10 September 2006

Uganda: Museveni to Consult On Mabira Forest

Kampala — PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has assured the public that he cannot arbitrarily give away Mabira forest to investors, without being sanctioned by Parliament.

Internal affairs state minister Matiya Kasaija said during last week's National Resistance Movement (NRM) caucus meeting, the President assured the MPs that the forestland was safe.

"He said he could not do it alone and arbitrarily. He alluded to public talk among ministers, including NRM members, that he had given away Mabira, and said that was not the way we work, because it would be unconstitutional," the President said.

He said to do that, he would first have to brief Cabinet, which would then present the issue before the caucus for discussion and, if found acceptable, table the proposal before Parliament as was the case with BIDCO's Kalangala project.

"If he were to move in that direction, he would have to consult all these other stakeholders. He allayed public fears because such (give-away) would be unconstitutional," Kasaija said.

Environmental activists have been up in arms protesting a much-rumoured give away of 5,000 hectares of Mabira forest to the Mehta Group to cultivate sugar cane.

Press reports on Saturday said Museveni had made a U-turn after consultations with stakeholders and pressure from donors, and that he was now negotiating with Buganda kingdom for alternative land in Lugazi.

Premier Apolo Nsibambi who attended the meeting said, "The President cannot act arbitrarily."

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