Ugandan President, stop playing with Mabira forest

This video is called Prevent destruction of the Mabira Forest.

From The Monitor daily in Kampala in Uganda:

Uganda: Mr President, Stop the Mabira Games


24 December 2007
Posted to the web 27 December 2007


President Yoweri Museveni is at it again; this time around reminding the country that the controversial proposal to give away Mabira forest which led to the death of three people about six months ago, is not yet resolved after all.

His remarks while meeting the NRM Parliamentary Caucus last week in effect mean that government could still go ahead a give away part of the tropical rain forest to a private investor, the Lugazi-based Mehta Group, in total disregard of public opinion.

Most depressing about this debacle though is the fact that Mr Museveni’s resolve to parcel out a protected national resource contradicts the announcement made to the world in October by his finance minister Dr Ezra Suruma, at a dinner meeting hosted by the South American President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, in Georgetown that the Uganda government had dropped the plan to give away part of Mabira forest.

And why should a national leader against all odds push for the alienation of 17,540 acres, nearly a third of Mabira forest to Mehta when there are huge chunks of unutilised public land in this country under government control which can be gazetted for the industrilisation programme.

What’s the moral justification for this disdain to an evident national consensus that Mabira forest reserve is a no-go area for the promoters of industrialisation! Quite maddening too, is the apparent lack of government interest to explain to the country why of all places it’s Mabira that should be earmarked for ‘industrialisation’.

Is it the proximity of the place called Mabira that has attracted the ‘investors’ to justify its destruction, or is it an element of ego and greed (some of the main factors that erode the principles of good governance) that can possibly explain the determination by the powers that be to destroy what remains of our national forest cover?

Whatever the motive it’s our civic duty as citizens to remind our leaders that the constitutionally established principle of public trust applies to all our national resources and public land.

Our leaders including the president have a legal obligation under the public trust doctrine to manage national resources in a manner that doesn’t prejudice the interests of all Ugandans.

President Museveni chairs the cabinet which in April studied a damning cabinet memorandum prepared by the Ministry of Water and Environment which paradoxically, strongly argued against the destruction of the forest.

In the cabinet memo, experts noted the negative impact of changing the land use of the 7,100 hectares of Mabira tropical rain forest; which among others will lead to reduction in water flow to the lakes and rivers, change temperatures and loss of unique ecosystem whose economic value is estimated at Shs23.3 billion.

The negative effects that await the country once Mabira is given away, can also be prescient too. Over the years ,there is been too much destruction of our forest cover and the ramifications for this obliteration have been clear for all to see including the unprecedented severe weather conditions experienced in the country this year.

The unpredictability in climatic conditions that threaten the survival of mankind, have led to the development of a basic international environmental precautionary law principle to protect and conserve nature for the benefit of present and future generations.

The precautionary principle which governs the exploitation of natural resources like forests, was developed following the 1982 World Charter for Nature which provides in its principle 11(b); that activities which are likely to pose a significant risk to nature shall be preceded by an exhaustive examination; that their proponents shall demonstrate that expected benefits outweigh potential damage to nature.

Studies carried out so far clearly show that the proposed destruction of Mabira forest shall spell doom for our country. Parliament and the courts of law should therefore urgently intervene to save Mabira forest from being destroyed for selfish benefits of some ‘investors’. Ugandans should remain firm in the defence of Mabira forest to prevent irreversible harm to our environment.

The writer is a journalist and advocate

However, The Monitor does not have the author’s name. Maybe because civil liberties in the country of President Museveni, an ally of George W. Bush, are not always at optimum level.

9 thoughts on “Ugandan President, stop playing with Mabira forest

  1. Uganda: Forest Conservation is a Key Factor in Development

    The Monitor (Kampala)

    27 December 2007
    Posted to the web 27 December 2007

    Moses Watasa

    The debate on whether to conserve natural forests or clear them for investment and development projects is raging more than ever before. At the recently concluded conference on climate change in Bali, Indonesia, there were proposals to look beyond development and commit more resources towards conservation of the environment and forests.

