Forest giveaway to Sugar Corporation of Uganda

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Mabira must go, Museveni tells district officials

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.

Environmental fears
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.”


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