5 February 2019

Uganda: My Life Is in Danger, Claims Environmental Activist

Photo: Liam Taylor
Logs felled by charcoal burners in Palaro, Gulu district, Uganda, February 13, 2019.

A renowned environmental activist in Adjumani District has said he is facing death threats for his role in exposing illegal timber loggers in the district.

Mr William Amanzuru, the coordinator of Friends of Zoka, a pressure group formed to save Zoka Central Forest Reserve, says he lives in fear.

The organisation, which was formed in 2015, has almost 55 members.

Recently, the group survived a confrontation in Okawa Village, Pakelle Sub-county, where they had camped to stop deforestation.

They had received information on a businesswoman identified as Ms Kevin Keliki Azaa, who had reportedly deployed casual labourers, to cut down Afzelia Africana trees from Okawa Forest, 40 kilometers from Adjumani Town.

Mr Amanzuru says although they had peacefully approached the workers, Ms Azaa allegedly confronted him and threatened to kill him.

Allegations

He said when Ms Azaa charged further on him, he fled the scene on a motorcycle but she followed them.

He alleged that Ms Azaa drove ahead of them and parked her Land Cruiser in the middle of the road with the intention to stop them.

"We managed to pass her first attempt to block the road for us, she drove past us again and in the second road block she staged, we were forced to come down from the tractor. She had a jerrycan of petrol and matchbox with two men she told to harm us but we managed to flee," he said.

Zoka Central Forest Reserve is located in Itirikwa and Ukusijoni sub-counties in southern part of Adjumani District and is one of the country's natural rain forest in northern Uganda.

Response

When contacted, Ms Azaa denied the accusations.

She, however, claimed that the group instead wanted to steal her Shs10 million at her home in Okawa Village.

Ms Azaa accused Mr Amanzuru of confiscating phones and national Identity cards belonging to one of her employees.

"I had not personally met Amanzuru before, but on that fateful day, he and his friends stormed my home and demanded that I pay them Shs10 million. They also attacked me and my employees who were repairing a tractor for ploughing my farm," Ms Azaa told Daily Monitor last week.

Ms Azaa also denied cutting down trees for logs and charcoal although she acknowledged that she once bought Afzelia Africana logs that were auctioned by the Adjumani District local government.

"Where they claim I am cutting down trees, is the farm I started last year. I don't deal in logs and it's not in my plan," she said.

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