The State Minister for Northern Uganda, Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny, has instructed the National Forest Authority (NFA) Aswa River Ranch Branch to allocate over 5,000 sacks of illegal charcoal, which were confiscated, to educational institutions, rather than conducting auctions.
This directive was issued on October 7, during a discussion on the progress of implementing the Presidential Executive Order issued in June 2022. Originally set for implementation in September 2023, the deadline was extended to October 20, 2023.
Minister Kwiyucwiny clarified that auctioning the charcoal would contradict the presidential order. She also mentioned her intention to contact the Minister of Water and Environment to ensure the distribution of the charcoal to institutions is carried out.
Additionally, concerns have already arisen regarding NFA’s sale of the charcoal through bidding processes.
Recent investigations revealed that Amuru, Adjumani (specifically Zoka forest), Nwoya, Gulu, and Pader are the districts with the highest levels of illegal charcoal activities.
From June to September this year, NFA’s Aswa River Ranch branch seized approximately 5,000 sacks of charcoal across the entire Acholi sub-region. This seizure was prompted by President Museveni’s order on June 26, 2023, aimed at curbing deforestation for commercial charcoal production.
NFA had initially intended to allocate the charcoal to educational institutions in Gulu City and other districts but faced opposition from the Gulu Magistrate’s Court. The NFA branch is awaiting further instructions from their head offices in Kampala regarding the seized charcoal.
Local leaders have expressed concerns that auctioning the charcoal would bypass the presidential order’s intent. They argue that generating revenue for local governments through auctions is inconsistent with the executive order’s provisions, which do not call for public auctions for local government funding.
Some leaders, like Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the Bardege-Layibi Division MP, have criticized the police for not taking sufficient action against illegal charcoal dealers. They allege that some law enforcement officers collude with these individuals after receiving bribes.
In response, David Ongom Mudong, the Aswa region Police spokesperson, pledged to intensify efforts to combat all forms of illegal charcoal transportation. He emphasized the need for collective action by stakeholders, including local leaders, to address the issue of illegal commercial charcoal trade instead of solely criticizing law enforcement.
Residents of Gulu District have reported that the illegal charcoal trade continues to thrive, with dealers altering their transportation methods. Charcoal is now being transported via motorcycle (boda bodas) across Gulu District and Gulu City to Karuma Town, where it is loaded onto trucks or buses for further distribution.