Ugandans save the Mabira Forest from sugarcane plantation, 2007


Save Mabira Forest from being sold to sugarcane growers.

Time period notes

The campaign began in April/12/2007 to October/19/2007

Time period

April, 2007 to October, 2007



Location City/State/Province

Kampala-Jinja City/Buikwe/Uganda

Location Description

is located approximately 56km East of Uganda’s capital kampala on the main kampala-Jinja high way in the district of Buikwe
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 3rd segment

Methods in 4th segment

  • Protesters reach out to police

Methods in 5th segment

Methods in 6th segment

  • Activists show their support at a public hearing

Additional methods (Timing Unknown)

  • Articles written about campaign civil disobedience tactics in local newspapers

Segment Length

One Month


Beatrice Atim Anywar(MP), Henry Basira, Frank Muramuzi(activists), Kabaka (King) of Baganda


Godber Tumushabe,Billy Musoke and Robert Lutaya

External allies

Geofrey Nzito:King of Batwa(Pygmies)Community

Involvement of social elites

Kabaka (King) of Baganda Tribe
Members of Parliament: Ms. Beatrice Atim Anywar,
Anglican Church leaders
Environmentalists and other civil society organizations


Uganda government, Indian buyers of the land.

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known.

Campaigner violence

Ugandan police claim that demonstrators killed 2 Indian Ugandans (and hurt others with stones and threatened them while they were in their temple), but it is unclear whether the mob action was actually done by the campaigners who began the peaceful march.

Repressive Violence

Police shot 1 demonstrator, arrested 20, tear gassed and beat many.





Group characterization

environmental activists

Groups in 1st Segment

Ugandans activists: Beatrice
and Frank

Groups in 2nd Segment

King of Buganda and Baganda Indigenous

Groups in 3rd Segment

Environmentalist groups looking to preserve forest and other civil society organizations

Groups in 4th Segment

certain military and police units

Groups in 5th Segment

King of Batwa community: Geofrey Nzito

Groups in 6th Segment

Buganda Kingdom Minister: Peter Charles Mayinga

Segment Length

One Month

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


2 out of 3 points

Total points

9 out of 10 points

Database Narrative

Uganda in East Africa has a large rainforest area, the Mabira Forest, that has been protected since 1932. In 2007 Ugandan President Yoweli Kaguta Museveni announced a plan to hand over one-third of the Mabira rainforest to the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL).  The plan was to turn the forest into land for growing sugarcane.

The Sugar Corporation was owned jointly by the government and the Mehta Group, an Indian-Ugandan family.  The government estimated that 3500 jobs would come from sugarcane production along with 11.5 billion Ugandan shillings for the treasury in taxes.

Two days after the announcement, activists met together to oppose the plan and decided to launch a campaign, the Save Mabira Crusade, including peaceful demonstrations.  The activists believed that deforestation would promote climate change that would be dangerous to the economy. Also, the Mabira forest is a place where people worship the spirits of their grandparents. Environmentalists said the move threatens the existence of rare species of trees and birds, will promote soil erosion, and is likely to reduce rainfall.

The director and other officials of the National Forestry Authority resigned to protest the government’s plans, saying that other, non-forested lands in Uganda could be used for sugarcane production.

The coalition opposing deforestation grew to include the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE – Friends of the Earth Uganda), led by Frank Muramuzi; a woman member of parliament, Anywar Atim Beatrice; the Kabaka (king) of Buganda and Buganda indigenous people, the Anglican Church of Mukono, and other civil society groups.  Both the Kabaka (King) of Buganda and the Anglican Church offered alternative land that they owned to be used for growing sugar.  The Kabaka also petitioned the Constitutional Court to stop the government’s move.

The campaigners collected declarations by organizations against the deforestation, and circulated a mass petition.  They lobbied the government and began to picket, while also reaching out to police.  They called for a sugar boycott of sugar produced by the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited.

Campaigners planned a long walk from the capital, Kampala, to Jinja district where Mabira forest is located – almost 83 kilometers. The walk began quietly in Kampala city with approximately 1000 demonstrators carrying placards and tree branches and singing. At the beginning of march the police first tried to convince them to stop. When activists refused to stop, the police tried to stop them by force and arrest the leaders.

Suddenly demonstrators and the police started pushing each other. Police shot their guns into the air. The police arrested some of protest leaders and started beating them. Some demonstrators started to fight back, threw stones, and injured one policeman.  They also set fire to vehicles.

Police then shot into the crowd, with at least one fatality. Police also arrested about 20.

In a breakdown of law and order a mob formed, running through the streets of Kampala.  Noting that the Mehta Group is composed of Indian Ugandans, some charged that Indians were to blame for the threat to the forest.  The mob destroyed some Indian businesses, threatened some who were gathered in a Hindu temple, and beat at least one Indian to death.

Military police were called in to back up the regular police; they came with tear gas and armed vehicles and spent hours breaking up groups and directing them to go home.

The movement grew rapidly.  Even the same day as the march that was broken up, 12 April, shops in Kampala closed as a show of solidarity for the protesters (and also in fear that looting might break out). Demonstrations grew in other towns. In Kampala many people hastened to place on their cars’ bumpers a sticker urging that the Mabira forest be saved.

The state-run newspaper New Vision criticized the government’s proposal to use the forest, revealing division within the government on the question.

Under the pressure of rising opposition, in 22 May Environment minister Maria Mutagamba announced that the government would seek an alternative site for sugarcane development, but that a cabinet committee would need to review the needs.

By 19 October it was clear that the campaigners had won and the Mabira Forest, at least for a time, was saved.  It was again threatened in 2011.


Sources Dated 12 April 2007. Dated 7 April 2007.

Jude Bukenya, reporter for Uganda Pulse, dated 12 April 2007. Dated 22 May 2007.
The above sources were all accessed 7/9/13 and relate to this case.

On renewed threat to the forest in 2011:

Additional Notes

See on You Tube:
1.Save Mabira Forest.mp4
2. U,S. Awards Ugandans Women of courage-Environment category winner. 3. Save Mabira Activists.mp4

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Shadrack Nsenga Mutabazi, April 20, 2013