President revives talk on Mabira give-away
Posted Monday, January 14 2013 at 08:27
President Museveni may have inadvertently re-opened the controversies surrounding his push to favour developers over the environment and other community concerns.
During the opening of the NRM caucus in Kyankwanzi on Saturday, the President blamed the failure to get Amuru Sugar Factory started and his wish to give-away part of Mabira Forest for sugarcane growing on Members of Parliament.
“The other obstacle that has obstructed development is the interference by the political class. What do we do with Lugazi industrial city? I can’t go on begging as if you are doing anything for me,” Mr Museveni said.
He added: “How can you block the development of Amuru sugar factory? Now these investors are about to go away and you are surrounded by others who need these factories and so what are you going to do? Import sugar and [what if] it is blocked by MPs?”
Some Acholi leaders have resisted Mr Museveni’s suggestion to give away their land for establishment of a sugar enterprise. They say they were not consulted and that the land is communally owned, making it hard to be given away.
Opponents to the Mabira project, meanwhile, observe that the central forest reserve is home to 300 bird species and is a key part of the country’s eco-system.
The President wants 7,100 hectares of the forest to be parcelled out to the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited, a Lugazi-based company owned by Mehta Group.
However, legislators and environmentalists have warned the Mehta group to stay away from the forest, saying “Ugandans can survive without sugar but they can’t survive without oxygen or a green environment.”
In 2007, the Mabira give-away stirred up tensions, with furious protestors attacking people of Asian origin because they shared a race with Mehta.