Uganda conservation news update – Save Mabira Forest coalition gets parliamentary support


A substantial number of NRM members of parliament appear set to defy their party’s leader on the issue of giving away a quarter of the Mabira rain forest to the Mehta Group for free to substitute intact rainforest with sugar cane plantations. News updates captured overnight speak of growing dissent amongst ruling party members who are ready to join with the opposition should the matter come to a vote in parliament.

‘How can the president talk of only giving away degraded forest land? Has he been deliberately misbriefed on this issue? And is whoever wrote and delivered the wrong brief in the pocket of Mehta? That should be immediately investigated. This Indian tycoon has been trying for years to get free land and the forest is near so it is a convenient target. Mehta had much time to enter contracts with land owners, even the Buganda Kingdom, to lease land for more plantations but they offer lease rents which are 50 years outdated. They want it all for free and still they keep all their profits. We want to know who is in their pockets and advocating for such free gifts on their behalf. That forest is sacred, for water storage, for biodiversity, for tourism. There is no degradation as one wants to make us belief. But to make our point also very intensely, we should now stop buying Mehta products and begin to expose them for their greed. The president should also stop saying the word terrorist in the same context as trying to save Mabira. If there is a crime at all it is Mehta’s greed to cut down a rain forest for sugar cane. Sugar prices on the world market are way below our local prices. Mehta is opposed to importing sugar to stop the artificial shortage. They are also quite inefficient compared to Kakira and Kinyara. Let them improve productivity first, then lease land from the kingdom and then promote outgrowers as partners and not treat them like slaves. And our executive should also stop acting as if they are the only ones who know something. Government must be by consensus, with the agreement by those governed. As if the economic crisis is not enough already, as if traders are not upset already over Owino, as if tens of thousands more every month have to walk to work because they cannot afford taxi fares. There must be an end to unilateral decisions benefitting only a few, and Mabira will be the test case for it all’.

This was the sentiment expressed by an otherwise staunch NRM MP to this correspondent late yesterday, when debating the issue. Meanwhile is the international campaign against the Mabira give away also gathering momentum again with new petitions being launched by environmental and conservation groups and individuals from across the world. This is largely done in close cooperation with local Ugandan conservation groups and environmental lobbyists to use all possible legal means to stop government from giving the Mehta Group a free gift at the expense of Uganda’s future and the future of Ugandans.

Visit this petition site and sign on, or chose any other petition of your choice to help Save Mabira Forest.