ADJUMANI. The endangered African Afzelia tree species in Adjumani district is on the verge of extinction as defiant loggers have again invaded the district in a new wave of illegal logging.
Despite continued reminder by the officials from the forest department about the 2017 ministerial statement on ban of cutting, transporting and sale of the Africana Afzelia trees species, the illegal activity has continued to rage on.
The loggers have now moved to urban centers after depleting the trees in the wilderness, this was witnessed in early February when they stormed Ma-anyalwa cell in Pakele town council and harvested all the surviving Africana Afzelia trees in the area as locals looked on.
Last Sunday, a truck with registration number UAF 399J loaded with twenty six logs of the Afzelia Africana tree species in Uduruji village, Pakale Sub County, was impounded by the forestry enforcement officials.
Though its contents have been offloaded and the truck packed at the district headquarters, its owner has not yet been identified.
According to Mr Francis Ojja, the district forest officer, the team from his department acted on a tip from the community members of Uduruji village.
The forest officer, appealed to the members of the community to exercise maximum vigilance.
In 2017, the minister of water and environment Mr Sam Cheptoris in his letter addressed to all Chief administrative officers, all town clerks, directed that, “in order to strengthen regulation of trade in tree and their products, suspend any cutting, transportation and sale of the logs and their products in line with section 29(3) of the national forestry and tree planting act of 2003 with immediate effect”, the letter reads in part.
But members of the public and environmental activists have criticized the district leaders for condoning the illegalities as they often go ahead to auction the impounded logs which most times are bought by the very loggers.
Mr William Amanzuru, an environmental activist and the coordinator friends of Zoka noted that the leaders of Adjumani are ‘clones of corrupt viruses’.
He accused the district authorities of auctioning the impounded logs illegally since 2017 after the directive.
“To me, the repeated cycle of impound and auction instead fuels the illicit act of more, it builds hegemony of impunity in environmental abuse”, Amanzuru lamented.
The Adjumani district chief administrative officer, Mr Gabriel Rogers Bwayo in his defence, quoted the national forest and tree planting act 2003, section 88.
It states; “whereas the officer acting under subsection (3) is of the opinion that the seized item is subject to speedy and natural decay or will entail avoidable expenses on the part of the government, he or she may sell it, and the proceeds of that sale shall be treated in the same manner as the seized item would have been if there had been no sale”.
Bwayo said he has been seeking for court orders before auctioning the impounded logs and that proceeds have been supplementing the meagre district local revenue.
Uganda’s forest cover has been falling from 24% in 1990 to 9% in 2015 and the main drivers are wood fuel extraction, illegal timber harvesting, wild fires and artisanal and commercial open mining and extraction among others.