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Editorial: Amuru Sugar needs support

Recently, the High Court in Gulu threw out a case filed by some Acholi politicians and elders resisting the allocation of land by the Amuru district land board to the Madhvani group of companies for sugarcane growing.

The court also lifted the temporary injunction that had been put on developing the land. The aggrieved politicians and elders argue that the project is a ploy by some powerful politicians to grab the land; that the land was under customary ownership and belongs to the people who were previously displaced by the war; that the project is a ploy to get hold of the oil in the area; and that the only jobs it can create is sugarcane cutting, which is for slaves.

Clearly these reasons are not convincing enough to deny the region such an important investment. While there is good reason to resist attempts to cut down Mabira forest for sugarcane growing, even if the government doesn't agree, there doesn't seem to be any justifiable reason to stand in the way of Amuru Sugar.  Sometimes it is important for politicians to put politics aside and focus on their people's welfare. A sugar factory will inevitably deliver economic benefits to the people of Amuru, Acholi and Uganda in general.

Uganda recently faced an acute sugar shortage, which drove home the point about our underproduction. It's obvious that more sugarcane needs to be grown to serve local and international demand, and the Amuru sugar factory would be a good step in that direction.
Like all major projects, there could be negatives, such as displacement or the impact on the environment. For loss of land, the local leaders need to engage the government and the investor, to ensure that alternative land is found for those to be displaced. As for the environment, an environment impact assessment should be conducted and the necessary mitigation measures applied.

Concessions can also be obtained from the investor in form of social corporate responsibility undertakings that would help uplift the region. But on the whole, the advantages of the project outweigh the feared disadvantages.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd