There have been two important developments on my part during the weekend of 13 – 14 August 2011, all of which were on Saturday 13th, but on two extremes. The positive development was how an infant took on the responsibility of the Late J C Kiwanuka as his heir. It was news to see an infant being installed heir to a man who made a positive name for the good of his country. This man knew no corruption, and he was for the welfare of all in society. To see an infant take up the leadership roles was a big lesson and it was surprising to learn that the child’s name can be abbreviated as J C Kizito so similar to J C Kiwanuka. This was indeed good and a sign of continuity, more so that those responsible for bringing up this infant can ensure that he gets the right guidance so as to fit in the Late J C Kiwanuka’s shoes.
After the good news, it was sad to learn that the President is on the 2nd trial of wanting to dish out land which led to loss of life the first time he made an attempt to give it out, yet public opinion was against the offer. Mr. President Sir, the revelation that you have re-visited this matter and ready to see this forest land go was the worst development as far as I am concerned since you got a re-election to the office of President. Mr. President Sir, if an audit is made of what the country has gone through attributed to wrong decisions; you would hastate to make that move, though you have all the machinery at your disposal to see it implemented. Many of us are okay without sugar if it is the price we can pay to see Mabira remain. We can leave healthier lives with less teeth requiring to be uprooted, and there are many fruits in nature that can be grown to give us Sugar without your having to tamper with reduction of forest land acreage which is critical. I for one as an advocate for good governance and one who does practice it; will only give in to the dishing of this land if there is evidence that you have vested interest in Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL), in form of shares as is the case with the New Vision Printing and Publish Company. If it is not so, then just heed to the cries of Ugandans and leave Mabira intact. It is true that forest cover has been greatly encroached on by the untouchables during NRM administration, and the damage done is open knowledge given the changed climate largely attributed to reduced forest cover.
Mr. President Sir, many foreign investors would love to own land, but the pressure for land and for the competing demands is great. What is very feasible and which policy can help the local population is for your Government to create an environment which makes it economical for the estate owners to target canes from out growers. There are people who can supply these factories, but one thing mentioned among others is the economic sense of the amount of money paid. What Government can do, and which is in its control is to see the factors of production put in harmony in this country. It is not clear whether when World Bank and IMF came in a big way into Uganda’s economy, all production indictors were put upside down. This is a country where taxes are said to be on the high by those who are producers of wealth. We are told of a number of players who either have to process their goods from neighbouring countries. What logic do Presidential advisors make when their pay does not help the local producers of wealth? Some time, it was published that some companies exporting fish have to take it by road to Nairobi and then catch a flight from there, the reason being that fuel makes taking the flights from Entebbe so expensive. The question to ask, is this a fact or fiction? How does the NRM Government benefit in such a state of affairs? If it is not possible for SCOUL to acquire land without destroying the little Mabira remaining or engaging in increased out grower schemes, for the good of this country, let the deficit on Sugar be imported. Mr. President Sir, as long as you live, and one time get out of office, you should make sure that you are comfortable. It will become so difficult for you to cope with what people who cannot write now will be able to write. We meet people in Government offices who tell us that they know that doing x and y is wrong, but they want to keep in job. Help this country, by heeding to the cries which people make to you. It is now easy as you realize that your offices (State House and President’s Office) are a big drain on the national resources, this cushions you from feeling what it is out, more so, that the hardships people experience now where many work harder than ever before are due to Government policies. Mr. President, it is easy to tell a fixed wage earner to hold on that Government cannot adjust the pay, however, Government cannot come out a single day and say, dear voters, we are sorry, we had saved a lot of money for elections and many more Government projects were funded in a short time, to the extent that today the prices have gone to the highs they are. The Independent Magazine, Issue 118 of July 02 – 08, 2010 page 10 – 12 run a story, “Mbabazi’s trouble inside NRM.” In that story, there is mention of shs 7.5bn for delegates sparks chaos at Namboole conference.” I will not go into the details of the story, but the headline is enough to show one that to Government, there expenditures which matter, others can hang.
In the Poverty Eradication Action Plan 2004/05 – 2007/08, under Forestry on page 77, I quote, “It is becoming increasingly clear that Uganda’s forests are being degraded. Encroachment due to open access and unclear land ownership, conversion for other uses, unsustainable harvesting, urbanization, industrialization and institutional failure are to blame.”
