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    NEMA Was Right: Judge Finds No Fault In Hoima Sugar Being Allowed To Grow Sugarcane On Bugoma Forest Land…

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    Justice Musa Ssekana (L) and Sheila Nduhukire

    The Certificate of approval granted to Hoima Sugar Limited for the proposed Kyangwali mixed land use in the disputed part of Bugoma Central forest reserve in Kikuube District was legally issued, the court has confirmed.

    Kampala High Court Judge Musa Ssekaana dismissed cases in which Civil Society Organisations were challenging the legality of the Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) approved by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) for sugarcane growing.

    “The complainants in order to attract the attention of the public and also to justify their existence as bodies concerned with environment protection and awareness are trying to make all sorts of unsubstantiated allegations to win public sympathy. Courts of law are strictly guided by the law and sensationalism should never be used to sway court in any matter. The key stakeholders were consulted and they made written representations but the applicants seem to argue as if no consultation was ever made before the certificate of approval was made,” the judge ruled.

    The court observed that NEMA sent a copy of the ESIA to National Forestry Authority (NFA) and other stakeholders who made comments to the entire project and which comments were addressed before the approval of the project.

    “The different stakeholders were consulted before the certificate of approval of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report was approved. The standard of consultation under the particular statutory context was satisfied since it is a general principle of fairness that the consulted party is able to address the concerns of the decision-maker. The concerns of the stakeholders and especially the National Forestry Authority and Wildlife Authority were considered and this evidence is clearly set out on the court record,” the judge ruled.

    Three conservation organisations; Water & Environment Media network (U) ltd (WEMNET-U), National Association of Professional Environmentalists (Nape) and Africa Institute for Energy Governance (Afiego) had petitioned the court in two separate cases which were later merged into one by court.

    Through their lawyers, the organisations were seeking for a court declaration that the approval of the Environmental and Social Impact (ESIA) Statement and the Nema issuing of the Certificate of Approval of ESIA Certificate to Hoima Sugar Limited for the Kyangwali Mixed Land Use Project was marred by flaws, procedural irregularities and without due recourse to the relevant provisions of the laws and regulations.

    They contended that the NEMA’s decision to issue a Certificate of Approval was illegal and procedurally improper for not conducting a public hearing and or allowing public participation in decision making.

    They argued that the process denied the interested parties including themselves a chance to effectively put forth their views aimed at protecting their rights to a clean and healthy environment.

    The judge observed that it appears the complaints were premised on distorted facts and the NGOs attempted to suppress the real facts in order to make ‘flowery’ case in court by exaggerating that the entire forest is being cleared for sugarcane planting or that 5000 hectares (21 square miles) of the forest is being cleared for sugarcane growing.

    “This is not true and it is an alarmism since out of the entire leasehold certificate of title issued to Hoima Sugar Limited, they are supposed to plant sugarcanes on 2,393.8483 hectares against a total area of 5,579 hectares which is less than half. Secondly, the Bugoma Central Forest Reserve is still intact and Hoima Sugar Limited has been directed to undertake enrichment planting covering an area of 3.8919sq miles and must carry out regulated activities,” Justice Ssekaana ruled.

    Justice Ssekaana also ruled that the court is satisfied that the community was duly consulted and heard their views about the project and the court is not persuaded by the complainant’s argument that the people consulted were few in absence of any evidence to the contrary.

    “The law does not require consultation of everybody in the community and this would definitely be an impossibility to achieve. The law does not prescribe or set any standard procedure and number of people to be consulted. The court would be wrong in setting a standard for the decision-maker to satisfy for the hearing of the views of the community about the said project. The court would leave the discretion to be exercised by the decision-maker on whether the community is satisfactorily consulted,” the judge ruled.

    According to the court decision, Nema Executive Director was not bound to hold any public hearing premised on rules since there was no controversy and there are no trans-boundary impacts.

    Justice Ssekaana argued that the NGOs’ argument that there is a controversy in ownership of the land as well as a pending Appeal against the decision of the High Court is extremely weak and the executive director should not be used as a court on legal matters which are pending in the Court of Appeal.

    The court observed that NGOs are increasingly relying on public interest standing or Public concern standing to challenge governmental action and this preferred from individuals who are merely interested in personal fame.

