Save Mabira Crusade Press Statement on Emerging Events Following the April 12th Mabira Demonstration

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A statement by Save Mabira Crusade following the arrest of civil society leaders.

On the 12th April 2007, the Save Mabira Crusade in fraternity with the general public comprising of all civil society organizations, religious affiliations, political orientations, academicians, students, traders, legislators, women and men of Uganda and the global citizens residing in Uganda conducted the largest ever peaceful demonstration by Ugandans in defense of Mabira forest.

On the13th April 2007, the Save Mabira Crusade issued a press statement condemning in the strongest terms the killings, looting, maiming and disruption of businesses by elements in our society whose agenda had nothing to do with the peaceful demonstration.

We also condemned the failure of the Police (and for that matter the state) to provide security and guidance to the demonstrators and controlling traffic on designated roads for the peaceful demonstration. Instead, Police was armed to the teeth ready for confrontation with the demonstrators.

It is, therefore, not surprising that what was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration degenerated into chaos. It is tempting to suggest that there could have been a well-planned conspiracy to ensure that the demonstration turned rowdy. We hope that the ongoing investigations by the Police will unearth the true perpetrators of the chaos and bring them to book.

We are concerned that instead of establishing the real causes of the chaos, government is bent on diverting attention from the real issue, which is Mabira and is politicizing the demonstration making Mabira an opposition issue and also an anti-CHOGM [Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, to take place in Uganda November 2007], crusade. This is a perversion of democracy, peace, justice and the aspirations of Ugandans striving for sustainable environment and development.

We are also concerned that government is concentrating on arresting the leaders of Save Mabira Crusade, instead of explicitly addressing the reasons for the demonstration. Government is even projecting it as a racial matter, which is unfortunate.

Of course, we welcome, government's new position on Mabira forest articulated in the Sunday Vision of 15th April 2007. If this statement had come earlier the demonstration would not have taken place and all the chaos that occurred would have been avoided.

As you are aware, the process of criminalization of the peaceful demonstration and the leadership of Save Mabira Crusade is under way. Currently, the chairperson of Save Mabira Crusade, Mr. Frank Muramuzi, is under arrest together with Members of Parliament, Hon. Beatrice Atim Anywar and Hon. Hussein Kyanjo, and Mr. Mukasa Mbidde, spokesperson for Uganda Young Democrats. The whereabouts of Mr. Ken Lukyamuzi is still unknown.

According to General Kale Kayihura, the Police Chief, government is lining up charges against the Save Mabira Crusade that include terrorism, murder, manslaughter, conspiracy to murder and inciting violence. Although the Police okayed the peaceful demonstration, the Police Chief says that the Save Mabira Crusade leaders will be charged for participating in unlawful assembly. This is clearly a contradiction.

We have learnt that the leadership of Save Mabira Crusade are being paraded before the Courts of Law. We have also learnt that attempts are being made to deny them bail. This is a conspiracy to suffocate the national struggle of saving Mabira and other forests in the country from being given away in the name of investment and development to satisfy the interests of a few greedy individuals.

We must reiterate that we are not opposed to investment and development. However investment and development must not be pursued at the expense of environment. There must be a balance between environment and development for sustainable progress. This is why we do not agree with government's thesis that in order to develop, we must replace natural forests with artificial ones and establish plantations and factories instead. Natural forests are irreplaceable.

We take this opportunity to urge government to rethink its approaches to development, peace and security. This can be achieved by pursuing development, peace and security in a peaceful, healthy, safe and secure environment. As we stated in our 10th April, 2007 press briefing, forests have a critical role to play in ensuring peace, security and health of our country and peoples in the long-term.

Government should consider us as partners, not adversaries of development.

We appeal to all citizens of Uganda not to waiver in their struggle to save Mabira and other forests in the country from destruction. However, they should not fall into a racial trap, because this is diversionary and dangerous.

We applaud the unconditional release from incarceration of Mr. Issa Sekitto, the Secretary of KACITA. We now demand that government also unconditionally releases the remaining incarcerated leaders of Save Mabira Crusade for the good of our nation.

Together, we rise or sink.




  • Oweyegha-Afunaduula, Acting Chairman, Save Mabira Crusade (Uganda) +256-782-555-222