Amuru, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | It was all tears among charcoal dealers as police and National Forestry Authority (NFA) officers raided their camps in Amuru district on Friday evening. The officers stormed a charcoal loading site in Pupwonya Village in Attiak Sub County along the Gulu-Nimule Highway where they found hundreds of bags of charcoal.
They impounded over seven hundred and took them to the NFA offices in Gulu City for auctioning. The team later proceeded to Okidi North village in Atiak Sub County and destroyed dozens of makeshift structures, rudimentary tools, hundreds of charcoal bags as well as logs and kilns belonging to the illegal charcoal dealers and logger.
The charcoal dealers pleaded with the team to spare them on grounds that they had only purchased the charcoal through middlemen. With tears rolling down her cheeks, Faridah Namisimbi from Mattuga in Luwero district said that she bought eighty-bags of charcoal at Shillings 2.4 million from a person she only identified as Pastor Emma.
She told URN that she has been in the business for only three months after being introduction by a friend, saying that she has never cut down any tree or burnt charcoal. Namisimbe, who didn’t have any document permitting her to buy charcoal said she was ignorant about the ban on charcoal trade in Northern Region.
Another trader who only identified herself as Margaret said that she paid a permit of Shillings 100,000 to transport sixty bags of charcoal that she purchased at Shillings 1.5 million that was also impounded. The teary Margaret, who also hails from Kampala, said she is now stuck because she has nothing left for a start-up.
Xavier Sekanabo from the Environmental Police Protection Unit who led the operation said that they have no mercy for the charcoal dealers because they are depleting the environment and indiscriminately destroying the endangered tree species including Afzelia Africana, shea and mahogany among others.
Abraham Odur, the Aswa River Range NFA Forest Supervisor noted that the extent of forest damage in the region is alarming and requires urgent attention through massive sensitization on the dangers of tree cutting.
Sekanabo disclosed that since the team pitched camp in Northern Uganda three weeks ago, 90 people have so far been arrested, three power saws confiscated, thousands of charcoal and pieces of timber impounded and hundreds of kilns destroyed.
Richard Watmon, the Paibona Sub County LC III Chairperson where the illegal charcoal business is booming welcomed the operation noting that it will save the environment from destruction.