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By Museminari Damas Marcel
Yes, there is a sugar shortage on the international market, but yet that should not be the reason Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni would rather ‘die and be buried ‘over giving away Mabira forest’s ha 7,100 to the Mehtas for planting sugar cane.
The Mabira saga that first appeared in 2007 when the Ugandan President’s plan to give away the lush forest on the shores of L.Victoria to the Mehta group met stiff resistance from pressure groups in the country resulting in the death of at least three people.
This second time, like the knight scholar Joachim Buwembo has written in the East African, we must raise the level of pressure so that even those who come after Museveni will never think about it. But nobody needs to spill blood over it. Let us fight M7 and Mehta in the most civil way and achieve lasting results. Here is how.
Save Mabira strategy
First, the media must find and publish the reason M7 is hell-bent on giving away the forest to sugar cane plantation despite the foolhardiness of the plan and the amount of internal and international pressure. Let the media share information across the region, expose it and ridicule the move. We could also help to draw a list of environment predators for Africa, including companies such as the Mehta owned Sugar Corporation of Uganda Ltd [SCOUL] and ask international lenders to stop giving them the money.
Secondly, educate the public why we need more forest than sugar. As it is, we already use too much sugar in our drinks, pastries etc., to the detriment of our health. Diabetes, obesity and other ailments are caused by consumption of unnecessary sugar. If we stop taking sugar in our milk, coffee and tea, we will save money, our life and Mabira. The hotels will love it too. They will save on sugar. Sweets also manufactured by companies allied to Mehtas will be done away with. Parents will take delight in less rotten teeth for our kids.
Thirdly, we must use the instruments we already have such as the L.Victoria Basin Initiative which is an East African community thing. We must find the pressure to nudge our EALA members to stop Museveni from exploiting the forest because of the danger it causes to the eco-system. If EALA cannot do it we must ask our own Presidents to intervene.
As a resident of Rwanda in the EAC I have a grouse with the M7 plan. Environmental protection is big here in Rwanda and with Rwanda upstream river systems contribute large amounts of water to Lake Victoria. We expect that in the future our protection of upstream reaches of the River Nile, will earn us the right to draw water from L.Victoria. If Ugandans accept to cut down Mabira, an important catchment area thus reducing the water volume, then we reserve the right reason to complain to Uganda. You could say the same for other EAC members Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi. Cutting Mabira is so to speak not only selfish and shortsighted; it is actually primitive. It is as the saying goes ‘burning the house to roast the pork.’
Fourthly, people across EAC should punish Mehta and Museveni by boycotting anything remotely produced by the company. Let us show them greed has its limits. This is the time for civil society to get together and lead the population.
Let us boycott sugar
By using our wallets, we could reward hotels and restaurants that do not serve sugar and punish those that serve it. If you are a big client ask them if possible to display banners that read. “This hotel is Mabira friendly, we serve no sugar.”
Make sure you maintain a domestic sugar ban at home. One household at a time we could give the ban a period of at least 40 days which religiously is a number to separate from evil.
Finally the sugar you have in the house may be poured away in disgust. Let our environmentalists tell us where it is most profitable to nature.
Withdraw money from Mehta’s major bankers
Lastly we might need to know which banks in the region work with Mehta and withdraw our money from them and work with only those that accept ‘Save Mabira’ banners.
Remove all xenophobia from this fight
In the past, riots over Mabira have targeted Asians especially of Indian extraction. Let us educate the population how this is a fight to save Mabira and against greed. Greed has no colour or tribe. Indeed we need the support of the Indian community to put pressure on their kinsman Mehta. They will give us information where he hurts most. The Indian Community is important allies if we must win big time.
Only when M7 and Mehta recant their wish to destroy Mabira should we begin to reassess our lives without sugar. This fight is tear gas free and can be done on the phone and internet. Start by sending this article to a colleague. Come on; let’s have a blast at it with real people power. The time has arrived! EAC unity will receive a boost from this as we begin a true, bloodless revolution to change many bad situations.
This article was first produced in Business Daily Newspaper Rwanda
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This post has already been read 12565 times!