Celebrating the Love of Friends in a Loving World

Celebrating the Love of Friends in a Loving World
Red Roses for You, My Sweet Friends ... Total Love.

My Sweet Friends

My sweet friends,

We grow closer to each other;

When we interact together and share ideas;

The common faith that we share,

Binds our hearts in one accord.

For sweet friendships last a life time,

When built on mutual respect, humility and understanding;

Throughout each different season,

We find we are one in life.

Sweet friends are there through times of grief;

And times when hope is gone;

Always there with encouragement;

So we can carry on.

I thank the Lord for you,

My true and faithful friends;

To fondly speak with you, whether we agree or not,

On this, our beloved blog;

For sweet friends will stay, no matter what;

Giving support.

Together, our hearts and minds truly unite;

With the amazing love of sweet friends.

In the spirit of true friendship,

Best wishes, my sweet friends;

May the Lord bless you abundantly.

I remain, yours truly,

B.B. Bakampa.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Phase Two Of The Mabira Giveaway Debate: Understanding The Underlying Issues

By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
Dip. Law (First Class)–LDC; Cert. PELD–NALI-K; LLB Student–Mak]

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has ‘resurrected’ the highly contentious Mabira forest giveaway debate. He and his government propose to allocate 7000 hectares of this precious natural forest for sugarcane growing!

Delving a bit in history lane, this matter first came up in 2007 when the government of Uganda proposed to give a quarter of the forest to Mehta, an investor dealing in the growing of sugarcane and subsequently processing the same to make sugar.

This undeniably ridiculous proposal was vehemently opposed by environmentalist working in unison with opposition politicians who criticised the idea calling it reckless and unnecessary. Led by Honourable Beatrice Anywar (M.P.), the duo condemned the government’s proposal as being unreasonable, without merit and lacking in substance.

Realising that the government was hell-bent on giving away a quarter of this forest, they mobilised ordinary Ugandans to oppose this scheme. And trust Ugandans–they did not disappoint–as they responded to the call to “defend Mabira” having turned up in large numbers to demonstrate against the impending giveaway. Having assembled along the streets of Kampala, the protesters clearly expressed their dissatisfaction with the proposal. For the 26 years that I have lived in Uganda, never before had I ever seen the country united for a cause like this.

Alas, the peaceful demonstration soon turned rowdy and violent following an attempted police dispersal of the peaceful assembly. Ugandan Asians, especially those of Indian descent, were attacked and harassed by the demonstrators who sought to vent their anger against their perceived ‘enemies’. Consequently, three Indians were killed and two indigenous Ugandans also lost their lives. Other members of the Indian community sought refugee at police and military installations seeking safety and protection.

In the face of this overwhelming civil opposition, President Museveni and his government backed down from the proposal to give away part of the coveted forest. They conceded that something (I wonder what) had gone wrong, promising to revisit their decision.

Now, about four years down the road, President Museveni and his government have again brought this matter forward. Speaking to district leaders and agricultural officers at State House, Entebbe, in July this year, the President shockingly revealed that he has never given up the idea of apportioning part of Mabira to Mehta to boost sugar production in the county!

According to him, there is a degraded part of the forest (the 7000 ha) that are better off utilised for sugarcane growing. He reasons that this will help in curbing the rampant sugar scarcity in the country that has triggered an exorbitant rise in the price of this highly sought after commodity. Sugar is currently far beyond the reach of many ordinary Ugandan households.

As expected, environmentalists, opposition politicians and several Ugandans from all walks of life have vowed to oppose this idea as they did in 2007. In response, the President has said that he “is ready for the war on sugar” and has branded his critics as “unarmed terrorists”, vowing not to concede defeat.

No doubt, Ugandans must brace themselves for another not-so-nice confrontation. It looks like it is back to square one after all; as if to agree with the adage that what goes around comes around.

But there is need to look beyond the apparent and critically examine the true motivation of this giveaway. For all its importance, Mabira forest should be the last resort for boosting sugar. Without being detailed, suffice to say that this forest is home to thousands of species of both flora and fauna; it is vital to our ecosystem for it helps in making rainfall and significantly controlling water table variations; the forest is an acclaimed ‘deposit’ of good quality timber necessary for the construction and interior design industries. The list is infinite.

To me, there is more than meets the eye and mind of ordinary folks in this whole Mabira saga. Otherwise, how does one explain this deeply entrenched desire to sacrifice a natural resource like Mabira forest to sugar production? Moreover, considering that there are other unexplored alternatives since sugar can grow in many other parts of the country. Sugarcane growing is no match for this forest cover.

There must be hidden and high-handed business interests being rooted for by highly placed government officials in connivance with Mehta. The question is, why is Mehta allegedly insisting on getting land around Mabira forest yet there is alternative land in central region and other parts of the country?

Then, why is Mehta not interested in buying land considering that he has been an investor here for over 50 years making profit? In fact, the company is refusing to renew its lease agreement with the current landlords (the Kulubya family). It is possible that its allies in government hope to cash in on free timber at the end of the day.

Former Vice President Professor Gilbert Bukenya revealed to Ugandans that there were ‘Mafias’ in government and it seems that after successfully fighting him, now they have turned their guns on our key natural resources like Mabira forest. Therefore, I urge all Ugandans to keep up the spirit of nationalism by fighting against any unscrupulous efforts to abuse and misuse governmental powers whatsoever.

President Museveni says that the current sugar crisis necessitates the giving away of Mabira, but this is untenable because as indicated above, there are unexplored alternatives. The stingy land issue aside, there is the question of the quality of sugarcane that Mehta currently uses. Some experts have argued that the company uses low and poor quality sugarcane such that the solution does not lie in acquiring more land but growing high quality sugarcane.

Mehta should also consider liaising with out-growers so that they supply to him extra quantities of sugarcane to supplement his production. Unfortunately, it is reported that unlike other producers, Mehta has no good working relationship with out-growers around him.

Whereas the government argues that this is part of its policy of promoting foreign investment in the country, it is unacceptable that crucial natural resources like forests should be depleted in the name of investment, economic growth and development. Not until there are no viable alternatives, these God-given resources should be jealously conserved for the benefit of both the present and future generations.

In this era of climate change which, the United Nations has confirmed is the biggest threat to humanity, Uganda cannot afford to adopt gravely disastrous policies and programmes that will only expose us to danger. It is ironical that while the rest of the world (especially the developed one) is striving to conserve its greenery, we are busy planning to destroy ours.

True, we need industries and investments that will facilitate urgently needed job creation and employment opportunities but we must be mindful of the cost too. Simply put, Mabira cannot go for sugarcane!