In Africa talks Climate – Research Briefing (Uganda) September 2009, under Climate change in Uganda, I quote, “Climate change presents an additional stress for Ugandans already struggling with the challenges posed by climate variability, ongoing environmental degradation and wide spread poverty. The interrelation of climate change with other factors is complex and still evolving. A recent report by the Global Humanitarian Forum, led by Kofi Annan, labels Uganda as one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. Rainfall has become more erratic and intense, bringing floods, landslides and soil erosion. Drought and water scarcity has triggered internal migration, including the movement of cattle herders from the Karamoja region. Malaria is increasingly reported in areas where it was once rare.”
From ‘A story of a 30 year partnership between The European Commission and the Government of Uganda,’ Page 13, under Forestry, I wish to quote, “Uganda has faced a major shortage of sawn timber, with almost no plantations having been established since the 1960’s. The 15,000 hectares planted at the time had been decimated, and less than 2,000 hectares of mature plantations remained. It was estimated that Uganda needed some 60 – 70,000 hectares of plantations in order to meet the country’s projected demand by 2025. Otherwise, the country would have to import timber, as well as face increased pressure on its remaining Tropical High Forests (which President Museveni is referring to in the case of Mabira - Editor)”.
In UNDP News Uganda of June – September 2007, under Sustainable development, I quote, “Agenda 21, the global programme of action for sustainable development worldwide, was adopted by world governments during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 1992. The Rio Conference, as it came to be known, was a result of the call by the UN General Assembly of 1989 for a global meeting that would “devise integrated strategies to halt and reverse the negative impact of human behaviour on the physical environment and promote environmentally sustainable economic development in all countries. This genesis of the discussion on sustainable development clearly had a natural resource/environmental and economic focus. According to Agenda 21, the idea to turn the world from its self – consumptive course to one of renewal and sustenance was emphasized. This perspective highlighted the natural resources focus of sustainable development, since consumption implicitly referred to the way development consumes natural resources. The perspective advocated a more secure, sustainable and equitable future based on sound utilization of natural resources and protection of the environment.”
In NEMA News Vol.3 No. 9 of September 2003, in the article, ‘Short termism is a disaster to the environment,’ Nkeramihigo Julius quoted the Late Bishop Festo Kivengere, “It is immoral to live as if there is no tomorrow and perhaps worse to govern today inconsiderate of posterity.” Julius says that the quote applies to leaders who take part in or allow those they lead to engage in wanton exploitation of natural resources to meet short term socio – economic needs in disregard of sustainable development. Our existence, survival and development and that of future generations lie in our hands, and the leaders of today have an ethical – moral duty to pass on to the next generation the environment as clean, healthy, safe and productive as it were if not better.”
William Kituuka Kiwanuka
MABIRA MUST GO, MUSEVENI TELLS DISTRICT OFFICIALS
FOR DESTRUCTION? President Museveni has said part of Mabira Forest be given to Scoul for sugarcane growing. FILE PHOTO
By Joseph Miti & Ephraim Kasozi
Posted Sunday, August 14 2011 at 00:00
President Museveni has agreed to give away part of Mabira Forest for sugarcane growing to a private company. Addressing district leaders and agriculturalists at Entebbe State House yesterday, the President said the giveaway of the forest to the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (Scoul) in Lugazi, Mukono, would increase sugar production.
The first attempt by Scoul, which is owned by the Mehta Group, to have one-third of the forest for the same purpose in 2007 met stiff public resistance, that ended in a demonstration that left three people dead. Kitgum Woman MP Beatrice Anywar led the campaign against the giveaway and yesterday, the President made mention of it.
“Lugazi Sugar Works should expand by getting part of the Mabira Forest reserve which they had asked for. They were stopped by riots which were led by Beatrice Anywar,” Mr Museveni said.
Blames past defiance
He added: “We stopped because we had some other issues to work on but since we have finalised with what we working on, we should resume and finish the issue.”
The country has recently suffered an acute sugar shortage that has caused prices to increase from Shs3,000 a kilogramme to over Shs7,000 in less than a month. The President said this scarcity partly stems from the Mabira debacle.