    While land is in fixed supply, there is increasing demand for it for human settlement and development projects. In some instances, this has fueled an adversarial relationship between development planners and environmentalists.

    Some development planners think environmentalists are ‘enemies’ of development, while environmentalists have described the planners as inhuman capitalists sacrificing the environment at the altar of wealth accumulation.

    This is indeed a catch-22 situation for developing countries like Uganda. How do such countries industrialise and transform their economies now that issues like global warming are increasingly galvanising and amplifying calls for conservation of natural forests as a mitigating intervention?

    The answer lies in sustainable development, a development paradigm that makes the case for maximising the benefits of investment and development while minimising environmental degradation.

    Credible development projects are now drawn up with comprehensive guidelines on environmental conservation and the social well-being of the host communities. This is to preserve the benefits accruing from environmental resources like forests and wetlands.

    Therefore, planners have a responsibility to establish economically viable but environmentally sound projects. Key project operations should be subjected to thorough Environmental Impact Assessment to mitigate degradation.

    There are critical conservation eco-systems that must remain intact for their role in life-supporting systems. For this reason, some areas are set aside as forest reserves and wetlands to protect water catchments, soil systems and heritage.

    More importantly, substantial forest cover is a vital ingredient in stabilising temperatures and climate. It has been proven that trees purify the atmosphere by sucking up large quantities of carbon-dioxide which is also a main contributor to global warming and hazard to an array of eco-systems.

    Uganda’s forest reserves were gazetted from the 1930s to the 1960s around strategic locations like mountains, water bodies and areas with significant vegetation and unique wildlife species.

    Forests cannot be transferred because they are associated with these permanent features that can’t be replicated. Besides, natural forests cannot easily be artificially re-generated to reach their inherent natural richness.

    Forests must cover a significant portion of the country to be effective in performing their natural safe-guard duty. Uganda’s forest-cover now representing about 23% of the land area compares poorly with other developing countries like Cameroon (47%) and Tanzania (45%).

    This situation, the persistent encroachment of central forest reserves and the increasing depletion of privately-owned forests, should be a cause for concern.

    Location of development projects should be carefully considered so that they don’t pose a serious threat to the declining forest cover in Uganda.

    There are non-destructive investment and development projects that can be undertake within and around forests like tree-planting, eco-tourism facilities, research and bee-keeping. Such ventures have potentially very lucrative returns on investment yet friendly to the conservation of the environment in general and forests in particular.

    Climate-related adverse effects of deforestation and degradation unfolding in Uganda have already had a retrogressive impact on production in some parts of the country.

    Erratic rains, floods, landslides, prolonged drought, and soaring temperatures have crippled farmers’ yields in an economy still largely agro-based. In many parts of Teso, eastern Uganda, the citizens are still grappling with food shortage and the after-affects of the floods that ravaged the area recently.

    Beyond the worrying climate-change and crippling of economic activity, the implications of deforestation are clearly one of the underlying causes of the ethic conflicts in parts of eastern Uganda. With the persistent encroachment and pressure on central forest reserves, such trends are certain to be replicated in other parts of the country.

    The writer is the public relations manager for National Forestry Authority


  2. Uganda: Museveni Opposed to Elgon Forest Giveaway

    The Monitor (Kampala)

    10 August 2008
    Posted to the web 11 August 2008

    President Yoweri Museveni has rejected a government’s plan to reduce forest cover on Mt. Elgon. He said the plan should be suspended until proper verification is done by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

    The President said the government should not compromise on the country’s forest cover that contributes to a healthy ecological system. The President was meeting a team from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in Mbale.

    The team that was led by the Trade and Industry Minister Janat Mukwaya told the President that they wanted to cede some 7,500 hectares of forest land for human settlement on Mt. Elgon in Mbale District.

