Thursday, April 12, 2007

Three killed as Ugandan police disperse environmental protest

This incident highlights racial tensions in Uganda between Indians immigrants and Ugandans. Indian businesses have got government permission to clear protected forests for sugar planting, which is fishy. The Black Ugandans are reacting with racism, which is also fishy.

At least three people were killed Thursday during violent protests against a government decision to hive off swathes of protected forest for sugar plantation by an Indian company, police said.

Police spokesman Simeon Nsubuga said two people were killed as they tried to break into a shop in the capital as security forces were dispersing thousands of demonstrators from the streets.

"Two Ugandan rioters who were trying to loot a shop were shot dead by security guards," Nsubuga told AFP.

Earlier, Kampala police chief Edward Ocwom said a man of Indian origin died after being beaten by demonstrators.

"I have just confirmed that one Indian who was beaten by rioters has just died at Mulago hospital. I do not know any other case of death, but we are still gathering information," he told AFP.

Earlier, police fired live rounds and tear gas in the air to disperse thousands of protestors in downtown Kampala rallying against the plan to clear around 7,000 of the 30,000 hectares (75,000 acres) in Mabira Forest Reserve east of Kampala.

The government plans to seek parliamentary approval before handing over the forest land to Indian-owned Mehta Group for sugar cane farming.

Military police beat and dispersed the demonstrators, who had also attacked motorists of Indian origin and burnt a truck that was carrying sugar.

Several people were injured in the riots that forced businesses to shut down.

The protestors tried to raid a Hindu temple, but were blocked by police.

"All Indians should go back to Bombay. Mr President, let Mabira stay. (Yoweri) Museveni is trying to rob us. We are tired of Indians," read some of the placards brandished by the crowd.

They also chanted slogans in praise of former dictator Idi Amin, who expelled Indian merchants from Uganda and confiscating their properties in 1972.

"Amin, Uganda's Jesus wouldn't accept this." "Mehta, do you want another Amin?" read other banners.

Amin, whose 1971-1979 rule was marked by atrocities, was finally ousted and died in exile in Saudi Arabia in 2003.

Furious conservationists have warned that further encroachment of the forest would threaten up to 312 species of trees, 287 species of bird and 199 of butterflies.

In December, Norwegian environmentalist Olav Bjella quit as National Forestry Authority chief after refusing to implement Museveni's order to approve the clearance of a rainforest on Lake Victoria's Ssesse Islands for a palm plantation, saying it was against his conscience and the laws of Uganda.

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