Bugoma forest; Corruption stands in the way of reclaiming public forest
The Save Bugoma crusade had shown some signs of momentum recently when the Minister of the Environment Betty Anway and Traditional Cultural institutions of Buganda and Bunyoro threw their weight behind efforts to stop the destruction of the forest.
However, environmentalists this week revealed that the war is being frustrated by corrupt officials in the Ministry of Lands who are refusing to cancel titles that were issued in the forest.
On December 1, the State Minister for Environment, Beatrice Atim Anywar alias Maama Mabira noted that her Ministry was willing to engage all parties involved in the Bugoma forest giveaway so that the natural resoure is preserved for tourism.
“My ministry is going to engage Hoima Sugar and Bunyoro kingdom. Even if they wanted money must they destroy the environment in order to get money! The pain of losing any part of the environment is for all of us because we cannot underrate the benefits of conservation of our environment. We are very concerned and we thank all those who stood for Bugoma and other resources to have them protected,” she said.
Hardly a week since projecting the optimism, that members of the civil society, led by the chairman of the Save Bugoma Campaign Dickens Kamugisha, announce that they are failing to have the Illegally issued titles cancelled.
“We know these titles issued with Bunyoro Kingdom, Hoima Sugar Limited and the MZ Agencies were issued when the forest was there and we all know very well that the Ministry of Lands and Registry of Titles are some of the most corrupt institutions. So we know very well that most of these titles are issued not only in Bugoma but in very many other protected areas because of corruption,” he said.
“As Ugandans we don’t want that corruption to lead to destruction of our forests.That’s why we are calling upon every government institution to take it upon themselves to ensure our forest is protected,” he added.
Kamugisha further noted that the confusion evident with the contradictions between National Forestry Authority (NFA) and the Department of Survey and Mapping proves that the forest land was shared between big personalities that are being protected by one department.
“When we visited NFA, they told us that the Commissioner for Survey and Mapping had told them the land was outside Bugoma. But when NFA did the survey, they found the land is within the boundaries of Bugoma forest and we have discovered that and it’s unfortunate that the two government institutions, have failed to actually come to a common conclusion. I think those contradictions are the ones making it difficult to cause the cancellation of tittles,” said Kamugisha.
Kamugisha, who is also the Executive Director of Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) has urged the government to compensate whoever might have acquired the titles.
“We are even saying that in case we cannot cancel the tittles, we want government to use article 26 of the Constitution plus our money to ensure those people are given their refunds. They are compensated and we protect our forest,” said Kamugisha.
He vowed that as a civil society they will not be deterred by corrupt government officials who issued titles in protected areas with the view to getting them punished.
Kamugisha further notes that a few individuals within Bunyoro kingdom who may have acquired tittles should be mindful of their subjects who may end up suffering effects of environmental degradation they never participated into.
“They destroy the area yet it’s actually the people of Bunyoro who are going to suffer. But we are also saying that this is not just a mere forest. The other day the President himself was declaring to Ugandans that Uganda earns around USD 1.6 million from tourism and tourists don’t come here to see buildings. They come to see chimpanzees in Bugoma and the good species of trees.”