Tensions rise in Arua over fate of Barifa Forest

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Tensions rise in Arua over fate of Barifa Forest
Barifa Forest( Courtesy photo)

Leaders in Arua City are sounding the alarm over alleged threats and escalating tensions in the fight against what they term the "illegal giveaway" of Arua Central Forest, locally known as Barifa.

The controversy centers around building plans that seek to establish a multi-billion infrastructure, including a hotel, an Olympics-standard swimming pool, a children's park, and a parking yard, in the heart of the forest.

During a consultative meeting at Arua Core PTC in Mvaradri, organized by the Arua City Authority, concerns were raised about accusations of bribery, coercion, tribalism, and intimidation.

The dispute involves Maracha Constituency Member of Parliament, Oguzu Lee Denis, who holds a 25-year lease for an ecotourism project in Barifa forest.

"I have threatening messages in my phone. No amount of intimidation can push us into giving this forest," said one leader during the meeting.

Oguzu Lee Denis, responding to accusations, stated,

"Anyone who feels intimidated should go to the police." He defended his plans, asserting that through the advice of technical experts, the proposed development was not purely ecotourism and needed modification.

The clash revolves around concerns raised by locals and environmental enthusiasts regarding potential disruption of natural processes and long-term damage to biodiversity.

The accusation is that the developer plans to construct permanent structures in the heart of Barifa forest, posing a significant threat to its delicate ecosystem.

In the midst of this conflict, a regulatory battle looms, with the National Forestry Authority (NFA) caught between environmental concerns and economic development.

Arua City has received a notice of intention to sue from the developer, adding a legal dimension to the dispute.

Oguzu Lee Denis, defending his intentions, stated,

"My aim is to give ecological and economic value to the forest through job creation, improved infrastructure, and eco-friendly architecture."

The future of Barifa forest remains uncertain, with environmental preservation and economic development at odds

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