Uganda Today: NRM FELLING FORESTS TO KILL UGANDANS
By John Mary Odoy.
End impunity around Bugoma forest.
The NRM government has messed up our country so much so that it will take several generations to get it back on course.
If it were not for God’s generosity for blessing the people with high fertility, there would be just a handful of people remaining alive in the country. Ugandans have died due to diseases some of which are treatable but due to negligence, corruption and poor service delivery, many lives have been lost.
Others have also died due to physical and psychological torture which the NRM is a master at and from the endless internal and external wars right from the 1980s. The Bush war of 1980s alone is said to have caused the death of over 500,000 people. But the greatest killer is that due to destruction of the environment and natural resources especially the forests and wetlands.
Forests are a source of rain, food, medicine, calm and friendly weather, healthy and clean air, income through tourism and raw materials for handcrafts, fuel wood, rivers, fertile soils and clan spirits. These have been and continue to be erased and destroyed.
This has led to longer dry seasons and crop failure causing food insecurity.
Time and again, the issue of Bugoma forest destruction comes to light.
Bugoma forest is one of the few remaining tropical forests in Uganda. The forest which covers an area of about 150 sq km, serves a vast are of Uganda stretching far deep in other parts of the country and beyond and it is home to several wildlife species This time, president Museveni’s remarks have woken up everyone. His statement of concern is welcome and of great interest to many climate change actors.
His expression, however, indicates that he has not been aware of what is going in Bugoma forest. Should it be so, then the president is no longer in charge of what is going in the country. But it is also common knowledge that the president pretends a lot.
He avoids blame and does not want to take responsibility for the mess he causes.
Intense fighting to protect Bugoma forest has been going on for TV the last three years.
It takes one to be totally irresponsible, insensitive and out of his mind if he never got wind of the Bugoma forest. I am surprised that even Maama Mabira has just decided to look on when she is a minister in the ministry charged with managing forests.
The sound and caution made by the civil society organisations, community, and religious leaders had been loud and clear. A petition made by the community in Bunyoro was presented to the speaker of parliament.
The event and information were well documented and relayed by the media. I believe it definitely could not have missed the eyes and attention of the president or the minister. One would make an assumption that the president is making mention of the subject now because the objective for which an attack on the forest was made has been achieved.
The destruction of the forest is being aided and guarded by military personnel of several ranks whose supervisor is the commander in chief, the president. If one dared to engage the field military personnel on why they protect wrong doing, the response would be that that they are acting on orders from above. No one in Uganda, does not know that the expression “orders from above” is synonymous with state house and the first family. It is surprising therefore that the president is ignorant about what is going on in Bugoma.
The earlier plan of erasing nine square miles of the forest was terribly painful and terrifying to us the climate actors and the local community. It was not only devastating to cut down a part of the forest to that magnitude and get it replaced with sugarcane but a brainless act. Worse still, according to the community leaders, the destruction the forest todate is way beyond the nine sq. miles.
The current estimate of what has been destroyed so far is half of the 150 sq. km forest yet the exercise is still going on. Where are the responsible institutions and offices???
The loss resulting from destroying the forest cannot be and will never be equal to the value of the sugarcane. Loss of the unique biodiversity, the cool environment, the habitat for various wild creatures, the green beauty, the source of rivers and streams (water for life), the medicines, etc is unimaginable.
The conflict between the humans and wild animals is on the rise which is making it insecure for both parties. The impact of this loss on human life is a story to tell. Food insecurity has begun to manifest, an increase in disease burdens has been noticed in the recent times and death due to starvation and other unclear diseases is on the rise.
The income generating activities whose raw materials were derived from the forest are no more hence increasing poverty levels which has also led to massive school dropouts.
The insensitivity about the lives of the people in this country due to greediness and theft, the failure to provide essential services due to corruption and incompetence, the failure to manage and control the use of natural resources due to selfishness and acting irresponsibly over peoples and national concerns, is a manifestation of the failure of the NRM leadership in moving the country forward.
Diminishing returns due to over stay in power which showed up several years back are now deepening and taking root. More people are going to encounter untold suffering and those that are to die will continue to build on the statistics of the lost lives. Ugandans can’t afford to see more of Bugoma go. No other forest in the country should get cleared. Enough is enough.
The poor governance exhibited by the NRM government cannot be tolerated any more. It is time Ugandans demanded for what is meant for them and everyone who loves himself or herself and loves his or her neighbour is encouraged to peacefully rise up and signal that enough is enough, speak out with a strong voice to Save Bugoma Forest and about the wrong things and take action to get rid of the NRM leaders to stop the messy leadership.
John Mary Odoy
Senior Citizen, Former Board Chair Climate Action Network Uganda