A resident of Karongo village in Masindi district told Ngetha Media Association for Peace that there are too many concerns regarding the manner in which the Budongo Forest guards/rangers are treating community members in and within the Forest.
Community members are being denied access to forest resources. He claimed that for him being a disabled person who cannot move from one place to another without the help of a walking stick, finds it so difficult if the rangers deny him chance to access the forest where he always gets strong walking sticks, traditional medicines and food from that could support him with moving and also surviving yet the forest is there to help the people in the community.
This was revealed during the Ngetha Media Association for Peace public film screening on Saturday 10, August 2019 at Karongo center in Masindi district. This show was part of the series of public cinema shows that are being carried out by Ngetha Media Association for Peace under its oil and gas advocacy and environmental defenders protection, as well as conservation awareness programs.
The show was geared to educate the locals of Karongo and the surrounding areas of Budongo Forest about the importance of conserving the environment and protecting forests being that their community is located in the middle of the Budongo forest reserve and as an immediate community they have a big role to play in conserving the forest for sustainable development.
The cinema show was based on the film “The Real Avatar” a film showing an indigenous alien tribe on another planet coming together to fight and save their home in the forests from human invaders who were aiming at carrying out mining activities on their planet. The film shows how the mining company bringing in ex-marine soldiers to provide security and fight off the indigenous tribe owning the planet and forests but the tribe looks more determined to do what it takes in order to protect and save their original home from profit-oriented invaders.
Apart from being a mere movie for entertainment, the film was clearly linked with what is taking place in the community around Karongo and Budongo Forest and other areas where locals are finding challenges in as far as using the forest around them is concerned and they acknowledged that it carries a very big and important message in reality for the people who are struggling to protect and save the forests from activities that leads to its degradation which in turn can negatively affect the people in the surrounding communities.
The film Real Avatar is linked with one of the native and indigenous communities in Peru called the “Awajun” and “Wampis” which are staying in the Amazon forests and along the Amazon River. These indigenous tribes staged protests against the Peruvian government led by President Alan Garcia who paved way for the foreign companies to carry out the exploitation of oil, gas and other minerals on the land that belonged to the indigenous peoples while violating their human rights.
Reactions from the public after the cinema
One of the residents of the area Mr. Butele Felix Atamah a professional environmentalist and a conservation activist said that the film is such an important tool in opening people’s eyes and minds to realize the benefits of protecting and conserving environment especially from self-interest individuals and companies who are business-oriented through destroying the environment. He commended that it would be good if other places around also get the chance to watch such an educating film as communities living in the forest area and depending on the forest for their livelihoods.
Another person asked; “if it’s really possible for people in local communities like us to stop the government from bringing such projects in our areas, do we have the rights?”. In response to this question, Oyergiu Joshua of Ngetha Media Association for Peace replied by saying that “if the government wants to implement any project in a given community, they have to make consultations from the residents of that particular community and assess the positive and negative impacts of that project. If the project is found to have caused many negative impacts to the community especially regarding environment than the positive ones, then the community has the right to deny the government permission to implement such a project on their land”. He said.
Oyergiu Joshua also added that the community members are the immediate populations to be consulted over any development and thus they should always be keen in protecting and conserving the forests because without forests there will be no rain, no food, no firewood, no medicine. If one tree is being cut, replant it by replacing it with another one and in that way conservation will be sustainable even for the future generations.
The people of Karongo were also able to watch a movie that shows the negative impacts of oil exploitations on the communities living near the fields. The movie also showed gross violations of people’s rights to land, water, food that happened to the people of Ogoni land in Nigeria. This movie also opened the locals’ eyes and showed them that the coming of oil will have many negative impacts to the immediate communities where it’s going to be produced and explored from . Its believe that the people of Karongo will also be affected by the same Oil and pipeline development project since they are also located in one of the districts and places where oil activities are massively taking place.
In general, the event was successful because we did not register any security incidence from authorities as regards our nature of work and with that we also thank our ground coordinators who did a commendable job to ensure that everything goes on well right from community mobilization, introductions to Local Council 1 and the police up-to organizing the event where people attended in massive numbers.