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KARAMOJA: Security forces step up action against charcoal burning

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The security forces in Karamoja sub-region have banned charcoal and bush-burning activities to curb cattle theft and depletion of trees.

The forces say the move is due to a resurgence of cattle theft, noting that suspected cattle raiders have resorted to staying in the bush pretending to be charcoal burners yet they are planning raids.

Brig Joseph Balikudembe, the UPDF 3rd Division Commander says they have launched operations against people who are burning charcoal in the bushes in order to frustrate their plans for the warriors to raid people’s livestock.

Balikudembe said they have discovered that the suspected cattle raiders have resorted to hiding in the bush while disguising as charcoal burners to plan for raids.

Balikudembe said no one will be allowed to burn charcoal in Karamoja and neighboring districts of Teso and Sebei effective this month of January. He added that those found will be arrested and arraigned before courts of law for aiding cattle theft.

Francis Akorikin, the LCV Chairperson for Kapelebyong welcomed the idea saying charcoal burning has been rampant in the Karamoja region, but unfortunately it has spread to some districts in Teso.

Akorikin warned the communities to desist from charcoal burning saying his office shall not be responsible for anyone arrested by security forces.

“I want all the local leaders to tell our people to stop burning charcoal immediately because if security arrests them, they should not run to us because they are our political agents’’ Akorikin lamented.

He appealed to the local leaders to engage the community in sensitization activities that will raise awareness among the public on the dangers of charcoal burning.

However, the decision seems to have met resistance from the authorities in the Karamoja region where officials claim it is not possible to ban the charcoal business because it is a vital source of income and energy for many families.

Michael Okurut, the Resident District Commissioner Nakapiripirit said they need other alternatives for addressing the problem of charcoal burning because it is the only source of fuel used in many homes, and regulating it is impossible.

Okurut said the districts have passed several by-laws to regulate the charcoal trade all in vain because it is the only available and cheap domestic source of energy used by everyone including the enforcement officers.

“When you’re cracking so hard on charcoal, you realize in your own house you also need charcoal and leading operations against charcoal burning becomes a problem’’ Okurut explained.

According to Okurut, although the district banned the transportation of charcoal in the trucks, the boda boda riders have resorted to carrying bags of charcoal in the motorcycles posing like it is for domestic use.

Jacinta Ayaa, the Resident District Commissioner for Nabilatuk says that she is in talks with the district forestry officer to see how best the problem can be addressed without hurting the community.

“Charcoal is the only source of income for our communities, some of them sell charcoal and buy food, so stopping them means some families may not have food on their table’’ Ayaa said.

She said there is a need to design other possible solutions because the current resolution of arresting charcoal burners does not work.



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