Matia Lwanga Bwanika, the outspoken Wakiso district chairman, and Gen Salim Saleh are on opposite sides of a very bitter quarrel over the environmentally destructive though lucrative mining of sand in Lake Victoria.
Bwanika, in a recent interview, said he is fighting sand mining “…started by mafias of recent. I got to know about them in May last year.”
Faced with a threat of censure by his own district councillors, Bwanika said he won’t be cowed by anybody, not the district council which he says has been compromised, and certainly not by any well-connected individuals.
“Whether councillors abandon me, I will insist on saying that what is happening is illegal even if it means losing the chairmanship,” he said.
He roundly dismissed as false Saleh’s claim that the benefits of sand mining, which include; creation of jobs and development, outweigh fears over environmental degradation.
Saleh, a younger brother of President Museveni, told journalists recently that Uganda must make a “painful choice to either allow sand mining to facilitate industrialisation or allow its citizens to remain jobless.”
He suggested that Wakiso’s politicians have frustrated sand mining, thereby paralysing construction of industries in Namunkekera Rural Industrial Centre in Kapeeka town, Nakaseke district.
Sounding outraged by the impunity of it all, Bwanika said, “I appeal to the ministry of education to investigate the schools Saleh went to because he wouldn’t have made such a statement if he had gone to good schools.”
“A school that doesn’t teach sustainable development in economics is not a good school. Sustainable development and the environment are synonymous. You can’t have one and lose the other; they move together. If it’s just development for the sake of it, we should cut down all the trees,” he added.
The multi-million sand mining business deep inside Lake Victoria is being carried out by Chinese firms with the backing of big shots in governments.
The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) has previously refused to issue licenses for sand mining firms but was ignored by miners apparently confident in the clout of their well-connected backers.