ARUA. The former Member of Parliament (MP) of the then Maracha County, Mr Magara Olubo has threatened to sue the British government and the British East African Tobacco Company (BAT) over the impact tobacco growing has caused to the environment and the people of Maracha district.
Speaking before the commission of land inquiry in Arua town early this week, Mr Olubo said the introduction of tobacco in the area has led to environmental degradation as trees were mercilessly cut for curing tobacco which was introduced and promoted by the British government through BAT.
He said the mismanagement of land in Maracha district started in 1957 when the colonial government introduced BAT to grow tobacco in the district.
According to Olubo, the Eucalyptus trees which were later also introduced by BAT drain a lot of water and soil nutrients thus affecting the growth of other crops, animals and the environment.
“I’m now considering to sue the British government and BAT on behalf of the people of Maracha. I believe it is not yet late for us to claim redress from the British government and BAT,” Mr Olubo said.
He added that the local people in Maracha were not allowed by colonialists to graze their animals in these forest reserves yet once the trees are cut, they are cut for the benefit of BAT.
“So, I’m now speaking on behalf of the human beings and animals that suffered and are still suffering because of the actions of BAT in Maracha,” Olubo stressed.
He said whatever the government of Uganda now gives to farmers of Maracha through National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) and Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) is not yielding much because people have no good land to grow crops anymore.
Olubo cited the 87x45 hectares forest reserve at Ovujo trading centre in Nyadri sub-county which he says was one of the Eucalyptus tree reserves BAT established for curing tobacco.
He said Maracha district currently has more than five Eucalyptus forest reserves which were being planted on orders of a British citizen who was the then Chief of Maracha.
When asked by the chairperson of the commission of land inquiries, Justice Catherine Bamugemereire about his proposal on land matters in the country, Olubo suggested that all Eucalyptus tree reserves introduced by colonialists should be abolished and the land given back to their initial owners.
“I stand before you (the commission) to let you know that I want the government of the day to revert the pieces of land which are being occupied by Eucalyptus trees to their ancestral owners. We don’t need eucalyptus trees anymore because we cannot eat them,” he said.