    “The public bodies should not be disrupted unnecessarily, to the disadvantage of other members of the public, by having to contest discreditable proceedings. The courts should reserve their power to interfere with the working of public authorities to those occasions when there is a claim before them by someone who has been adversely affected by the unlawful conduct of which the complaint is made,” the judge ruled.

    Justice Ssekana advised that Public interest litigation should not be used for personal or political gains or for mere publicity or for other oblique reasons. Such public interest matters should be done by persons having expert knowledge in the field after making proper research especially if it is concerned with issues of constitutional law. He said it is true that public interest litigation has been abused and is increasingly used by advocates for publicity and or seeking prominence in the legal profession and it is now ‘Publicity Litigation’.

    Yet, according to the judge, it is supposed to be a special type of litigation which is essentially meant to protect basic human rights of the weak and disadvantaged who on account of poverty, helplessness, or social and economic disabilities could not approach the court for relief or for upholding the rule of law and constitutionalism or where a matter of grave public concern is involved.

    The Court is charged under the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State policy in the Constitution to provide sustainable development and public awareness of the need to manage land, air and water resources in a balanced and sustainable manner for the present and future generations.

    On the issue of conducting consultations, the judge held that a consultative meeting that exceeded the 85 people was conducted and that there is no legal provision that indicates any numerical requirement regarding the minimum number of people to be consulted.

    In the statement issued on Saturday, Hoima Sugar Limited welcomed the decision saying that it is a great milestone which will boost sustainable social economic transformation of Hoima and Uganda as a whole.

    “This will be through job and wealth creation; both directly and indirectly, tax revenue remittances to the national treasury, improvement of social amenities such as schools and health facilities among others,” the company said in a statement.

    On August 14 2020, Nema issued an ESIA certificate to Hoima Sugar Limited for the mixed land use on 21.54sq miles that is valid for the five years but to be revised upon request or when the project area conditions change.

    By Our Reporter

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    CRIME

    Why M7 Appointed Trusted Brother Gen. Saleh To Command Fight Against Gunmen Attacks On Security Forces …

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    President Museveni and his brother Gen. Salim Saleh

    President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the Commander in Chief has assigned his young trusted brother and special senior presidential advisor Gen. Salim Saleh to supervise the fight against gunmen who are attacking security installations and forces.

    Credible security sources have intimated to theGrapevine that Museveni was briefed by his confidant intelligence team that security agencies have failed to defeat the armed men who attack police posts and military barracks.

    Internal Affairs State Minister Gen. David Muhoozi briefed parliament that 22 suspects including UPDF soldiers and two police officers were charged before the court martial on offences related to the recent attacks on police stations and military barracks. The minister said that within a period of 12 months, 13 attacks have been reported, 15 guns were stolen and 6 of these have not yet been recovered.

    “According to available intelligence, the motives for these actions are acquisition of arms for subversive activities, as well as for other criminal ends other than subversion,” the minister said.

    However, the minister explained that some of the attacks were as a result of laxity in the security forces and sources have said that it is this laxity that has forced President Museveni to bring back Gen. Saleh after establishing that his security forces were carrying out uncoordinated operations against the said gunmen.

    Sources added that the big man was very bitter with some security bosses for giving uncoordinated statements, he gave an example of the statement issued by police identifying the gunmen as rebels which the army rubbished and insisted that the attackers are criminal gangs.

    Sources said that Museveni directed all security bosses that before an operation is carried out, Gen. Saleh has to be informed and if it is an emergency, he has to be briefed not beyond five hours after the operation.

    “You know these gangs have started using tactics which President Museveni’s NRA rebels used especially when they started attacking security installation with the aim of stealing guns, didn’t you hear that the attackers at Gaddafi barracks in Jinja first strangled the UPDF soldier before firing bullets on his dead body?” a source said.

    He added that Museveni wants Gen. Saleh to use the same tactics they have previously used to fight gunmen.

    Another source said that there is a sharp division within security agencies and the president wants Gen. Saleh to fix it and save the situation.

    Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the special presidential senior advisor on operation, has been the supervisor of all the operations in the country.

