By Henry Mukasa
THE Kabaka (king) of Buganda, Ronald Mutebi, is petitioning the Constitutional Court in a bid to block the Government from giving away part of Mabira Forest to the Sugar Corporation of Uganda (SCOUL).
â€œThe Buganda kingdom cabinet has decided to take this matter to the Constitutional Court to fight for the protection of the environment and all forests in Buganda to save the Kabakaâ€™s subjects and their descendants from the adverse effects resulting from the Mabira give-away,â€ Bugandaâ€™s deputy Information Minister, Medard Lubega Sseggona, announced in a statement.
It noted that the Kabakaâ€™s offer of alternative land for sugarcane production, near Mabira, had been disregarded by the Government. It also regretted that the kingâ€™s emissaries to the sugar company had not reached any deal to save the ecologically and climatically critical forest.
On Wednesday, the Kabaka sent his ministers Lutaaya Mukomazi and Kabuuza Mukasa to the company but the owners were reportedly adamant.
According to the statement, the Kabakaâ€™s decision is hinged on the need to save citizens from the â€œeminent dangers of drought, desertification, poverty and famine the cutting of Mabira would stimulateâ€.
The Buganda kingdom also decided to take a petition to Parliament, sensitise the public on the dangers of deforestation and stage a peaceful demonstration to save the forest.
â€œOn the same day there will be a rally and a peaceful demonstration as we take the petition, outlining our dissatisfaction at the rampant rate at which forests are being cut,â€ Lubega said.
The nation has been plunged in an acrimonious debate ever since president Yoweri Museveni proposed to give 7,100 out of the 32,000 hectares of Mabira to SCOUL, owned by the Metha group.
Environment minister Maria Mutagamba prepared a cabinet paper defending the degazetting of the centuries-old nature reserve.
The paper still needs to be discussed by cabinet and approved by Parliament. The NRM, which constitutes a majority in Parliament, is deeply divided over the issue.
Last week, civil society organisations, led by the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment, already filed a case with the Constitutional Court, arguing that the proposed degazettement violates the constitution. On Thursday environmental activists, united under the Uganda Forest Working Group to Save Mabira Forest Reserve, handed over a petition against the planned give-away to the speaker, Edward Sekandi.