MPs of the National Resistance Movement are divided over plans by the Government to give away part of Mabira Forest for sugarcane production. The majority of MPs The New Vision talked to said they were opposed to the move.
Dr. Sam Lyomoki, Workersâ€™ MP
Definitely we shall not support it. That is a very bad position for the country. As MPs we shall oppose cabinet on that. We think that cabinet should take on the offer by the Kabaka. Should the cabinet persist on giving away Mabira after the Kabakaâ€™s offer, then we shall know that there is another motive behind the whole process.
James Kakooza, Kabula County
I reserve my comments until I have internalised the views of those who want to give away Mabira and those who are against it. We need to find a consensus so that we get a way forward.
Theodore Ssekikuubo, Lwemiyaga County
As far as I am concerned, it does not add up because Mabira is our resource. We cannot afford to just give it away. The Kakabaâ€™s offer is welcome and timely. Even if the Kabaka had not made the offer, it would not be ecologically sound to give out Mabira.
Barnabus Tinkasiimira, Buyanga County
I will not support it. Period.
Olive Wonekha, Bududa MP
The government needs to come out quickly to equip me with arguments why they want to degazzete Mabira. If I am to support that, it should be from an informed point of view. If I am to oppose it, I need facts and figures. I want to go there and see for myself, or get a report from the natural resources committee on the status of Mabira so that I make a decision from an informed view.
Beatrice Byenkya, Hoima Woman
It is a very wrong decision to take over Mabira for sugarcane growing. As much as some people are arguing that it is depleted, it is not destroyed. There is also a difference between the vegetation cover of sugarcane and forests. It is important to retain the forest cover in order to protect the catchment of Lake Victoria.
Emmanuel Dombo, Bunyole County
As the chairperson of the natural resources committee, I have not yet received a formal communication on the cabinet proposal. As the committee, we wrote a report opposing the degazzeting of Mabira until previous de-gazzetments are evaluated to find out whether Government had complied with the law and whether there is any impact on the natural resources of our country.
Saleh Kamba, Kibuku MP
The matter has not yet come up in the NRM caucus. Most MPs are willing to give their views on the matter.
Yahaya Gudoi, Bungoko North
We have not been briefed in the NRM caucus about that proposal. But when it is brought up, definitely it will be thrown out. We shall challenge it.
Rose Namayanja, Nakaseke woman
Attracting and supporting investors is good. But considering that there is the Kabakaâ€™s offer, I think that would be the best option other than degazzeting a natural forest.
Henry Banyenzaki, Rubanda West
How can I support such a motion (to de-gazette Mabira) when the Kabaka has given free land? We have given the Government notice to respond. The Kabakaâ€™s offer is good news. We hope the people of Lugazi sugar are not going to give the excuse that the land is not fertile. If it is not fertile, let them buy fertilizers and fertilise. SCOUL might be eyeing the millions they would get out of the harvested timber. That money would go straight into their pockets.â€
Meddie Mulumba, Luuka County
That is wrong. We, MPs, should stand up and refuse the degazzetting of Mabira. The government should promote the out-growers scheme such that our people neigbouring these sugar factories can benefit from the Bonna Bagaggawale programme. My people are sugarcane growers. They say that Mehta and Madhvani fail to buy their sugarcane. Mehtaâ€™s argument that the sugarcane is not enough is not true. The Government should encourage Mehta and Madhvani to buy sugarcane from the out-growers. If anybody has Busoga at heart, they should not think of giving away Mabira. Butamira Forest was given to Madhvani but up to now, he has never utilised the land.
Pereza Ahabwe, Rubanda East
We need to balance our interest to develop and our interest to conserve. We need a thorough study to find the economic and environmental impact of degazzetting Mabira.
We must be sure that what we do is beneficial to the country and not destructive to our environment. You don't just reject a developmental scheme. Otherwise your country will never develop. Experts should give us guidance on which option to take. This is not a question of politics. It is a question of science and development.
Interviews compiled by Apollo Mubiru, Cyprian Musoke and Gerald Tenywa
NRM MPs oppose Mabira give-away