By Philip Buda Ladu
Disgruntled loggers that recently threatened Kajo-Keji County Authorities over the ban of all logging activities have been seen by locals naively sneaking in trucks at night to ferry the felled down logs that they were demanding.
Reports indicated that transit goods Lorries could be seen entering Kajo-Keji County from Uganda’s Moyo District through the Afoji-Jale border crossing point preferably at late evening hours. Anonymous reports said the trucks started entering on 14th October 2021.
The trucks always proceed to Nyepo Payam of Kajo-Keji County where they are loaded with logs and exited through the same Jale-Afoji border post mostly during early morning hours.
Kajo-Keji County has been witnessing dubious acts of logging activities leading to mass destruction of the forest which started since the eruption of the fighting in 2016 mainly carried out by opposition but it continued into the post war period which angered the communities there.
Several cries by the community appealing to the local and State governments to protect their natural resources got little attention from the concerned authorities as little has been done to enforce orders issued to stop the illegal act. This has left the community to question whether the State actors are not behind the deal.
An eye witness who declined to be put on record citing security threats on his life because of the complexity of the issue said the loggers are back to their normal activities backed up by security personnel who frighten even the locals to question their actions.
The reliable source said the loggers who some days back threatened the Kajo-Keji county officials to allow them ferry felled down logs or they will terrorize the county have returned to the bushes to collect the logs as machines sound could be heard all over.
This comes after what seems to be enforcement of an order stopping all logging acts in the area issued by the State and county authorities in July and August respectively triggering tensions between the loggers and the authorities.
Mogga Emmanuel, an eyewitness on the ground said he had seen three trucks that usually carry logs from Kajo-Keji parked at Afoji side of the Ugandan border with South Sudan on the 20th of October 2021 waiting to enter Kajo-Keji through the Jale border point to carry logs.
Meanwhile, Nelson Beden, the Kajo-Keji County Director of Forest who received threats from the illegal loggers told No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper on Thursday that he had heard of the reports that the loggers have resorted to stealing the logs at night but he couldn’t verify the rumors as he fears for his live.
“Actually I don’t have credible information but I also heard it that there are trucks moving at night with logs, because of the threats I also have to be careful of my life so I don’t give any heart to what’s going on, I also want to protect myself,” Mr. Beden responded when asked by this reporter.
Beden said according to the rumors, he heard that the trucks use the Kajo-Keji main road that stretches right from Juba leading up to the entry to the Ugandan border Town of Moyo District.
It is however unclear how the trucks enter and exit Kajo-Keji County loaded with logs through the Jale border which has the presence of the South Sudan Immigration officials and National Revenue Authority.
The Kajo-Keji County Forest Director said the NRA and Immigration officials at the South Sudan border point at Jale in Kajo-Keji County should be the right people to answer the question as to how the illegal banned business of logging has been aided through the border.
No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper’s efforts to establish any contact from the Jale Custom border’s officials in Kajo-Keji County where not immediately successful by press time.
“I have not taken any measures against the banned illegal logging activity because I also fear for my life and the issue has already been reported to the State government,” Beden the County Forest Director responded.
However, Madual Thong, the Manager of Aguet Trading Company that is involved in the chaotic logging saga in Kajo-Keji County who at some point issued threats to the county authorities over logging ban first denied his company resorted to illegal ferrying of the logs.
Thong said they are yet to reach an agreement with the county authorities to be able to collect and transport their felled down logs in the bushes. He initially denied the fact that truck ferried logs at night but later acknowledged that it did happened when he was in Uganda.
“That one is not true Sir, those people are liars there are no trucks entering in the bush,” Thong told No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper on Sunday when contacted over the matter.
Thong later submitted that he didn’t know exactly if it’s true or not. “Maybe I didn’t know that one I will have to ask my people who are here I went to Uganda,” he exclaimed.
Fortunately, within press time he rang back and accepted that his people had entered one truck when he was in Uganda just to provoke the county authorities to see what will be their reaction.
“I consulted and I got that it’s right, one member of my company (Aguet) entered the truck when I was not there,” Thong affirmed. He said only one truck entered and exited with logs.
When asked of how the soldiers got to guard the machine operators in the bush when cutting the trees, the Aguet Company Manager said he always hire the soldiers to provide security to his workers because of insecurity. He said he pays each soldier 20,000 Ugandan shillings daily.
The companies involved in what the community described as illegal logging in Kajo-Keji are; Aguet Trading Company managed by Madual Thong, Santos Petroleum and Timber Company managed by Dominic Wani and then Oscar Investment Company of Jimmy Nigo.
Madual Thong of Aguek Trading Company said they were invited to Kajo-keji by the then Defunct Yei River State to buy logs confiscated from SPLM-IO and auctioned to the three companies which they paid about 16,000 US dollars to the State authority.
He said they were also licensed by Kajo-Keji county authority in which they paid 1,500 US dollars in order to carry their logs but later the Community of Nyepo also arrested his workers and machines and his company ended up paying 35 million Ugandan shillings.
On the other hand, Dominic Wani of Santos Petroleum and Timber Company said he is not deeply involved in the logs cutting business in Kajo-Keji County but he was contracted in 2019 by the defunct Kangapo and Kajo-Keji counties to grade their roads and the Kajo-Keji Airstrip.
Wani said he was not paid all his money as he demands at least 25,000 US dollars from the County authority before he leaves.
He noted that following his long stay doing nothing in Kajo-Keji while waiting for his money which up to date hasn’t been paid, lured him to broker a deal with one landlord in Kansuk Boma of Nyepo Payam who he paid 3 million pound and cut 7 trucks of logs that he was yet to carry.