“Since they were stopped to grow sugarcane, now the country is short of sugar and it is going to import sugar. Imagine how can Uganda import sugar?”
Mr Museveni told the conference: “This indiscipline should stop. We have defeated armed terrorists, we cannot accept to be defeated by unarmed terrorists. Even Kinyara Sugar works should be given a (Ninsimba) prison land to grow more sugarcane.”
A Cabinet paper written in 2007 said the plan would create 3,500 jobs and contribute Shs11.5 billion to the treasury.
Environmentalists feared for the loss of hundreds of endangered species, increases soil erosion and source of livelihoods of the community living around the forest. Ironically, the President also warned against environmental degradation in his speech yesterday.
“Environment degradation must stop, the chief politicising of this issue must stop otherwise the country will run into disaster. Destroying forest reserve, wetlands will cause a very danger to you people.” On the crisis, the President said there was no need to panic as the economy is stable.
“Let me be clear the issue of the crisis which these alarmists are referring to. It is true the prices of some commodities such as sugar, petroleum and tea have gone up but some of these are temporary because they have been caused by bad weather but others are not.”
MABIRA: ACTIVISTS DARE GOVERNMENT
The Mabira Forest covers about 300 square kilometres (30,000) hectares, about eight miles north of Lake Victoria.
By Isaac Imaka
Posted Monday, August 15 2011 at 00:00
The Mabira Forest is a rain forest area covering about 300 square kilometres (30,000) hectares, about eight miles north of Lake Victoria.
It is classified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International. It hosts almost 300 bird species including the globally threatened Nahan’s francolin, which is similar to the partridge.
Before the 2007 attempt to give the forest land to Mehta Group for sugarcane growing, Mabira had been embroiled in a series of degradation.
The biggest part of the forest land that President Museveni wants to give away was degraded by encroachers.
According to a blog; Science 2.0, logging in Mabira forest began in 1906 and damage on the forest from intensive coffee, banana cultivation and charcoal production continued until 1988 when many people were evicted from the forest.
President says only degraded part of forest will be given out
Conservationists yesterday vowed to take President Museveni head-on over his renewed plan to push through a proposal to give away part of Mabira Forest for sugar cane growing. Addressing district leaders and agriculturalists at Entebbe State House on Saturday, President Museveni said failure to give away the forest in 2007, is partly to blame for the current sugar crisis in the country.
However, in what might lead to a repeat of the 2007 protests against the proposed give-away in which three people were killed, activists and politicians have condemned the President’s latest move and vowed to fight to save the forest.
“We are having a meeting tomorrow to reconvene the Save Mabira Committee to consider a way forward and we are going to take him [Museveni] head on to ensure that the forest is saved,” said environmentalist and Kitgum Woman MP, Beatrice Anywar, who also spearheaded the 2007 protests.
President Museveni wants to give part of the 7,100 hectares of the forest to the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (Scoul), a Lugazi-based company owned by Mehta group of companies. He said: “Lugazi Sugar Works should expand by getting part of the Mabira Forest reserve which they had asked for. They were stopped by riots which were led by Beatrice Anywar and since they were stopped from growing [more sugar cane], the country is short of sugar and it is going to import sugar. Imagine how Uganda can import sugar?” he said, promising to ‘crush’ anyone who will oppose his move.
But in a telephone interview with Daily Monitor yesterday, Ms Anywar said that blackmailing Ugandans and passing blame has becoming President Museveni’s strategy whenever he fails to deliver. “Bringing the Mabira issues, which even led to the death of several Ugandans-who have even never been compensated- is very sad and inconsiderate,” she said.
She added: “Metha should not forget that for his business to flourish in Uganda he needs to be in harmony with the natives.”
Mbarara Municipality MP Medard Bitekyerezo yesterday said the President’s move is bound to affect the climate of the country as many districts, including Jinja, Kayunga and Kampala use the forest as a rain catchment point.
“The climate of this country is more important than sugar,” he said. “Ugandans can survive without sugar but they can’t survive without oxygen or a green environment. The President should not look at today but future and I kindly beg him to keep off the forest and save it.”
