24 Aug 2019

 

Improved Security Amidst Looting Of Forest In Yei River State

“I got some documents of seven companies from authorities in Koboko District. The documents record the companies have 67 heavy tracks seeking for clearance to transport their logs from my county..."

By Daniel Friday Martin

YEI  26/ May/2019) GURTONG – Mass logging of natural forest reserves is threatening the wellbeing of Fauna and Flora (Animals and human life) in various villages of Liwolo and Kangapo counties of Yei River. Local officials said.

Speaking to Gurtong in an exclusive interview, Kangapo County Commissioner, Wani Jackson Mule, said 7 there registered logging companies, both local and foreign, have been granted permission by SPLA-IO officials to clear off the natural mahogany and other rear tourist attraction forest species that existed in the villages for centuries.

“It is true that large scale logging is taking place in Liwolo County and for the last three years, there was massive logging of natural trees in Kirwa, Adjio Kala and Pore villages along the common borders of South Sudan and Uganda and this logging is carried out by the SPLA-IO simply because those areas are under the control of the SPLA-IO” he said.

Wani said when there are 67 trees cut on the ground the logs are transported by heavy tracks from out of Liwo to Uganda for international markets.

“I got some documents of seven companies from authorities in Koboko District. The documents record the companies have 67 heavy tracks seeking for clearance to transport their logs from my county. You can see with these heavy tracks to load these logs in the area. In a day, over 10 tracks can cross from Uganda to Liwolo county on daily basis to transport logs, meaning the whole forest reserves have been cleared”, Wani stressed.

Earlier, SPLA-IO military spokesman, Colonel Lam Paul Gabriel, denied any illegal forest logging in the area. He said the logging companies have been allowed to conduct forest logging businesses with agreement and permission from the local community leaders.

“For us as soldiers, we have nothing to do with forest businesses, the forest logging is being done by the civilian business men with approvals from the community leaders. Our role as soldiers is to ensure protection of the civil population under our control”, he protested when asked on the rampant forest logging around areas of greater Kajo-Keji counties.

Meanwhile, Yei River State Minister for Agriculture and Forestry, Evans Kijore, confirmed the ongoing rampant forest logging around Kajo-Keji areas. Kijore said his ministry is working day and night to ensure that the county commissioners enforce the directives issued by the Sate Governor, Emmanuel Adil.

He said his office lacked forest rangers and officers in the remote villages of greater Kajo-Keji counties to monitor and report on the level of forest logging in the area due to insecurity.

“We don’t have forest officers on the ground to feed us on what is going wrong on the natural forest reserves. We are also finding it difficult to implement orders issued by the ministry or the governor but we are working very hard to inform the SPLA-IO authorities to ensure that our environment and the forest are protected from destruction”, Kijore briefly told Gurtong.
-“Community outcry on the forest logging and looting”-

Several residents in Kajo-Keji County said despite God’s blessings on the community with natural trees in the area, none of them benefited from the ongoing forest logging.

Chaplain Doga, a villager in Kajo-Keji County, said “We benefited nothing apart from only watching our big tree species being cut down, we only feel sounds of saw mill machines and seeing tracks coming to load forest logs deep in the villages”, he explained.

Our youth and elders have been deceived and paid little amount in either dollars or Ugandan shillings, our forest have been looted by our own sons and foreigners from the neighboring counties and we are left without standing trees in the forest anymore”, Doga outlined.

He said dealers in the forest reserves were mostly men in military uniforms and some individual businessmen.

“This war has caused a huge loss and destruction on our natural forest plantations; we hoped that we would benefit in form of new constructed community schools, health facilities, bore holes, markets or but not any single structure is seen on the ground”, he lamented.

Rose Amudo, another community member, blamed lack of strong leaders and advocates to speak against the ongoing looting and logging of the community natural resources.

“We don’t have a voice, we are powerless, here its only people holding guns whose voices are respected. We are so sorry because we are left with empty forest reserves, the few remaining trees are still being cut down without our say so. If the Government or the opposition realy cared about the needs of the community, we would not have been subjected to this suffering where our own forest is being looted by some individuals from Uganda”, She said

Rose is appealing to the country’s leaders to implement the revitalized peace deal so the remaining trees can be reserved and the going ones grow up in peace to help the next generation.

“We are already old and we did not enjoy anything from our trees from which our grandfathers used their roots and leaves as medical herbs to treat patients in the villages. We want to see peace so that our displaced children can one day harvest the small growing trees to develop our own villages”, She emphasized.

There was an order issued by the Governor of Yei River State instructing all the county commissioners in the forest reserve, including greater Kajo-Keji counties, stopping forest harvesting within the state.

