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Indian stoned to death in Uganda

A move to expand Indian-owned firm's sugar plantations has angered Ugandans.

india Updated: Apr 13, 2007 13:32 IST

At least three people were killed on Thursday during violent protests against a government decision to hive off swathes of protected forest for sugar plantation by an Indian company, police said.

Police spokesman Simeon Nsubuga said two people were killed as they tried to break into a shop in the capital as security forces were dispersing thousands of demonstrators from the streets.

"Two Ugandan rioters who were trying to loot a shop were shot dead by security guards," Nsubuga said.

Earlier, Kampala police chief Edward Ocwom said a man of Indian origin died after being beaten by demonstrators.

"I have just confirmed that one Indian who was beaten by rioters has just died at Mulago hospital.

I do not know any other case of death, but we are still gathering information," he said.

One witness, Senusu Mugodansonga, said a mob stoned to death an Asian man after he crashed a motorbike into them.

"The Indian was driving his motorbike and he knocked into people, so they wanted to respond," he said.

Earlier, police fired live rounds and tear gas in the air to disperse thousands of protestors in downtown Kampala rallying against the plan to clear around 7,000 of the 30,000 hectares in Mabira Forest Reserve east of Kampala.

The government plans to seek parliamentary approval before handing over the forest land to Indian-owned Mehta Group for sugar cane farming.

Military police beat and dispersed the demonstrators, who had also attacked motorists of Indian origin and burnt a truck that was carrying sugar.

Several people were injured in the riots that forced businesses to shut down. As scores of demonstrators hurled rocks at police in pouring rain, officers rescued about 40 Asian men besieged in a Hindu temple and rushed them under guard to the main police station.

"We were inside the temple and the protesters started attacking us from outside," 50-year-old Dipaul Pate1told Reuters. "It was very frightening."

"Indians should go back to Bombay Mr President, let Mabira stay. (Yoweri) Museveni is trying to rob us. We are tired of Indians," read some of the placards brandished by the crowd.

They also chanted slogans in praise of former dictator Idi Amin, who expelled Indian merchants from Uganda and confiscated their properties in 1972.

"Amin, Uganda's Jesus wouldn't accept this." "Mehta, do you want another Amin?" read other banners.

Police commanders had earlier approved the march, called to protest at plans to cut down thousands of hectares of Mabira Forest to expand the estate of local sugar company Scoul. Scoul is part of the Indianowned Mehta Group.

Environmentalists have warned that destroying Mabira could have grave ecological consequences, from increased soil erosion to the drying up of rivers and rainfall, and the removal of a buffer against polluting nearby Lake Victoria.

They say it would also threaten monkeys and nine species found only in Mabira and surrounding forests.

First Published: Apr 13, 2007 13:13 IST