     

    By Sengooba Alirabaki

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    NATIONAL

    Has Bobi Wine Finally Made Up His Mind To Replace Mpuuga With Zaake? Battle For LOP Position Rages On, NUP Speaks out…

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    L-R: Mityana municipality MP Zaake, LOP Mpuuga and NUP boss Bobi Wine

    David Lewis Rubongoya, the National Unity Platform (NUP) Secretary General has rubbished allegations that his party president Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu alias Bobi Wine has written to Annet Anita Among, the Speaker of Parliament, appointing Mityana Municipality Member of Parliament (MP) Francis Zaake as the Leader of Opposition in Parliament replacing Mathias Mpuuga Nsamba.

    Rubongoya said that the aim of people who are circulating allegations that Bobi Wine has fired Mpuuga is to disorganise opposition legislators and NUP members at large which they cannot accept as NUP leadership.

    The allegation come at a time when Bobi Wine has just blasted some of his party MPs and opposition at large for not supporting Zaake when he was protesting on the floor of parliament over the kidnapping of opposition supporters especially in Buganda.

    Thomas Tayebwa, the deputy speaker of parliament early this week sent Zaake to the parliament’s disciplinary committee for violating his orders when he insisted on commenting on the ongoing kidnaps in the country even after advising him on the right procedure to follow.

    However, Bobi Wine claims that it was wrong for Tayebwa to frustrate Zaake and praised Makindye West legislator Derrick Nyeko, Kasanda South’s Frank Kabuye, Nakaseke Central’s Allan Mayanja and Kilak South’s Gilbert Olanyah who stood with Zaake when he was protesting.

    Sources inside NUP revealed that Bobi Wine is very determined to drop all the opposition leadership in parliament because they are not respecting his orders and are in bed with the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party which he says is betrayal.

    Sources added that apart from Zaake, other people who are being vetted to replace Mpuuga include Busiro East’s Medard Lubega Ssegona and Kasanda North’s Patrick Oshabe Nsamba.

     

    By Sengooba Alirabaki

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    CRIME

    Buganda Premier Mayiga In Panic Over City Businessman Who Wants To Finish Him…

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    Buganda premier Charles Peter Mayiga

    Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson Patrick Onyango has revealed that detectives from Old Kampala police station have kicked off investigation against a controversial city businessman for inciting Kisekka market youths against Buganda Premier Charles Peter Mayiga.

    In an exclusive interview with theGrapevine, Onyango said that on Monday morning, Old Kampala police received information about angry Buganda youths who were threatening to cause insecurity at Bulange building which houses Buganda Kingdom headquarters.

    Onyango said that his police quickly saved the situation and arrested some of the youths who led the attack.

    He explained that preliminary investigation show that there might be a big man behind the goons who were hired from Kisekka market to bring tension and panic at Bulange building and against the person of Mayiga.

    “They are going to be charged with the offences of criminal trespass and inciting violence. However, investigations are ongoing and we might charge them with other offences because we are still looking for that person who is behind them,” Onyango said.

    Detectives at Old Kampala police told theGrapevine that they suspect that there is a top city tycoon who facilitated these youths to attack Buganda Kingdom.

    He added that they might be the ones who forged the signature of the Buganda Kingdom King Ronald Muwenda Mutebi that was put on the letter suspending all works at all Kingdom institutions including clans headquarters, his palaces and at the Kingdom headquarters.

    In the forged letter, there were instructions directing UPDF and Uganda Police with immediate effect to stop providing security at the said Kingdom headquarters.

    Detectives added that the youths identified themselves as Kabaka Munyango and are the ones who normally escort Kabaka Mutebi when he is travelling internally.

    It is alleged the suspects wanted to stage a deadly protest against Kabaka as a way of provoking his security to fire bullets at them which would have resulted in bloodshed.

    The suspects were found with machetes and placards with writings pleading to Kabaka Mutebi to fire Mayiga over incompetence and corruption.

    Buganda Kingdom disowned the said letter insisting that it was not signed by Kabaka.

    However, sources within Mengo revealed that the letter was authored within Bulange by Mayiga’s enemies.

    Efforts to get a comment from Buganda Kingdom were futile as Noor Kiyimba, the Kingdom’s information and cabinet minister was not picking our calls by press time.

     

    By Sengooba Alirabaki

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