    President Museveni, however, noted that he must be convinced that reducing forest cover will not affect the ecological system of the country. He warned government officials against succumbing to public pressure.

    “We should tell our people that their livelihood and survival depends on these forests. The forests help in manufacturing the rain. We will not compromise on this. We can relocate people to other areas,” he said.

    Mr Museveni said he does not accept “blackmail” from non-governmental organisations that all forests are important.

    He said that before a forest is destroyed for any purpose, NEMA must present a logical and scientific explanation.

    This is a sharp contradiction by the President who on several occasions, has stated that he will not rest before part of Mabira Forest, Uganda’s biggest natural forest is given away to the Mehta Group for sugar growing.

    The proposal to give away Mabira sparked massive protests in Kampala City that claimed lives of several people. Mr Museveni has in the past supported the cutting down of vast forests in Kalangala District by Bidco Ltd, to grow palm trees.

    In their proposal, UWA officials said some areas in Mbale and Kapchorwa can be released for human settlement especially those with permanent homesteads.

    The UWA officials said although in some areas the settlements went beyond the allocated land , people can be prevented from further encroachment. The UWA team suggested that some people can be allowed to plant trees to protect the environment and supplement their incomes. President Museveni told the team that the reason he declared Mt. Elgon and Mt. Rwenzori, national parks was because there was need to protect both animals and trees.

    Therefore, he said, these areas which form the source of rivers and streams must be “jealously protected.”


  3. Uganda: Powerline to Go Through Mabira

    New Vision (Kampala)

    17 August 2008
    Posted to the web 18 August 2008

    Gerald Tenywa

    The Government has given away a strip of Mabira forest reserve for the construction of the Bujagali hydro-electricity powerline.

    “We have prepared a licence for the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company to establish the Bujagali hydro-electricity power line in the forest reserve,” said Hudson Andrua, the head of natural forests at the National Forestry Authority.

    “The licence has conditions to minimise destruction to the environment.”

    The strip is 35 metres wide and runs for 17km across the northern part of the forest, which covers 69 hectares.

    The power line will run parallel to the current one which is connected to the Kiira and Nalubaale power stations.

    Bujagali dam is expected to boost power supply, which is currently inadequate and leads to frequent loadshedding.

    However, public awareness needs to be created before the trees are cleared, said Andrua.

    Accordingly, a company has been hired to promote the project on condition that it employs local people:

    “This is a government project being done in the interest of the public. We do not want to frustrate development,” Andura said.

    Before the 49-year licence was approved, an environment assessment study was conducted and the results discussed at a public hearing in Jinja last year.

    Andrua said forestry offcials will soon mark the boundaries of the part of the forest to be cut down.

    The Bugajali powerline will affect two other forests, Kifu and Namwoya within Mukono, Andrua said.

    The Government has given sh560m to the forestry authority to compensate the affected local people and to expand the forest: “We will purchase more land within the forest enclaves and outside the forest,” Andrua said.

    An attempt to give away part of the forest for sugar-growing sparked violent protests last year.


  4. Who should protect Budongo forest?

    Wednesday, 3rd December, 2008

    A pitsawyer arranging timber in the forest. Such activities have caused the extinction of many rare tree species

    LAST week, the National Forestry Authority (NFA) sector manager for Budongo forest quit citing violation of the NFA core values. Gerald Tenywa went to Biiso, one of the areas in the 825 square kilometre forest reserve where illegal pitsawying of mahogany is going unabetted and now writes.

    IT feels like a walk into the heart of darkness, sheltered by century-old mahogany trees. For 30-year Paul Mugabi, my guide and a resident of Kanyege village, the towering mahogany trees are treasures since his ancestors spared them.

    His sentiments are shared by thousands of environmentalists who say Budongo is part of the world famous Ituri forest that covers larger parts of eastern DR Congo. It also contains endangered species including chimpanzees and nahan’s francolin, a rare bird species.

