News / 18 September 2020

Ugandan forest defenders arrested

On September 16, 9 members of the Save Bugoma Forest Campaign in Uganda have been arrested. One of them works for AFIEGO, a partner organization of Both ENDS. The members of the Save Bugoma Forest campaign were in the Hoima province to take part in a peaceful demonstration aimed at stopping the destruction of Bugoma forest for sugarcane growing and oil activities.

The planned protest was aimed at expressing disagreement with government
agencies that have given away concessions in Bugoma forest for sugarcane growing, as AFIEGO writes in a press statement.

On their way to a radio show

Two of the group members were arrested on their way to a radio talkshow at Spice FM in Hoima. The two were set to discuss the risks and dangers of destroying Bugoma forest for sugarcanee growing and allowing oil activities in critical biodiversity areas including rivers, lakes, national parks, forests, wetlands and others. The talkshow was also aimed at providing information on the planned peaceful protests. Seven others were arrested at Hoima police station while trying to negotiate the release of their two colleagues. It is not known on which grounds the activists have been arrested.

Unlawful arrests

In Uganda, citizens have the right to speak out against the government and companies that are active in the country. Therefore the Ugandan police is breaking the law with the arrest of activist who stand up to protect the environment.

Two journalists who were part of the group have been released the next day. Ugandan organisations call on their authorities to also release the remaining seven persons. Both ENDS joins this call. We stay in close contact with our partner AFIEGO and with the Dutch ambassy in Uganda. Intimidation, threats and arrests of activists and human rights defenders are all too common in Uganda.

Solar energy instead of oil

Both ENDS works with AFIEGO (Africa Institute for Energy Governance) to show the Ugandan government that allowing companies to extract oil is not contributing to development. AFIEGO is campaigning to invest in solar energy projects instead, in which local communities are the owners of the energy production. Furthermore Both ENDS and AFIEGO call attention for the human rights impacts during the construction of of hydropower dams in Uganda.

Update 21 September 2020: all activists released, but intimidation continues

On Saturday 19 September, all activists were released. However, police investigations into the actions of the two journalists continue. The other activists were released without any charge, but were told not to enter Hoima again. According to AFIEGO's director, Dickens Kamugisha, this is illegal intimidation by the local police: "They want to scare us so our campaign will fail. But we must protect our forest, so we know they will be arrested again soon."

Both ENDS, as well as the Dutch embassy, keep a close eye on the case.

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