“I can cannot do anything as the commissioner of Kangapo County because Liwolo is divided into two areas, one side is controlled by the Government under my control and the other side under the SPLA-IO controlled by the SPLA-IO. If we crossed over with our forces to control the forest logging, it would result in fighting and this will be violation of the revitalized peace agreement”, he said.

Wani is appealing to the SPLA-IO administration to ensure protection of the natural resources and ensure that forest logging is brought to an end.

“The SPLA-IO have a governor, ministers and commissioners and in fact a complete parallel government and my call to them is that destroying our own forest will lead to a negative climate change which will affect all of us”, he added.

Kajo-Keji county commissioner Amos Longa Modi told Gurtong in another separate interview that although neighboring Liwolo and Kangapo counties are experiencing massive deforestation and looting of forest reserves, he has issued a local order banning illegal and official forest logging in the area.

“I have instructed the security organs under my control to ensure that no body enters the natural forest fields to cut trees for commercial or local construction on the ground. I am implementing the orders issued by our governor and also as local government, we want to ensure that our environment is not tempered with because we know how important trees are to our health and our environment” he remarked.

Wani said, with the rampant and rapid deforestation in the area, several villages in Kangapo County are undergoing serious draught affecting the livelihood of the returning internally displaced persons and returnee population in the area.

“With the huge devastation, the major effect is on the climate change. Right from January this year, there is no single rain drop in Mijale, Keriwa, Sokare, Bori and many others have been affected and we are expecting looming hunger this year because our trees that survived for over 200-500 years have been cut down”, he explained.

Some two months ago, Authorities in the neighboring counties of Yei River State and Uganda’s West Nile Region met and resolved to end deforestation and improve security along its common borders in an effort to fight against the effects of climate change in the area.

Authorities from both sides also agreed to conduct regular meetings from either side to evaluate progress and challenges affecting climate changes around its common borders.

The commissioners of Kangapo, Kajo-Keji, and Liwolo and Kupera counties of Yei River State confirmed to Gurtong that since the signing of the revitalized peace agreement in September last year, the relationship between the SSPDF and the SPLA-IO has significantly improved, evidenced by free movement of civilians, reduced human rights violations and joint security meetings.

“Our working relationship as a government with our SSPDF and the SPLA-IO forces is good. We have been having joint security meetings, share funerals, community events and conduct joint visits and have open communication together without any challenge”, said Kajo-Keji County Commissioner Amos Longa.

Kangapo County Commissioner, Henry Kala Sabuni, said illegal forest dealers have changed its smuggling activities transporting forest harvest at night hours without the concern of the local government.

Henry said the state and national governments are losing millions of South Sudanese pounds and hard currency to some individual looters and thieves without any benefit to the local community.

“The stealing and transportation is done at night these days. Foreigners are looting our resources and we are losing millions of cash that does not even come to the hands of the Government. These untapped revenue is going to some individuals and others who claimed to be land lords” Henry said.
Mr. Kala is appealing to the state and national governments in the area to deploy trained police and military forces to restore rule of law and order at the South Sudan-Uganda border areas.

“We don’t have competent police in the area, I am calling on the state and national government to send police here so that there is rule of law and we also need to see that our revenue sources are properly tapped to help in the renovation and development of health facilities, schools, provision of clean water and improved road infrastructure” He concluded.

Clara Hayad Oliver, an environmental activist working for the organization for socio-economic transformation (OSET) South Sudan is warning authorities against rampant forest depletion in the areas without setting re-afforestation plans and polices.

Clara said as the state is experiencing wide spread lumbering, Yei River State is forest likely to lose its most valuable tree species and exposed to negative climate change in the next few years to come.

“We are so concerned about the ongoing destruction on our forest plantation. To make matters worse, there are no protective policies such as cut one and plant five put in place, if stake holders are not serious about environmental management plans, lets expect short of rains, prolonged shortage of rain and desertification among communities”, Mrs. Clara stressed.

Clara said her organization is advocating of adoptive policies to be presented to the council of ministers and the parliament towards environmental protection and the eco-system.

Clara further appealed to the senior heads of state authorities either in the government or the SPLA-IO to issue strong orders and laws that prohibits forest exploitation in Yei River State.

Chapter four of the revitalized peace agreement stipulated for proper, controlled, transparent and accountable usage of the country’s natural resources including forest for the benefit of the community, the people and the government.

 

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28/05/2019, 9:24 AM
 - Posted by Jacob Akol
The Dinka say: "the secrets of Water are like secrets of Forest" (Ka muony war acit ke muony ror). When the wood is gone, they will tear the Sudd apart with our support!
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