In a joint operation conducted by the police, National Forestry Authority (NFA), and Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), security personnel in Adjumani District successfully impounded 18 trucks loaded with illicit charcoal in the disputed Apaa area, bordering Amuru District.
According to Adjumani Resident District Commissioner Peter Taban, the operation took place in Itirikwa Sub-county on Wednesday.
Of the impounded trucks, 15 were fully loaded with charcoal and were being transported by unidentified individuals to Amuru District, while the remaining three trucks were empty.
The operation was carried out in response to an executive order issued by President Yoweri Museveni, aiming to eradicate illegal charcoal trading in the region and address the depletion of natural tree cover, particularly in areas like Zoka Central Forest Reserve. The executive order, issued on May 19, prohibits commercial charcoal production through tree cutting in Northern Uganda.
“We took action on the orders of the President. We have already deployed our men on the ground to remove all those who are illegally camped in Zoka Central Forest Reserve,” explained Taban.
He further stated that the drivers abandoned the trucks, which are currently stationed at Apaa Police Station. To prevent the fleeing drivers from escaping with the trucks, security personnel have removed the vehicle number plates.
Taban confirmed that a team has been dispatched to unload the charcoal from the trucks and ascertain the exact quantity, as they cannot be driven back without the drivers.
Adjumani District Police Commander Benon Byamukama revealed that each truck is estimated to carry approximately 200 bags of charcoal, resulting in a total of around 10,000 bags of charcoal seized. However, Byamukama declined to provide further details, mentioning his recent transfer from Adjumani District.
Patrick Rubangaku, a forest ranger with Adjumani District Forest Services, acknowledged the community sensitization efforts undertaken following the President’s executive order. However, he noted that despite several dialogues held, tangible results in curbing the illegal trade in forest products are yet to be achieved.
President Museveni, in his executive order, criticized corrupt elements within the security forces and officials responsible for the Environment and National Forestry Authority (NFA), accusing them of facilitating the growing charcoal trade.
The President raised concerns about security personnel allegedly providing escort services to charcoal dealers and questioned the source and providers of armed guards involved in the charcoal business.