Sunday, April 15, 2007

Mabira Forest and popular democracy

Mabira is a 21,000 hectare tropical forest reserve an hour outside Kampala on the way to Jinja.

In one of his frequent and increasingly out of touch acts of autocracy President Museveni has decided it would be good for the economy to give (yes give) a third of the forest to the Mehta family’s sugar corporation. The trees will be felled at a profit to the corporation of an estimated $500m and then sugar cane will be planted for sugar production.

The issue is a good barometer of the political times in Uganda. The opposition is disorganised and silent. Some of the press is encouragingly vocal in its opposition. Most impressively there is a shared discomfiture about the whole thing. Sms text and web based campaigns of opposition are attracting attention. There is a widely held conviction that Museveni is wrong, has completely lost his populist touch (and is thus time expired) and is profiting personally from the deal (at the very least in terms of campaign fund contributions).

Unfortunately last weeks demonstration against the give away degenerated into violence with some anti – Indian attacks (and some very racist sentiments harking back to Amin’s expulsion of the Asian community) and 3 deaths. There is a perennial fear that Museveni will use demonstrations of political opposition to sanction military and police violence against any form of opposition……

1 comment:


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