Kampala Central legislator and member of the parliamentary committee on Natural Resources Mohammed Nsereko, said President Museveni’s move is bad, uncalled for and should not be supported by any sane legislator. “There is a lot that this country wants than giving away Mabira forest. You cannot trade off the environment in exchange for sugar and I will not support that move at any one time,” he said.
“You can’t say the solution is giving away Mabira yet there has been sugar hoarding. These investors have received a lot of free things over the past decades but they instead repatriate millions of dollars. Why don’t they use the profits to buy land elsewhere?”
But in his response, the Presidential Press Secretary Tamale Mirundi, said the President does not mean giving out the entire forest but ‘just the degraded part.” “President Museveni is an environmentalist. That forest was saved by NRM when it came to power,” he said.
“The President is not talking about giving away those trees that you see while going to Jinja; that’s a misrepresentation of facts to deliberately portray a wrong picture. There is a part of the forest that was not saved from encroachment and that’s what the President meant.”
Veteran politician and Constituent assembly legislator Darlington Sakwa, said Mr Museveni is using the sugar scarcity to divert people from the main economic problems that he [President] has failed to solve. “Sugar has become scarce because government has allowed the producers to take all the sugar to South Sudan and not because of lack of land to plant sugarcane,” he said, adding that the President’s economic indiscipline, too, has contributed to the crisis.
“He poured all the local currency in the economy during campaigns and went ahead to deplete the foreign reserves by buying fighter jets and he now wants to divert attention. “There has never been a sugar crisis between 2007 and this year; is it the Anywar’s who have stopped him from equipping hospitals and improving on the education standards? He should stop the blame game and focus on the issues,” he said.
But in an email to Daily Monitor, State House deputy Press Secretary Linda Nabusayi said the President was misquoted and that President Museveni said plantation owners should be engaged and supported to expand production to meet the growing demand.
PROPOSED LAND USE CHANGE OF PART OF MABIRA FOREST RESERVE: THE GENESIS OF THE CONTROVERSY
By Advocates Coalition For Development and Environment
Plot 96, Kanjokya Street, Kamwokya, P.O. Box 29836, Kampala,
The current controversy relating to Mabira Forest Reserve stems from the June 29, 2006 letter by the Principal Private Secretary to President Yoweri Museveni to the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development. In that letter, the Principal Private Secretary to the president communicated a request by the Managing Director of M/S Sugar Corporation of Uganda Ltd (SCOUL) to be allocated 7,100 hectares of part of Mabira Forest Reserve to enable SCOUL expand sugar production from the current 50,000 tonnes to 100,000 tonnes. In that letter, the president directed the user function from forestry to sugar cane production of the 7,100 hectares of Mabira Forest Reserve.
The National Forestry Authority (NFA), environment conscious state and non state actors and civil society have intensely challenged the proposed change of land use. They have raised a number of important concerns ranging from ecological and economic concerns to issues of governance.
Importance of Mabira Forest Reserve
Considered in its own right, Mabira Forest Reserve is a critical resource for the immediate riparian local communities, for Uganda and the international community as a whole. In ecological terms, Mabira Forest Reserve acts as an important catchment ecosystem for Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga and the River Nile. All these water systems are not only critical for Uganda but also the international community and more specifically the lower riparian states like Sudan and Egypt as direct beneficiaries. The Reserve is well endowed with immense biodiversity, with a wide variety of endemic plant and animal species likely to immediately get extinct as a result of the destruction of their habitat.
The economic importance of Mabira Forest Reserve cannot be over emphasised. It is earmarked as a source of sustainable supply of round wood for plywood and veneer industry. Together with furniture grade and construction timber, the direct round wood value of the reserve is estimated at UGX1,050 billion per year. The National Forestry Authority (NFA) has also licensed Mabira Forest Lodge to operate a high level 5 star eco - lodge with an initial investment of USD1.5 million bringing direct revenue to both the local community and NFA.
The NFA has already entered into Collaborative Forest Management (CFM) Agreements with a number of local communities to enable them participate in the sustainable management and to directly benefit from the forest resources. CFM arrangements do not only provide economic benefits for the target communities, they are also mechanisms for civic engagement and civic empowerment that yield substantial governance gains for the local communities in issue.
