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Parliament summon Ministers, governor over illegal logging

Author: Emmanuel Akile | Published: Monday, July 8, 2019

A view of teak trees growing in South Sudan's Torit State, on January 1, 2019. PHOTO: Hellen Toby/THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION

The Transitional National Legislative Assembly has summoned the Ministers of Environment and Forestry and that of Agriculture and Food Security over the “illegal cutting of trees in Torit”.

The lawmakers have also summoned the state governor, Tobiolo Alberio Oromo regarding the issue.

South Sudanese have been demanding that logging stop, saying they have not been benefiting from the companies or the government for using their resources.

Recently, Torit State Revenue Authority said the state is losing millions of South Sudanese pounds in revenues to illicit forest activities.

It said some individuals are issuing out form 15 which authorizes loggers to access the forest.

In a demonstration of their authority over the executive, Members of the Torit State Legislative Assembly issued a vote of no confidence against the state Minister of Agriculture for reportedly failing to control illegal logging.

This is after the speaker, Charles Udwar revealed that the state lost more than $11,0700 within the first quarter of 2019 alone.

“In Pageri, we lost [$17,000], in Magwi County [$21 million], in Ayaci [$26,500], in Torit west we have lost $11,200 while in Geria County we have lost $56,000. This is very alarming, and if we don’t take action then we will not be representing the will of the people,” Hon. Udwar said.

The state MPs blamed Minister, Clement Lako Chichim for failing to develop policies of regulating logging.

Last month, Jubek state government also reported seizing three trucks that were attempting to smuggle teak to Uganda.

The seizure was displayed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry for the media in Juba.

Illegal logging has also been reported in opposition-controlled areas.

In an exposé last year, a Kenyan investigative journalist revealed that senior members of South Sudan’s armed groups were colluding with Ugandan security officers to sell trucks loaded with teak from Yei River area.

This year, environmentalists said the sprawling teak forests, planted nearly a century ago to supply lumber and government income, are fast disappearing in South Sudan as timber companies and illegal logging take advantage of the country’s chaos to extract large amounts of wood.

According to Reuters news agency, the rapid felling threatens worsening erosion and environmental damage in the country and has provoked uprisings by local communities, who have not received promised roads and other assistance as part of timber extraction deals.

“Our forests today are disappearing from all parts. If we continue the way we are, I’m sure we shall have deserts in South Sudan, and the rains will not be there, because anybody from our neighboring countries is cutting the trees and we are watching,” honorable Paul Yoane, chairperson for information committee at the national parliament told Eye Radio.

Members of the National Parliament representing Kapoeta state recently raised a motion demanding an investigation into reports of illegal cutting of trees -mostly in Torit.

The demanded the presence of the national Minister of Environment and Forestry, Josephine Napwon, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Onyoti Adigo, and Torit state governor, Tobiolo Alberio.

British colonists planted thousands of hectares of teak plantations in southern Sudan in the 1940s, as an industrial source of timber.

That has given South Sudan today some of the largest stands of the valuable hardwood trees in Africa, though the extent of the forests remaining is not clearly documented.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimated in 2007 that the teak, if sustainably harvested, could generate up to $50 million a year in export revenue for South Sudan.

But teak exports currently bring the beleaguered nation only about $1 million to $2 million a year, according to the government.

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