Museveni bans charcoal trade, Balaalo herdsmen from northern Uganda

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President Yoweri Museveni

Kampala, Uganda | URN | President Yoweri Museveni has signed an executive order banning tree cutting for commercial charcoal production and expelled Balaalo herdsmen in northern Uganda.

The executive order exercised under Article 99 (2) of the constitution was issued by the President on Friday 19, May 2023.

This comes barely two weeks after the President pledged to sign the executive order after meeting with a section of leaders from the Acholi Sub-region who raised concerns about the rising charcoal trade in the region.

The President however faulted the corrupt elements in security forces and officials in charge of the Environment and National Forestry Authority (NFA) for allegedly aiding the rising charcoal trade.

He pointed out that some security personnel have even gone to the extent of providing escort services for the destructive charcoal business.

“The people in charge of the Environment and Forestry allow this destructive business to go on massively. Apparently, armed people escort this charcoal. Where are the armed guards coming from, who is providing them, all the same, the question must be answered.?,” the president wondered.

He says the charcoal burners in their quest for charcoal have turned to cut down Shea butter trees which have forced locals to hold the security people in great contempt.

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A woman on top covered with fuming smoke of burning charcoal in Nwoya district in northern Uganda

“In order to save the environment and the reputation of the NRM, I therefore hereby ban the cutting of trees for charcoal burning,” He ordered.

The President also on a separate note issued an order for the expulsion of nomadic pastoralists commonly referred to as balaalo herders from Northern Uganda with immediate effect by June this year.

“By the authority of this executive order, no Mulaalo, should settle and bring cattle to settle and bring cattle to Northern Uganda except with the permission of the Minister for Lands and the Minister of Agriculture,” He says.

He however asked the Attorney General to come up with a draft of a law criminalizing nomadism and suggested that culprits could serve 7 years in prison for bringing cattle into Northern Uganda illegally.

Acholi Sub-region has witnessed a surge in the destruction of forest cover for the growing demand for charcoal and timber lately despite an earlier ban issued by the Ministry of Environment in February this year.

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This has forced some of the local leaders and vigilante groups to take up civic action as an alternative measure to curb the illicit trade and transport of charcoal out of the region.

For instance, former Aruu North County Member of Parliament Samuel Odonga Otto recently launched Ribe Pi Paco, a youth-led advocacy group to champion the vice in the region. Otto equally accused the security personnel and officials in the National Forestry Authority of being behind the charcoal trade in the Acholi Sub-region.

It is estimated that Gulu district alone lost a total of 38,700 hectares of forest cover between 2010 and 2021, accounting for about 6.2 percent loss of forest cover. According to a Global Forest Watch Report, the bulk of the forest covers were depleted due to the growing charcoal trade and wild forest fires.