Why both the local and the international Community should be concerned
The issue is broader than Mabira Forest Reserve
The proposal to degazette Mabira Forest Reserve is consistent with a growing pattern where Government is allocating public trust lands to private investors. Similar successful or unsuccessful cases that have happened include the following:
Butamira Forest Reserve in Jinja District - successfully allocated to Kakira Sugar Works against protests by the tree farmers in the Butamira areas and against a High Court order in the case of ACODE & Anor. Vs. AG & Anor. Misc. Cause No. 0100/2004.
Proposal to degazzete part of Pian Upe Game Reserve in Karamoja and Nakapiripirit districts in favour of M/S Africa Integrated Company
Government action successfully challenged by civil society organizations, which prepared and published a detailed legal brief on the illegality of Government actions. The process currently on a halt.
Proposal to change the land use of selected natural forest reserves on Bugala Island in favour of BIDCO Palm Oil Project - process still ongoing with clear approval of Government is spite of the potential environmental and socio-economic impact outlined in the Environmental Impact Assessment Report.
Defacto degazzetment of other forest reserves across the country. These cases are only illustrative of an alarming trend, and changing the land use of the proposed area of Mabira Forest Reserve fits within this trend and establishes a questionable and dangerous precedent in the country.
The action undermines a decade of local and donor investments in Uganda 's Forestry Sub-sector
Since the year 2000, tax payers in Uganda and the international donor community have invested substantial amounts of resources in Uganda 's forestry sector, which has been steadily showing signs of recovery after many years of neglect. During this period, the sub-sector has been reformed, a new policy and legislation put in place and new institutions created to spearhead public management of this sub-sector. The growing pattern described above and now epitomized in the proposed change of land of 7,100 hectares of Mabira Forest Reserve challenges not only the wisdom of Government but also donor investments in the forestry sector.
Disrespect for International commitments and obligations
The ongoing actions also question Uganda 's commitment to respect international law and the attendant international obligations and commitments. Uganda is a signatory and key player in important international agreements and instruments relevant to the environment. Examples include: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); the Convention on International Trade in Endangered species of Fauna and flora (CITES); the Rio Forest principles, etc. The actions of the Uganda Government in the area of forestry are clearly inconsistent with its obligations and commitments under these instruments.
Governance crisis and disrespect for constitutionalism and the rule of law
The Government actions highlighted by the Butamira Forest reserve, Mabira Forest reserve and several others are largely reflective of a deepening crisis in governance and disrespect for constitutionalism and rule of law. Forest Reserves and many other public trust properties are protected under article 237(3) (b) of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda. This absolute protection is further re-echoed in the Land Act Cap 227. In Misc. Cause N0. 0100 of 2004 - ACODE and another Vs AG and another, the high court reiterated the legal protection accorded to public trust resources before it went ahead to nullify the permit that was granted to Kakira sugar works over Butamira Forest Reserve. The consistent action by government to alienate public trust resources in disregard of the law of the land is indeed a fundamental problem that must be addressed immediately.
Undermining poverty reduction efforts
Environment and Natural Resources are the foundation for achieving the national short-term and long-term objectives of economic growth and poverty eradication. Indeed, there is growing recognition that a good environment and a healthy natural resource base are critical to poverty eradication and national economic growth. Indeed, the prolonged droughts, poor and erratic rains that have hit most parts of the country in the last few years have as a result of degradation of our forests have not only left many in the country side hungrier and poorer but have largely contributed to the overall slow down in economic growth from 6.6% in 2004/2005 to 5.3% in 2005/2006.
The power crisis that has hit the country has crippled the industrial growth from 10.8% in financial year 2004/2005 to a miserable 4.5% in the financial year 2005/2006. It has also contributed to the declining domestic revenues hence undermining the country's ability to finance its budget. Degazzettment of Mabira Forest only serves to worsen the situation.
The degazzetment of Mabira Forest Reserve has far reaching consequences that go beyond ecological and economic management and requires well thought approach that does not erode public confidence in the executive authority and undermine the rule of law.
Advocates Coalition for development and Environment (ACODE) is an independent public policy research and advocacy think tank based in Kampala . ACODE's mission is to influence development and governance policies for the promotion of social justice in east Africa through policy research and supports governments to engage in evidence based policy making.