Lawmakers to expose illicit logging cartels

Lawmakers at Central Equatoria State Transitional Legislative Assembly during parliamentary Ordinary Sitting No.11/2022 on Wednesday 13th 2022 in Juba

By Philip Buda Ladu

The Members of Parliament in Central Equatoria State’s Transitional Legislative Assembly are exerting their effort as they confront to expose the illicit loggers in Kajo-Keji County. In recent days, there has been issue of persistent illegal logging business in the County where area members of parliament described it as complex and organized crime.

Earlier, the State lawmakers summoned two State ministers including; Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Forestry, and the Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement Agencies to answer questions on the lucrative logging business in the area; and MPs seemed not satisfied with their answers.

Majority of the parliamentarian then consented to a proposal that a specialized parliamentary committee be constituted, and sent on the ground to investigate the issue; where the committee will come out with authentic, comprehensive final reports that would sort out individuals behind the logging.

One of the MPs representing Kajo-Keji county, Joseph Lasu Gale expressed his disappointment in the State government’s handling of the matter, saying what is happening in Kajo-Keji is a security concern.

He said that the local government representative in the county is only thinking of themselves, not the resources of the county. He suggested for the formation of committee that would investigate the logging issue and later present the report to the house.

“I come from Kajo-Keji; I am a son of Kajo-Keji, and it is not only Kajo-Keji. It is about the timbers. Now, five years the cattle herders are there; Kajo-Keji has become a no man’s land. We have to form a committee and find out these people who are logging, because they have a market. Mine is a concern of security,” the MP said.

“The border is very long and it is naked, and if the enemy wants to come in, he will come through Kajo-Keji we are now the one holding the bull by the horns and some people are sleeping here (Juba) and the logging money is sent here and some people divide it from here” he continued.

Another MP, Hastin Yokwe said the issues of trees logging and cutting trees for charcoal business is something that all the people of the State aware of, but only that they don’t know the magnitude.

Hon. Yokwe said when the issue of logging and trees’ cutting was reported in Kajo-Keji and in different parts of the State, he expected the concerned authorities from the relevant ministries to do field assessment, to determine exactly what is happening, where and who those behind it, are.

In addition, one of the MPs, Wani Jackson Mule a lawmaker representing Western Kajo-Keji, and who was the former Commissioner of the Defunct Liwolo County of Former Yei River State added his voice to the proposal of drastic measures to arrest the issue at hand.

“I still stand with the proposal advanced by some members that we will not get tired, anything that’s affecting the lives of our people we will not be tired. We need the Commissioner here, we need the two ministers still here and we need the County Commissioner to come and clear himself here since the ministers seem to have no knowledge of the logging,” MP Mule said.

“I also backed the idea that for us to be comprehensive enough to solve this issue not only for Kajo-Keji but for the whole State, we need a committee of this August House to be taken down to find a lot of details we will get from the community because if the State gov’t is expressing lack of knowledge about it then I personally can assume that either the State gov’t itself or some individuals within the State government might be collaborating” he added.  

However, he again raised concern that, the committee that will be sent might be bribed by those behind the logging. “Don’t be surprised for us to get from there that all the committees that were sent there ended up being bribed, given some dollars in pockets and come back with no reports. Let us not be surprised to see that some people in our own gov’t maybe receiving the dollars of the massacre, let’s not be surprised to see that even our own ministries maybe eating from the same sauce” Mule said.

He further said the parliament should take the situation into their hands so that whoever is responsible is made to answer, citing the reason why some of the locals rebelled against the government during 2016 incident.

“We will get there if there was someone who was covering on behalf of other parties; be it SPLM-IG be it SPLM/A-IO, whoever be it NAS one time they will all be here,” the area parliamentarian said.

“We need those individuals named so that in our final report that will be produced, the names of those individuals will be there then we put recommendations either to request the State gov’t to form a special tribunal to try the perpetrators of this massacre of the trees in Kajo-Keji and the State at large” he continued. 

Further, he stressed that those who had been local government representatives in the County (former commissioners in Kajo-Keji) should be asked to go and gather more information as they have knowledge about it.

“During the time of the war; I (Wani) Lokonga, Longa, Kala, all of us are here, we will all be there to trace from the genesis up to the end, because we even have some records of who started logging in which areas,” he said.

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