Saturday, April 21, 2007

Biofuel plantations fuel strife in Uganda
Fred Pearce, New Scientist

A row over the conversion of rainforests into biofuel plantations is creating a grave political crisis for a country until now seen as a beacon for democracy in Africa. The issue has brought to a head the simmering conflicts between short-term economic gains and the conservation of vital natural resources in the continent.

The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, is this week pressing ahead with plans to give a large chunk of one of the country’s last protected forests to a sugar cane company so it can expand its operations. The Sugar Corporation of Uganda, which is owned by Ugandan Asians, wants to expand production to cash in on the booming global market in sugar for biofuels.

The crisis reached boiling point last week when a demonstration against the plan in the capital Kampala turned into an ugly race riot. Asian shops were ransacked, an Asian was stoned to death and police killed two demonstrators.

The demonstrations have resumed this week, with hundreds of defenders of the forest beaten up by squads of vigilantes known as kiboko, which local media claim are backed by the government.
(19 April 2007)


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