    But Mugabi feels like a lonely traveller in taking local action to save this natural heritage. He says government officials have consistently turned a deaf ear to reports of illegal logging.

    “This is becoming a matter of concern and something should be done,” says Mugabi. “It is a shame that when we report illegal loggers sneaking into the forest, the forestry officials only respond days after timber has been cut and removed.”

    In reaction to the queries, officials of the national forestry authority attribute the delayed interventions to shortage of manpower and inadequate facilities.
    “We have had running battles with pitsawyers over illegal harvesting of trees in Budongo,” says Deziderius Irumba, the manager of the 825 square kilometre Budongo forest.

    However, he resigned from the post on October 31, citing violation of the core values and objectives of NFA.

    Irumba, who was based at Nyabyeya, says one of their encounters ended up with the arrest of some pitsawyers, who unfortunately, were released from Police custody a few days later.
    “However, there are cases when we cannot intervene in good time because we lack means of transport to get to the affected areas,” he says.

    The rich timber dealers have earned the name “Tagiri” meaning rich man in the local language. The poor locals known as “fundis” spend days in camps working deep in the forest. They cut down huge trees and later smuggle the timber out of the forest. The timber dealers then take it to either Kampala or West Nile and Southern Sudan.

    But it is only the rich men that earn as much as sh10m from a single mahogany tree. The “fundis” walk away with about sh2,000 per day. The deal is seen as a good source of money to survive since many of the local people are tobacco farmers.

    “The money is little, but it keeps many people going,” says Mugabi.
    Back at Nyabyeya where the seat of the National Forestry Authority (NFA) is located, the pit sawyers give the managers of the expansive forest sleepless night.

    Condemned by environmentalists, felling of mahogany is motivated by the booming demand for hardwood that make highly valued timber.
    The building boom has drastically increased the use of the treasured trees. Consequently, they have become scarce.

    According to the tree-planting and forestry Act, it is illegal to fell trees in a protected area without permission.
    Prior to the creation of new forestry body, the colonial forestry department was also engaged in running battles with the pit sawyers. The rackets of illegal loggers would sometimes sneak into the forest. They would work day and night.

    In some cases, foresters would mount operations after gathering intelligence information about the works of illegal pitsawyers. But they would run away, leaving behind the felled trees, which the foresters christened ‘abandoned logs.’

    The pit sawyers would then re-group and start working stealthily in another part of the forest, to avoid the eagle-eyed patrol men watching over the forest.

    This way, Irumba says, the abandoned logs accumulated in the forest. So when the NFA was created three years ago, the issue of clearing the logs had to be settled, since valuable timber could be got from the abandoned logs.

    Another reason was that hardcore pitsawyers would still come back to the forest and convert the abandoned logs.
    “It was necessary to keep them out of the forest by removing all the logs,” says Irumba.

    In a letter dated September 12, 2007, Damian Akankwasa, the executive director of the national forestry authority, offered Aziz Mugisa, a private timber dealer, the abandoned logs hoping it would put the matter to rest.

    However, the illegal harvesting of timber in Biiso block has increased and the NFA has not realised as much revenue to match the logs being removed.
    “Two groups of Mugisa’s workers were found converting trees illegally felled but not officially graded or offered to the licensee,” stated a report of June 12 compiled by Irumba.

    “Farther information indicates that Mugisa’s workers were themselves illegally cutting and stealing the timber for sale to other illegal timber dealers at night.”

    According to Akankwasa, the NFA’s sector manager for Budongo should have supervised the removal of the logs.
    However, an internal communication from the patrol men in Biiso to the sector manager, indicated that Mugisa was a difficult person to work with.

    “This letter serves to inform you that Mugisa is very hard to work with,” says Herbert Turyahabwa, the caretaker for Biiso area within NFA. “He (the husband of Mugisa) almost directed me to measure for him green logs and I suspect that Mugisa is behind illegal cutting of these new trees,” the letter stated.

