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Mabira Giveaway Not Yet Resolved

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Many people signed the petition online to oppose de-gazetting Mabira Forest in Uganda for a privately-owned sugar cane company. The headlines in The Monitor in Uganda, (Dec 21st, 07) is that the forest is going to be given away, despite the peoples call for preserving the forest. If you have not signed yet, please go to http://savemabira.petitiontime.com and sign. The world needs as many people to sign as possible. If you have signed, please forward the petition address to your mailing lists and to anyone that you think would sign.

…Report from the Daily Monitor

President Yoweri Museveni has resurrected the controversial Mabira Forest giveaway debate, telling the NRM Parliamentary Caucus that the issue is yet to be resolved. Presenting his 11-page statement on industrialisation to the Caucus on Monday, President Museveni urged them to take a decision.

"Those opposing industrialisation, apart from being enemies of NRM, are, in particular, enemies of the youth because they are the ones who need these jobs. I can no longer tolerate this. I will mobilise the youth to smash politically all these cliques obstructing the future of the youth and the country," Mr Museveni said.

The President also defended Mehta's request for the acquisition of 7,100 hectares of Mabira Forest, to be turned into a sugarcane plantation, saying the investor only wanted some land in the under-utilised part of the forest."Mehta wants to expand his factory in Lugazi. He wanted some land in the under-utilised part of Mabira because there was no alternative land nearby and we could not shift the factory. Criminals and charlatans kicked up lies and even caused death of people in Kampala. We suppressed the thugs. This issue should be resolved," Mr Museveni's statement reads in part.A clandestine government plan to give away 17,540 acres, nearly a third of the forest to Mehta, drew strong resistance from environmentalists and the public. Sporadic riots broke out in the country in April this year, claiming the lives of one Indian and two Ugandans. But more than eight months later, no official government position has been reached. However, in October, Finance Minister Ezra Suruma announced to the world that the government had dropped the controversial plan to give away part of Mabira forest. This was at a dinner meeting hosted by the South American President of the Republic of Guyana, Mr Bharrat Jagdeo, in Georgetown. The President's announcement therefore appears to contradict Dr Suruma's declaration. The Caucus is yet to debate President Museveni's document, experts say that should members endorse the Mabira giveaway as part of the industrialisation agenda, it will be a setback for environmental activists who have crusaded for months against the giveaway of the forest. Ecological experts have argued that razing part of Mabira would threaten rare species, dry up a watershed for streams that feed Lake Victoria and remove a crucial buffer against pollution of the lake from two industrial towns.

Talking about his 'vision' for an industrialised Uganda, the President told the Caucus that NRM must find the answers to what he described as 'bottlenecks to the much-needed rapid industrialisation of the country'.

"I need cohesion from all you [MPs] on this matter. This is where the future of the country lies. If we don't industrialise the country, where shall we get employment for the youth?" Mr Museveni asked. He added: "Some of the industries need big chunks of land; examples of this are sugar, palm oil, bio-fuels etc. Some don't need too much land. We need and we are capable of having both."

Available figures calculated by Environmental Alert show that the cost of cutting away part of Mabira in terms of carbon credit is estimated at $316 million. The value of the land is estimated at about $5 million and the value of the wood at another whopping $568 million. This means the public stands to lose almost $890 million [about Shs1.5 trillion) as a result of the government's plan to de-gazette part of the forest.

4th July 2014