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land, livelihood and investment

35,000 left homeless as private firms share Kiryandongo land

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Helpless. Family members in front of their grass-thatched hut that faces demolition in Kiryandongo District last Wednesday. PHOTO BY BILL OKETCH 

More than 35,000 people from 20 villages are homeless after being evicted from about 9,300 acres of land in Kiryandongo District to pave way for large scale farming.
No one seemingly knows the exact year when the government allegedly gave the land to agricultural companies for large scale farming.
The government says the contentious territory was empty space and unoccupied public land but residents claim they hold it under customary ownership.
The resident district commissioner (RDC), Mr Peter Debele, said “encroachers took advantage of the empty space” to settle in the vast fertile ranches.
“They went there on their own without being allocated. So, government has come out and allocated the land for serious farming activities,” the RDC said last week.
Mr Debele added that the government also directed the developers to compensate those who were found on the land. However, he did not reveal how much money was paid out as compensation.
“I am not sure if we should call it compensation, but it was goodwill,” he said.
But the evicted residents claim President Museveni allowed them to settle on the land in 2012.
So far, Agilis Partners, a US company, Great Season, a firm owned by Sudan nationals, and Kiryandongo Sugar Limited have acquired the land under leasehold, Daily Monitor has established.
Agilis Partners is currently preparing the land to grow simsim (sesame), maize, sunflower, and soybean. Kiryandongo Sugar Limited is planting and producing sugar and Great Season is growing coffee.
Mr David Isingoma, 83, who has been evicted from Kisalanda Village in Mutunda Sub-county, said he has lived in the area all his entire life.
The father of 25, who owns cattle, among other properties on his 100-acre land, said the whole village has been fenced off and all villagers ordered to leave.
Ms Janet Akello and her family of nine said they have also lived in the area for the last 15 years.
“The land has all been dug out and we don’t have anywhere to plant our own crops for survival,” Ms Akello said.
“The situation here is worsening each and every day. …We have been blocked from accessing water sources and I have been told that my house is going to be graded any time,” she added.
Mr Joseph Walekula said area leaders have kept a deaf ear as residents are being evicted.
“Our rights are being violated to the extent that our women and children cannot even go and fetch water, there is no food; tractors have surrounded our homes and nobody is helping,” he said.

What residents say
The evictions commenced last year without consent from residents, according to human rights activists.
Residents and human rights activists said tractors are currently pulling down schools, churches, banana plantations and homes. They said the evictions, which are being carried out with the help of police, do not have any court order.
So far, 14 primary schools, 20 churches and eight private health units have been demolished by the company, according to residents.
However, Mr Wycliffe Birungi, a lawyer for Great Season, said they followed “the right procedures” in acquiring their two-square mile farmland.
“For us, we acquired land from people. The acquisition was done two years back and we have been already in business. It as a fully-pledged commercial farm venture but we have neighbours – there is a big farm called Agilis, there is also some other big farm,” he told Daily Monitor on phone yesterday.
Daily Monitor was unable to speak to officials from the two other companies.
Witness Radio, an NGO, noted that the negative consequences of Kiryandongo land giveaway include; “forced evictions, human rights violations, lost livelihoods, broken families, rising food insecurity and, ultimately, increased poverty.”
Mr Geoffrey Wokulira, executive director of Witness Radio, said that children caught up in the fracas are no longer going to school.
“Hundreds of young girls are engaged in early marriages because ideally they have no future and there is no responsibility these companies are showing,” he said.
Mr Wokulira said 19 people have been arrested by police in an attempt to weaken, intimidate and cause fear among the evicted residents.
But the RDC denied violation of human rights during eviction.
“People here are very quick in doing wrong and when we swing into action, they begin making wrong accusations,” he said.

What government says
Mr Debele also accused the residents of trying to attack security operatives because “they don’t want to move and yet there is a presidential order on that matter.”
He added: “So, you even find a situation where some of them, empty-handed or with pangas, they want to go and attack armed men who are officially on duty. What do you do with such a person?”
Mr Joseph Bakaleke Gwaido, the district police commander, described the allegations labelled against the police as an insult.
“….a question where somebody asked that the security organs engaged in the abuse of human rights of individuals is an insult. … This is the most difficult society I have served,” Mr Bakaleke said.
“Down there in the ranches, we have people who belong to all the ranches and they are being compensated,” he added.
Efforts to get a comment from State minister for Agriculture Aggrey Bagiire were fruitless as his known phone numbers were unavailable by press time.
Ms Judith Nabakooba, the minister of Information, Communication Technology and National Guidance, neither answered our repeated calls nor replied our text message to her mobile number.