    He threatened the NFA staff, that he could uproot some of them from work.
    But when The New Vision contacted Mugisa for a comment, she instead accused the NFA field officers of malpractice.

    “They are crucifying me because I know all their dirty games,” she says. “The good thing is that I have been reporting to Akankwasa.”

    One of the challenges of protecting richly endowed forests like Budongo is the ease with which trees can be turned into money.

    According to a research report entitled ‘Wealth distribution, poverty and timber governance in Uganda’ undertaken by the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), the local populace benefit least from timber. The local people do the bulk of the work, but the middlemen in Masindi and Kampala rip them off.

    “We think the Government should come up with programmes that help the local people to benefit more from natural resources management,” says ACODE’s Sophie Kutegeka.

    “The local people will not participate in the sustainable use of nature unless they benefit.”

    So, what can be done?
    # The National Forestry Authority should work together with the civil society to empower communities to promote a sustainable use of Budongo forest.

    # The local people should be allowed to extract raw materials like medicinal plants and handicrafts.

    This should be accompanied with enterprises like bee-keeping and the sale of tree seedlings to give local people more options for survival.
    # The authority should start a tree-planting campaign, with the civil society, to replace the trees that are cut down

    # In addition, the forestry body should avoid giving concessions selectively to particular individuals. “The people who engage in illegal activities are benefiting more than the law-abiding citizens and this is unfair,” says Mugabi, “We hope justice will be done.”


  5. Uganda: Country to Organise Bird Fair

    Gerald Tenywa, New Vision

    25 May 2009

    Kampala — UGANDA is to organise an annual fair for local and international bird-watchers to promote the country as a birding destination.

    Speaking at the launch of the Uganda Big Birding Day at Mabira Forest Eco-lodge over the weekend, environment state minister Jessica Eriyo said each bird-watcher could spend up to $5,000.

    Eriyo said bird-watchers were known to stay in the country longer and spend more.

    “It is possible to have more than a million people visiting the protected areas because birding is not as restrictive as gorilla tracking,” she noted.

    Eriyo said bird-watching was started 100 years ago by the founders of the East African Nature History Society, which evolved into Nature Uganda.

    Eriyo and the bird watchers signed a birding chart and planted trees at the Eco-lodge.

    Stephen Masaba, a Uganda wildlife authority official, said Uganda, despite covering only 0.2% of the earth surface, was blessed with 11% of the global bird population.

    “Uganda has 50% of Africa’s bird population. We also have 70% of the bird population in eastern Africa,” said Masaba.

    He said Mabira forest was a habitat for 280 bird species and some of them, like the Nahan Francolin, were considered to be among the rarest birds in the world.

    Guests from the private sector, tour operators and the Uganda Bird Guides Club attended the launch.

    A total of 76 bird watchers from Gulu district, 67 from Mbarara, 56 in Masaka and Mbale were on a look-out for the wattled crane.

    The wattled crane, which originates from southern Africa and Ethiopia, was for the first time seen in Uganda a month ago.

    The executive director of Nature Uganda, Achilles Byaruhanga, warned that some of the species were threatened with extinction because of the rampant destruction of their habitats.

    Byaruhanga explained that the population of the crested cranes was estimated to be 100,000 about 40 years ago, but is now less than 10,000.

    “This means that 90% of the crane population has perished in the last 40 years,” he noted.

    “It will be a shame if we lose the national symbol.”


  6. Secretive Capitol-Hill Cult Plays Key Role In Uganda Plan For Anti-G
    Posted by: “Scott Bidstrup” comms_engr
    Mon Nov 2, 2009 2:38 am (PST)


    If you have read about “The Family,” that secretive Fundamentalist
    Christian cult to which many important members of Congress, as well as
    Hillary Clinton, belong, you may have thought it to be a relatively
    harmless group of Christian wackos specializing in power-brokerage.

