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3 million slip into poverty as Covid-19 strikes economy



Traders sit outside shopping arcades that were closed to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in March. The Covid-19 disruption on economy is pushing 3.1 million Ugandans into poverty. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA

The Covid-19 disruption on the economy is pushing 3.1 million Ugandans into poverty, the United Nations has warned in a report on socio-economic impact of the pandemic in Uganda.
The “Socio-economic impact of Covid-19 in Uganda” which was released yesterday in Kampala during a high-level discussion on implementation of sustainable development goals, shows that the lockdown and containment measures made 1.9 million non-poor to become insecure and another 1.9 million insecure individuals become poor.
“The increase in poverty among wage earners could be felt most in eastern and northern regions, due to many households already highly vulnerable to poverty in this regions,”  the report reads in part.

The latest report on poverty comes just days after Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) and Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) in partnership with the Ministry of Finance,  Planning and Economic Development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Sports, and Ministry of Local Government held a high-level policy dialogue on reopening uganda’s economy this week and asked authorities to focus on the wellbeing of the economy.

According to the report, poverty rate in eastern region is projected to shoot from 28.8 per cent to 53.3 per cent, northern region will shift from 30.3 per cent to 44.8 per cent, western region will experience a rise from 13.2 per cent to 31.7 per cent and central region will experience a rise from 8.9 per cent to 18.8 per cent, according to the report.

“If the pandemic is not contained in the short term and the social distancing measures remains in place, the increase in unemployment is expected to increase the poverty rate among wage earners from 17 per cent to 32.7 per cent,”  the report stated.
The UN recommended: “Cautious borrowing could cushion the economy and improve industry, innovation, and infrastructure, reduce inequality and improve the outlook for zero hunger.”
The resident coordinator of the UN, Ms Rosa Malango, asked government to address the problem of corruption and poor implementation of projects that has left the population in poverty.

Ms Malango said the UN is now engaging private sector players to increase the impact of its poverty eradication programme at grass roots.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us why we must not relax; there will be no post-Covid-19 time. We need to engage our partners on the discussion around corruption and integrity to put the interest of people at grassroots and other vulnerable population at the centre stage,” she said during the conference.

“We are not doing business as usual. We are having engagements with private sector in order to reach the 68 per cent of Ugandans who are in informal economy into formal economy.  The UN has in recent time launched a series of partnerships with JUMIA, ABSA bank Safe Boda. We are also partnering with Stanbic bank to teach savings groups in village financial literacy,” she said.
Ms Malango said they have also partnered with government in the Shs715 billion agro-industrialisation for local development initiative in the Rwenzori Sub-region to address the problem of poverty.

On addressing the poverty and unemployment among youth, the UN Uganda boss said they have also launched a ‘one million sustainable development goal solutions’ from youth in Uganda innovation challenge to support youth startups that are impacting communities and creating jobs. She said more than 500 young people have so far expressed interest.
“During the past five years of the implementation of the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) from 2016-2020, the UN in Uganda has contributed to several achievements,  including in the area of governance with strengthening the electoral processes and human capital development,” she said.

Through the interventions by UN, learning literacy and numeracy increased at primary (P.6) from 38 per  cent to 52 per cent,  among other achievements, according to Malango.
“The subsequent cooperation framework with government of Uganda and other development partners will focus on empowering youths and skills development, gender equality climate change mitigation among others,” she said.

Human capital development
Dr Arthur Bainomugisha, the executive director of ACODE, said it is important for government to ensure the education sector that is central in human capital development has  proper  management.
“A lot of money has been borrowed in the name of Covid-19 and we want to know how much it is and how it was used. We must never allow entrepreneurs of Covid-19 to thrive while other people are thrown by the pandemic into poverty,” he said.

However, Mr Julius Mukunda, the executive director of CSBAG, said it is important the government focuses investment on real economy such as agriculture that the largest number of the population depend on.
Ms Mary Karooro Okurut,  the minister in Charge of General Duties at the Office of the Prime Minister, said government is committed to ensuring equitable development for all Ugandans.
She said government has integrated the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the third National Development Plan. The SDGs focus on inclusive development.

**Daily Monitor

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Breaking: Witness Radio and Partners to Launch Human Rights Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy Project Tomorrow.



By Witness Radio Team.

Witness Radio, in collaboration with Dan Church Aid (DCA) and the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD), is set to launch the Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy for Human Rights in Uganda (MDA-HRU) project tomorrow, 22nd February 2024, at Kabalega Resort Hotel in Hoima District.

The project, funded by the European Union, aims to promote the protection and respect for human rights, and enable access to remedy where violations occur especially in the Mid-Western and Karamoja sub-regions where private sector actors are increasingly involved in land-based investments (LBIs) through improved documentation, and evidence-based advocacy.

The three-year project, which commenced in October 2023, focuses its activities in the Mid-Western sub-region, covering Bulisa, Hoima, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Kikuube, Kagadi, Kibale, and Mubende districts, and Karamoja sub-region, covering Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Nabilatuk, Abim, Kaabong, Kotido, and Karenga districts.

The project targets individuals and groups at high risk of human rights violations, including Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs). It also engages government duty bearers such as policymakers and implementers in relevant ministries and local governments, recognizing their crucial role in securing land and environmental rights. Additionally, the project involves officials from institutional duty bearers including the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Equal Opportunities Commission, and courts, among others.

Representatives from the international community, faith leaders, and business actors are also included in the project’s scope, particularly those involved in land-based investments (LBIs) impacting the environment.

The project was initially launched in Moroto for the Karamoja region on the 19th of this month with the leadership of the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD).