Land challenges
The Land Act 1998 recognises four categories of land tenure systems, including customary, freehold, mailo and leasehold. It states that all Uganda citizens owning land under customary tenure may acquire a certificate of ownership in a manner prescribed by Parliament. Judicial officers have proposed that soldiers be barred from carrying out evictions in the country. They also recommend that the role of police should be limited to observing evictions in addition to keeping law and order during lawful evictions.

Original Source: Daily Monitor

 

land, livelihood and investment

Beijing proposes seven-point plan for upgrading China-Africa cooperation

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African leaders at the FOCA meeting in 2018

Chato, Tanzania | XINHUA |  The 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has achieved great success and become a new monument to China-Africa friendly cooperation, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Friday.

Wang made the remarks at a joint press conference here with Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Palamagamba Kabudi during his official visit to the African country.

Wang noted that over the past two years, China has fully implemented the eight major initiatives with African countries proposed at the Beijing Summit.

Cooperation in areas of industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, health care, people-to-people exchange, and peace and security have been carried out in a comprehensive way, he said, adding that the overall implementation rate has exceeded 70 percent.

Noting that China-Africa cooperation on the “Belt and Road” is progressing smoothly, Wang said over 1,100 cooperation projects continue to operate during the epidemic.

Meanwhile, nearly 100,000 Chinese technical and engineering personnel also stick to their posts to coordinate and promote epidemic prevention and control as well as resume work and production, making important contributions to local economic and social development.

The friendship between Chinese and African people has continued to grow and the two sides have established 11 pairs of new sister cities, bringing the total number to 150, said Wang,

Furthermore, the China-Africa Institute has been inaugurated, a number of Confucius Institutes have been set up in Africa and exchanges in sectors of sports, health, tourism and youths between the two sides have yielded fruitful results, Wang added.

Wang noted that despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will not stop China and Africa from moving forward together. The two sides are scheduled to hold a new session of the FOCAC in Senegal later this year.

“China is ready to enhance communication with our African friends and we will carefully design the outcomes of the meeting and upgrade China-Africa cooperation based on the new situation, new needs and new opportunities of China-Africa cooperation,” said Wang.

A seven-point plan for upgrading of China-Africa cooperation is also proposed by Wang.

  • –China will strengthen health cooperation, work together with Africa to completely defeat the epidemic, help Africa enhance its capacity to prevent and respond to major diseases, and jointly build a “Healthy Africa”.
  • –China will enhance production capacity cooperation and upgrade China-Africa project cooperation to a more clustered, large-scale, industrialized and localized scale. China will help Africa raise its capacity for independent production and jointly build a “Made in Africa”.
  • –China will strengthen regional connectivity, explore China-Africa free trade cooperation, and help Africa enhance internal infrastructure connectivity, unimpeached trade and financial integration so as to jointly build an “Inter-connected Africa”.
  • –China will strengthen agricultural cooperation, carry out cooperation in grain production, storage and transportation, help Africa strengthen its food security and guarantee capability to jointly build a “Harvest Africa”.
  • –China will strengthen digital cooperation, give full play to China’s technological advantages, help Africa seize the opportunity of the information revolution and jointly build a “Digital Africa”.
  • –China will carry out environmental protection cooperation, practice the concept of sustainable development, help Africa improve its ability to cope with climate change and jointly build a “Green Africa”.
  • –China will strengthen military security cooperation, promote political solutions of critical issues in Africa, help Africa enhance its peacekeeping and anti-terrorism capabilities, and jointly build a “Safe Africa”.

Wang also expressed confidence that with the joint efforts of both sides and under the guidance of the forum mechanism, China-Africa cooperation will continue to bear fruits and make greater contribution to the building of a closer China-Africa community with a shared future.

****

XINHUA

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land, livelihood and investment

Trauma and wounds caused by evictions in Kiryandongo still fresh three years down the road…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Kiryandongo-Uganda -Anna Maria Mukabariyanga a mother of four is one of the people that have tested the wrath of Kiryandongo Sugar Limited. It’s one of the multinational companies that have evicted over 35000 people to pave way for different projects

Mukabariyanga a resident of ranch 23 was attacked by security operatives of Kiryandongo Sugar, beaten, and thrown out of her house on the fateful night that left many homeless.

