Kajo-Keji authorities fail to arrest illegal loggers

Felled down logs at Poni Yinge Village of Kansuk Boma in Nyepo Payam of Kajo-Keji County, Central Equatoria State. This picture was taken on the 7th of November 2021 during the visit of a fact finding committee headed by a senior prosecutor and an investigator who visited the area for primary investigations, before issuance of the arrest warrants in question.

By Philip Buda Ladu

Kajo-Keji County authorities have failed to execute arrest warrants issued against companies’ managers and individuals carrying out illegal forest logging in the county, a lawmaker representing Kajo-Keji at the State Transitional Legislative Assembly has revealed.

The arrest warrants came as a result of the community efforts to pursue legal measures against the illegal loggers that are robbing the area of its historical big trees.

The Nyepo Community first summoned the managers of the logging companies to appear in court in Juba but they failed to appear prompting the community to open a case against the companies and individuals where arrest warrants were issued after primary investigation on the ground, but none has been arrested.  

The prominent companies involved in the illegal logging in Kajo-Keji that were issued the arrest warrants include; Aguet Trading Company managed by James Madual Thong, Santos Petroleum and Timber Company managed by Dominic Wani and then Oscar Investment Company of Jimmy Nigo, according to local authorities.

The Central Equatoria State Transitional Legislative Assembly (STLA) on Wednesday resolved to summon two State ministers and the County Commissioner of Kajo-Keji to answer questions concerning persistent illegal logging business in the county, amid orders issued to ban the activity.

The logging business has been ongoing across Central Equatoria State and most importantly in Kajo-Keji County during the recent armed conflict, however it expanded and increased in scale worse than ever experienced in the history of deforestation in South Sudan, according to one of the lawmakers.

The scenario has continued consistently amid executive orders even after the formation of the RTGoNU to date.

In an attempt to bring an end to this, the leadership of Kajo-Keji Community Organization (KCO) presented a community complaint to the office of H.E. the Governor in August 2020.

Also on July 1st 2021, the leadership of Nyepo Community of Nyepo Payam (Kajo-Keji County) presented similar community complaints to the Office of the Governor as the logging business continued extensively.

Following the persistent public outcry after all efforts made, on 9th Oct 2020, Governor Emmanuel Adil issued an Executive order tasking the State Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Environment and Local Government and Law Enforcement, Heads of Legal Prosecution and County Commissioner to implement banning of logging business in the State.

Hon. Mila Amos Peter who moved the motion for the summon of the two ministers and Kajo-Keji County Commissioner said despite those Executive orders issued by the communities, the magnitude of logging by the companies continues unabated to date.

He said civilians have been subjected to arbitrary arrests, harassment and intimidation, the Acting Executive Director of Nyepo Payam who is currently under detention in the main military barracks of Kajo-Keji County, is one of the live examples of the arbitrary arrests in question.

Julius Lokonga Eliyuda, a lawmaker representing Kajo-Keji County at the State Assembly affirmed the Kajo-Keji Community and the Nyepo Community presented a number of complaints to the authorities concerned.

He said orders were issued by the Governor and also backed by the County Commissioner but there is defiance in implementing those orders.

“These people are being guarded by our own soldiers the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) and the community is being threatened, if you talk, you are accused to either being an associate of National Salvation Front (NAS), this is the language they are using”, “you people are hiding some wrong elements in these bushes,” Lokonga echoed.

The lawmaker said the community is being threatened simply because the loggers want to harvest all the logs,

“These communities went as far as going to the prosecutor, they went up to the ground to see the magnitude of the logging, took photos, warrant of arrests were issued to these companies and individuals, these warrants were sent to the Kajo-Keji County Commissioner and the Police who are to execute the arrest of these companies and individuals, but up to date nothing has been done,” Lokonga asserted.

Lokonga stressed that he believes the issues of the forest logging is not happening only in Kajo-Keji saying perhaps other people who hail from other areas of Central Equatoria State could also bear witness of logging.

“It is important that we bring this to the attention of this August House as an institution so that we see the way forward” he said.

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