Arrests – Day 31

Posted on April 4, 2012

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I have now successfully cut all my transect lines in N5 off grid. It’s been bloody hard work and not without injury. Yesterday I suffered a fall. I had to climb over a fallen tree blocking our path. After I managed to hoist myself on top of the trunk I then had to jump down. “Bend your knees,” I said to myself.

But as I landed, my right foot became caught in a vine, hidden under the thick bed of leaves covering the forest floor. For a nano-sec I experienced what it was like to fly. I came crashing down hands outspread landing on both knees hard. My forehead grazed a rotten branch jutting out on the left on the way down. It was bound to happen. Those bloody vines. If I manage to come back scar free it will be a miracle.

“What will you tell your husband?” asked Moses as he watched my brow crinkle into a deep crease.

“That you’ve been beating me,” I joked, as I struggle to my feet rubbing my head.

When we got back to camp we saw an unfamiliar truck parked outside the main house.

“The NFA are here,” said Moses.

The night before I had given Geoffrey a list of co-ordinates for all the illegal pit-saw sites I have found. He’s been calling the National Forestry Authority (NFA) a government-run environment agency for the last week to come and investigate. They are slow to enforce the law. Excuses about time, resources blah blah blah.

A few hours later the van was loaded up and about to leave when I spotted the regional officer. I waved to driver to slow down and ran over. The officer in question jumped out, I arranged an interview with him for Thursday in the hope of learning what he intends to do about the sites and the evidence he has now seen. Little did I know that  among the rangers in the back, were several suspects who had been arrested. Not exactly a smart move by the NFA to bring the enemy into camp when our identities are meant to be protected in case of a chance encounter.

Five people, four men and one woman were carted into the van and were being taken down to the police station to be charged. I was stunned to learn that a woman (said to be in her 20’s) was doing this heavy work, but this is Africa and women are used to carrying heavy bundles of wood and water long distances. One cheeky buggers was even wearing a Budongo Conservation Field Station T-shirt – the nerve!

I’m sceptical whether these people will serve any time. They will appear before magistrates in a few weeks’ time and probably (she says cynically) pay a fine, walk away and be back in the forest before you can shout: TIMBER! It’s an up-hill struggle fighting corruption when there is so much poverty. It’s not these people who need reprimanding; it’s the ones who pay them to do the dirty work. There’s always someone who is in the pocket of someone else much higher up, who appears to be above the law. Where’s there’s a demand…..the supply will follow.

I’ve got my interview tomorrow afternoon where I’ll find out what’s going on. I am not going to give this officer an easy interview, he does not know I am a journalist by profession, as I am here as a student. And you can bet your bottom dollar I  will definitely be rocking the boat.

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