    Well, if that’s what you thought, think again.

    The Family is the evangelical group that is behind the most bigoted and
    draconian anti-gay laws in the world, by far, and given some of the laws
    that exist in the Islamic world, that’s really saying something. If
    these laws are allowed to go forward, they will quite literally lead to
    the genocide of gays and lesbians, and anyone who protects them in
    Uganda. That nation’s president, Yoweri Museveni, himself a real piece
    of work, has been converted to The Family, and Doug Coe, the cult’s
    leader, is using him to put forward what can only be called an anti-gay

    That members of Congress would allow themselves to be associated with
    such a cult is truly frightening. If Coe and his followers can do this
    in Uganda, imagine what could happen if the President of the United
    States, with the “Unitary Executive” laws put forward by the Bush
    Administration, could implement such legislation?

    The scary thing is that it very nearly happened. Hillary Clinton is a
    member of The Family.

    Scott B.


    American Evangelicals Play Role In Uganda Effort To ‘Wipe Out’ Gays
    Posted October 18th, 2009 by Wayne Besen

    In March, American anti-gay activists traveled to Uganda for a
    conference that pledged to “wipe out” homosexuality. Seven months later,
    a draconian bill has been introduced that pledges to make good on this
    threat. The “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009” is so severe that it is
    designed to shred the spirit and suffocate the soul of gay, lesbian,
    bisexual and transgender Ugandans. If it passes, Uganda will become a
    predator state that actively hunts down GLBT people to destroy them.

    Uganda already punished gay intimacy with life in prison. But,
    apparently that was not harsh enough, with this bill penalizing anyone
    who “attempts to commit the offence” with up to seven years in jail.
    Additionally, a person charged will be forced to undergo an invasive
    medical examination to determine their HIV status. If the detainees are
    found to be HIV+, they may be executed.

    This barbaric legislation stifles free speech by threatening anyone who
    is accused of “promoting” homosexuality with five to seven year prison
    sentences. Snitching on gay friends and family members is strongly
    encouraged because “failure to disclose the ‘offence’ within 24 hours of
    knowledge makes somebody liable to a fine or imprisonment of up to three

    Sadly, this witch-hunt has the blood stained fingerprints of leading
    American evangelicals. The Fellowship, (aka The Family) one of America’s
    most powerful and secretive fundamentalist organization’s, converted
    Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni (pictured top) to its anti-gay brand
    of Christianity, which is the “intellectual” impetus behind the anti-gay
    crackdown. The clandestine organization’s leader, Doug Coe, calls
    Museveni The Fellowship’s “key man” in Africa. Jeff Sharlet, author of
    “The Family”, writes of the African strongman’s conversion:

    “So,” Doug Coe told us, “my friend said to the president, ‘why don’t you
    come and pray with me in America? I have a good group of
    friends—senators, congressmen—who I like to pray with, and they’d like
    to pray with you.’ And that president came to the Cedars (a religious
    retreat), and he met Jesus. And his name is Yoweri Museveni…And he is a
    good friend of the Family.”

    The Family, of course, recently made headlines because one of its key
    members, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) had sex with his best friends wife,
    while they were working together. Another member, Sen. Tom Coburn
    (R-OK), used one of the Family’s Washington properties to try to broker
    a deal to buy off the furious husband, who has since gone public with
    the Ensign scandal.

    It is important for people to understand that The Fellowship and other
    anti-gay groups have long viewed Uganda as a laboratory to experiment
    with Christian theocracy. For example, fundamentalist organizations
    recently undermined successful HIV programs in Uganda by demanding
    abstinence only education, over condom use, which had been working to
    reduce infection rates…


  7. Pingback: Uganda’s Mabira forest threatened again | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  8. Pingback: Uganda’s Mabire nature reserve threatened | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  9. Pingback: Ugandan medical anthropologist arrested for criticizing goverrnment | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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