I have keenly followed the Mehta-Mabira story for some time and I am not one of those who will blindly support murdering ancient trees just for a little sugar. But I also know of an opposition leader whose ticket to State House was simply riots over the high price of sugar!
Incidentally, many ‘Forest Protection Crusaders’ only protect Mabira on Jinja Road but have destroyed their own smaller Mabiras, which were planted by their ancestors on the lands they have now turned into brick factories. They used their small Mabira forests as firewood to bake bricks…
I was doing a Mabira programme on STAR TV last year when an angry caller stated “let Museveni go away with his muyindi (Mehta) who came with him from the bush in 1986 to steal our land…” From this I belatedly learnt that most of the anti-Mehta fury was about a suspicion that he was NRM and came with Museveni from the bush! Aloooo!!!
In my Uganda today it would be naive to expect the older leaders of such rioters to tell their youthful, misguided brigades the facts because facts work against recruitment.
I stand to be corrected, but I have read that Nanji Khalidas Mehta came to Uganda in 1924. He settled where he is now with the kind permission of the British colonial authorities and the government of His Highness Kabaka Daudi Chwa.
Because Mabira is older than SCOUL, I am sure Mzee Mehta was permitted (encouraged, or even urged) to cut down several acres of trees to plant sugar. Therefore, Mehta and Mabira have been living in symbiosis as neighbours for 89 years. This relationship beats any possible links between Mehta and NRM by only 57 years.
Recently, Mabira got encroachers without permission from Uganda government or even Kabaka. Their impunity is based on the pigment of their skin and the number of votes they can cast. In less than a quarter of the time Mehta has lived beside Mabira, these blessed encroachers have made the forest gods gnash their teeth in impotent rage by murdering thousands of trees.
I have a photo of one Mabira campaign poster reading; ‘ONE TREE CUT, ONE INDIAN DEAD’ and the proud bearer of this genocidal message was standing next to two beaming Members of Parliament and a priest. When one Indian was murdered even before any tree was felled, these MPs and the man of God disappeared from the scene, (AS USUAL) leaving their misguided missiles to be harvested by the police.
Is our mission to protect Mabira from Mehta because he is Asian? Is it to protect trees from decimation except by our own? Are we protecting Ugandans from sugar to create catchment areas of sugar rioters?
Does anyone doubt what would happen if government ever tried to stop Mr X from baking his bricks with firewood from the ffene or even muvule trees in his kibanja, which were left there by his great-grandpa?
Let us protect Mabira from the Mehtas of this planet even as we protect our own few trees from OURSELVES. Only then will Environmental Protection thrive.
UBC BOSS AND UAH MEMBER