She was pregnant and in the process, she had a miscarriage.

“I was 8 months pregnant when the armed operatives attacked us, beat me up on the back. My husband was away and had no one to come to my rescue. I was thrown down by one of the evictors who continued beating me,” Says Anna Maria Mukabariyaga.

“In five days, I started bleeding but could not go to the hospital because I did not have money and later on I lost my lost child. However, I was later taken to Kiryandongo Hospital by neighbors in the area I had moved to”. She adds.

Such violent repression is the tale of villagers in Kiryandongo who were never consulted or given information privy to the eviction.

“I heard notices over the radio that, people should prepare to have their land valued for compensation but that did not trickle down to us in form of meetings”. Said 78-year old Bakaikara Edward, a resident of Kakoba village, Kitwala Sub County in Kiryandongo district.

Bakaikara says, the advert ran for two months and later evictions started.

“I was born and raised on this land by the late Kamiri Kajula. My siblings and I have been staying here since childhood. They cultivated and lived on 400 hectares as a family”. He narrates.

“I had also developed the land as a farmer, but all crops were destroyed, I have nothing to feed the family on.” He added.

“Our hearts are broken. Our children are not going to school and we do not have food. We are very angry and hungry too,” Another resident only identified as Joyce chorused in as Mr. Bakaikara told his story.

Before the agribusiness companies came in, Badudu and the other small farmers of Kiryandongo planted beans, maize, sweet potatoes, bananas, groundnuts, cassava, and mangoes, and reared pigs, goats, and cows.

Much of their former land is now occupied by sugarcane, coffee, soya, and maize which are all solely exported for profits.

Joseph Walekula one of the community leaders in Kiryandongo says, many people have been turned into beggars and reduced to working on land that they used to own.

“When Kiryandongo sugar company limited came in, people lost their land, no due compensation was done. Many people joined refugee camps where they live up to now, others ran away, and we don’t know where they are.” Says Mr. Walekula.

This is all happening under the watch of government bodies and security agencies like Police that have instead turned against the communities in defense of the investors.

Kiryandongo Sugar is owned by the Rai dynasty operating agribusiness and timber activities in DR Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi. One of its directors is a shareholder of a British Virgin Islands company, which was listed in the Panama Papers database

It arrived in 2017, owns about 2400 hectares of sugarcane plantation project in Kiryandongo, and one of the three multinational projects that have continuously evicted people in the area.

Others are the; Great Season SMC Limited, a Dubai-based company reportedly owned by Sudanese businessmen building a coffee plantation on 1,165 hectares, and Agilis Partners, a company owned by US businessmen and backed by several foreign development agencies and “social impact” investors establishing a large-scale grains farm on around 3,850 hectares.

 

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land, livelihood and investment

CONFIRMED! Abducted lawyers found at Special Investigations Unit of Uganda Police Force at Kireka…

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By witnessradio.org Team

23rd/12/2020; Kampala – Uganda – It is confirmed that the five lawyers that were abducted by unidentified armed men are being held at the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of police based at Kireka, a Kampala suburb. The development happened after lawyers, and the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) were granted access to speak to them today. UHRC is a constitutional body in Uganda mandated to protect, promote, and uphold human rights in Uganda.

The five include Kampala-based renowned lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, members of the Witness Radio legal team Anthony Odur, and Esomu Simon Peter Obure.

Others include Herbert Dakasi and Hamid Tenywa, a National Unity Platform (NUP) human rights Officer.

Members of our legal team  were given chance to speak to the human rights commission and disclosed the brutal arrests during their abduction

According to Esomu and Odur, they were beaten inside a van that was used to abduct them and they had bruises on their body. While Nicholas Opiyo was in a jovial mood at the time of speaking to lawyers and UHRC teams.

Elly Womanya, the SIU commandant confirmed that the victim lawyers were given medication at their arrival, however, did not name which agency abducted the lawyers.

At the time of writing this article, all the victim lawyers had no idea about the cause of their arrest, had not recorded statements and no charges were preferred against them.

However, via its social media channels, police accuse Opiyo and the four of money laundering.

The five lawyers yesterday at 2:45 PM Uganda time were abducted from Lamaro restaurant in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb.

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