeija to intervene in the giveaway of Bugoma Forest to Hoima Sugar Factory.
In an open letter to the Principal Judge signed by over 30 groups, the conservationists want him to reallocate their application for judicial review to another judicial officer following the dismissal of their application for a temporary injunction last month by Justice Musa Ssekaana on grounds that they had wrongly sued the National Environment Management Authority-NEMA.
Justice Ssekaana argued that court would be condemning a party that isn’t before it without according to them a fair hearing as provided for in the Ugandan’s Constitution and rules of natural justice Dickens Kamugisha, the Chief Executive Officer of African Institute for Energy Governance-AFIEGO and head of the Save Bugoma Campaign, says Justice Ssekaana dismissed their petition to halt any works on the contested Bugoma Central Forest Reserve land that is subject to the main suit in which, they want the court to declare the Certificate by NEMA illegal.
He says despite the fact that NEMA issued a Certificate of approval of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment to Hoima Sugar factory, the company’s own assessment was inadequate. For instance, they accuse the company of not advertising through media for people to respond to their plans as part of the Social Impact Assessment.
Kamugisha says that they sued NEMA because it is the one that granted a go-ahead to the company to cultivate sugarcane and is answerable. He says that while it is true that Hoima Sugar may be affected by the decision of the judicial review, their application seeks to protect the Constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment under Article 39 of the Constitution.
The conservations also want the Principal Judge to help them get justice soon such that the land under contention is saved from the developer who wants to cut down trees and cultivate Sugar Cane.
Kamugisha says NEMA based on an illegal ESIA certificate of approval and any more delays will never provide any redress as the forest is already being cut down.
Hoima Sugar leased the contested land from Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom for among others things to cultivate sugar cane.