According to the project implementors,  the action is organized into four activity packages aimed at; enhancing the capacity and skills of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs) in monitoring, documentation, reporting (MDR), and protection, establishing and reinforcing reporting and documentation mechanisms for advocacy and demand for corporate and government accountability;  providing response and support to HRDs and marginalized communities; and lastly facilitating collaboration and multi-stakeholder engagements that link local and national issues to national and international frameworks and spaces.

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Kiryandongo leadership agree to partner with Witness Radio Uganda to end rampant forced land evictions in the district.



By Witness Radio team.

Kiryandongo district leaders have embraced Witness Radio’s collaboration with the Kiryandongo district aimed at ending the rampant violent and illegal land evictions that have significantly harmed the livelihoods of the local communities in the area.

The warm welcome was made at the dialogue organized by Witness Radio Uganda, Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog at the Kiryandongo district headquarters, intended to reflect on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

Speaking at the high-level dialogue, that was participated in by technical officers, policy implementers, religious leaders, leaders of project affected persons (PAPs), politicians, media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and development partners that support land and environment rights as well as the Land Based Investments (LBIs) Companies in the Kiryandongo district, the leaders led by the District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Ms. Edith Aliguma Adyeri appreciated the efforts taken by Witness Radio organization to organize the dialogue meeting aimed at bringing together stakeholders to safeguard community land and environmental rights in order address the escalating vice of land grabbing in the area.

During the dialogue, participants shared harrowing accounts of the impacts of land evictions and environmental degradation, including tragic deaths, families torn asunder, young girls forced into marriage, a surge in teenage pregnancies, limited access to education, and significant environmental damage which have profoundly affected the lives of the local population in Kiryandongo.

Participants attending the dialogue.

In recent years, Kiryandongo district has been embroiled in violent land evictions orchestrated to accommodate multinational large-scale agriculture plantations and wealthy individuals leaving the poor marginalized.

According to various reports, including findings from Witness Radio’s 2020 research Land Grabs at a Gun Point, the forceful land acquisitions in Kiryandongo have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 individuals have been displaced from their land to make room for land-based investments in the Kiryandongo district. However, leaders in the district also revealed in the dialogue that women and children are affected most.

The Kiryandongo Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Jonathan Akweteireho, emphasized that all offices within the Kiryandongo district are actively involved in addressing the prevalent land conflicts. He also extended a welcome to Witness Radio, acknowledging their collaborative efforts in tackling and resolving land and environmental issues in the district.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that the land rights together with environmental rights have been violated in our district, but because we don’t know what our rights are, because we have not directly done what we could to safeguard our rights and now this is the time that Witness Radio has brought us together to safeguard our rights. I want to welcome you in Kiryandongo and be rest assured that we shall give you all the necessary support to help us manage these rampant cases,” Ms. Adyeri said in her remarks during the dialogue meeting.

The team leader at Witness Radio Uganda, Mr. Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala expressed gratitude to the participants for their active involvement in the dialogue and revealed that Witness Radio’s objective is to find a holistic solution to the escalating land disputes in Kiryandongo district serving as an example to other districts.

“We are here to assist Kiryandongo district in attaining peace and stability because it stands as a hotspot for land grabbers in Uganda. Mismanagement of land conflicts in Uganda could potentially lead to a significant internal conflict. Everywhere you turn, voices are lamenting the loss of their land and property. Kiryandongo, abundant with ranches, suffers from a lack of a structured framework, which amplifies these land conflicts. The influx of wealthy investors further complicates the situation,” Mr. Ssebaggala disclosed.

Within the dialogue, Mr. Ssebaggala emphasized the need for the Kiryandongo district council to pass a by-law aimed at curbing land evictions as an initial step in addressing the prevalent land injustices.

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Kiryandongo authorities decry rising cases of land disputes



The LC5 chairperson of Kiryandongo, Ms Edith Aliguma Adyeri, has saidnland dispute has impacted on people’s lives, dignity and children’s education in the district.

Just like other parts of Uganda, conflicts over land in Kiryandongo arise when individuals – who often are blood relatives – compete for use of the same parcel of land or when members of the community lay claim over ownership of unutilised government land.

Ms Adyeri further said land and environmental rights affect people both directly and indirectly, “and we are not hearing it from afar. It is already together with us [here], it has already affected us!”

She was speaking at a meeting which sought to discuss alternative remedies to salvage the appalling land and environmental rights situation in Kiryandongo at the district headquarters on Thursday.

The one-day dialogue was aimed at reflecting on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

It was attended by private companies, members of civil society and local government officials and organised by Witness Radio – an advocate for land and environmental rights in Uganda – in partnership with Oxfam, and Kiryandongo District leadership.

“Some people have even died, families are broken up, and brothers are not seeing eye-to-eye because of land rights. Access to justice is equally becoming very difficult because when you hire one lawyer that
lawyer will talk to learned friends, and they agree. They leave you in suspense,” Ms Adyeri said.

According to her, some children have not accessed education because of land and environmental rights.

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the deputy Resident District Commissioner of Kiryandongo, said enlightened people especially should be sensitive to the historical injustice of this area.

“We can never handle the Bonyoro land question without thinking about that history. It will be an injustice to the incomers, to the government and to the leaders who don’t understand,” he said.

“We had 38 ranches here which on the guidance of these international organisations, especially the World Bank, the government restructured them, allowing people to settle there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he added.

Mr Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the executive director of Witness Radio, said that a well-functional land sector supports land users or holders and investors, reduces inefficiencies and provides mechanisms to resolve land disputes.

Mr David Kyategeka, the secretary to the Kiryandongo District Land Board, said the issue of land rights is very clear but the major challenge has been sensitising the locals to know what rights he or she expects to enjoy out of this very important resource.


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