Lamwo, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Over 1,000 bags of charcoal were destroyed on Thursday and six suspects arrested in crackdown against illegal loggers that was intensified in Got Kwa parish, Lokung East Sub County in Lamwo district.
The operation follows concerns raised by the local population over the indiscriminate cutting of trees and large scale charcoal production which was going on unabetted in the area. Lamwo Resident District Commissioner James Nabinson Kidega says that more than a thousand bags of charcoal, unburnt charcoal kilns and numerous makeshift camps were uncovered in the areas of Awenolwiyo East, Awenolwiyo and Bur Lobo village in Lokung East Sub County.
Kidega says that although close to seven camps were destroyed, many of the culprits who are reported to have pitched camp in the bushes eluded arrest. However, six were apprehended and are currently being held in police custody.
The suspects have been identified as Saphina Nalule purported to be the businesswoman involved in the illegal trade, Jimmy Semakula and Tom Mukasa both casual labourers, and Ben Churchill Ochola, a police officer attached to Awenolwiyo police outpost. Ochola is accused of procuring the illegal activity having been a witness to an agreement between Nalule and clan leaders of Pakalabule who hired out the land for tree cutting.
According to Nalule, she reached an agreement with the clan members at 4,000,000 Shillings to cut trees for charcoal production over a period of one year.
Also arrested are Achom Mary Mercy and Francis Ongiryan both immigration officials attached to Ngomoromo border post in Lamwo district for their involvement in illegal charcoal trade in the villages of Bur Lobo. The authorities impounded a government motorcycle registration number UG 0319G belonging to the immigration department that was found in the wilderness, a consignment of fresh marijuana leaves and an engine power saw.
Kidega condemned a section of government officials and security personnel for their alleged involvement in the vice saying that instead of fighting it, they are encouraging the illegal production of charcoal that has been banned in the district. The LCI Chairperson Benjamin Kidega Abwoch and the Parish Internal Security Officer for Gotkwar are both wanted for granting permission and providing security for the illegal charcoal dealers.
Lamwo District Police Commander Robert Kachumu condemned the involvement of the police officer but says the suspect will be dealt with administratively since he acted not within the police institution. Kachumu says a case file and a charge of illegal cutting of trees without a valid licence has been preferred against the suspects who upon conclusion of investigations will be produced before the courts of law.