The National Forestry Authority (NFA) has impounded an estimated 200 tons of charcoal in a crackdown on the illegal movement of forest products from the Acholi Sub-region.
The operation was jointly undertaken with the Environmental Police Protection Unit (EPPU) and targeted defiant charcoal businessmen operating against a Presidential ban on the commercial charcoal trade.
President Museveni issued Executive Order Number 3 on May 19 banning rampant tree felling for commercial charcoal production following outcries of declining forest cover in the region.
John Giribo, the NFA Acting Range Manager for Aswa Region told Uganda Radio Network the authority along with the police has for the last two weeks been cracking down on illegal charcoal dealers.
He says they were able to impound over 20 heavy trucks loaded with charcoal mostly from Amuru district and have been parked at the NFA regional offices in Gulu City and the Gulu Police Barracks.
Giribo says they are currently processing the files of the drivers and charcoal dealers implicated and will forward them to the Resident State Attorney for Sanctioning before they are arraigned in courts for trial.
He notes that they are banking their hopes on the outcome of the court which will give out a clear position on what they have to do with the impounded charcoal.
Giribo acknowledged that the authority is facing gaps in implementation due to manpower shortage but assured that through a partnership with other stakeholders, they will intensify the crackdown to see an end to the illegal charcoal trade.
However, more than 40 charcoal traders and drivers who have camped at the NFA regional offices in Pece-Laroo Division have faulted the authorities for keeping them waiting for long without making a decision on their fate.
Ashraf Ssebuma, a charcoal businessman from Nansana in Kampala says his 200 bags of charcoal were impounded a week ago but he is yet to get a clear position from NFA officials on his fate.
Sssebuma says while he acknowledges breaking a presidential directive, he deserves fair treatment and expeditious decision-making since he is running out of money for upkeep and time to clear loans.
Nsamba Bulhamwe, another charcoal dealer who has equally spent a week in Gulu ever since his charcoal was impounded says they are requesting the government to pardon them so as to recover the money invested in the charcoal business.
Bulhamwe says he invested a 10 million shillings loan he acquired for buying charcoal within the communities in Amuru district before the president issued the executive order.
He also alleged that those implementing the crackdown are being selective in their operation arguing that non-natives from the region are being targeted while charcoal dealers from the region are left scot-free.
The crackdown comes barely a month after the Police impounded 18 trucks loaded with an estimated 10,000 bags of charcoal in the disputed Apaa land in the Adjumani district.
President Museveni in his May 19 executive order however faulted the corrupt elements in security forces and officials in charge of the Environment and National Forestry Authority (NFA) for aiding the rising charcoal trade.