BY RASHUL ADIDI
Koboko- The State Minister for Internal Affairs, Mr Mario Obiga Kania, has accused some police officers of working with some Koboko District officials to aid illegal cutting down of trees.
“Sometimes those who are supposed to enforce the laws are the perpetrators, especially the police. Sometimes, these police officers, due to temptation and greed, get involved in this illegal trade,” Mr Kania said at the weekend .
He said such acts have made it difficult for government to protect the environment and fight illegal logging.
“Our biggest challenge has remained with inadequate transport to ease mobility and monitoring. The border between Uganda, DR Congo and South Sudan is very wide. Our manpower is not enough, we only have 43,000 police officers yet the demand is 83,000,” Mr Kania said. The minister’s concern echoes that of environmental activists who have previously accused the police of releasing suspects involved in illegal logging.
Mr Samuel Abwang, the district police commander, said the officers who were involved in such acts were transferred.
“Even these logs parked in front of Koboko Police Station are for police officers who were previously here and have been transferred over the same act,” he added.
Mr Elly Asiku, the Koboko North MP, where Mt Kei Central Forest Reserve is found, said most of the tree species have been depleted and efforts to fight against the trend is proving futile.
“Efforts by local authorities and NFA (National Forestry Authority) officials in supporting the fight against the extinction has become difficult since most of the dealers are armed with guns and police becomes helpless,” he said.
In December, 2019, Mr Asiku together with police impounded three trucks loaded with logs from the forest serve.
In June, NFA officials, together with the environmental police in West Nile, arrested a senior police officer together with a driver and a turn boy over illegal logging of Afelia African tree species.
In February, 2018, the State Minister for Environment, Ms Mary Goretti Kitutu, banned any cutting, transportation and sale of shea and Afzelia African tree (beyo) logs and their products in the country.
The National Forest and Tree Planting Act 2003, Section29(3), stipulates that the minister will be the lead agency in regulating access to forest genetic resources.