Witness Radio Milestones
URA bans warehousing of rice, sugar after tribunal ruling
Kampala, Uganda The Tax Appeals Tribunal has given the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) a go-ahead to ban the warehousing of sugar and rice.
The Tribunal has further ordered the Commissioner Customs URA to gazette the import of all rice without any restrictions, and to grant adequate notice of 2 – 3 months before any action taken by URA becomes effective.
Tax experts say the decision favours URA policy, and is a big step towards protecting consumers and the local industry.
In October 2019, URA issued a list of goods that it declared not eligible for warehousing, including sugar, milled and broken rice, building materials and wines and spirits (except in duty-free). Others were motor vehicle tyres and tubes, motorcycle tyres and tubes, dental care products, garments and footwear of all kinds, as well as imported cars of 14 years and above.
The East African Community Customs Management Regulations 2010 already had a list of products deemed ‘high risk’ that should not be in warehouses, including acids, ammunition for trade and business, arms for trade and business, chalk, explosives, fireworks, dried fish, perishable goods and matches other than safety matches.
Combustible or inflammable goods were also listed except petroleum products which were allowed for storage in approved places. The directive only allowed small importers who bring in goods in group containers to put their products in warehouses where necessary, but only for 24 hours to enable them to clear their goods.
URA argued that under Regulation 64(k) of the East African Community Customs Management Regulations 2010, the Commissioner has the discretion to gazette any other goods that are not supposed to be warehoused and that the directive was issued to protect the public from hazardous goods and to also protect local manufacturers.
These new measures, however, did not go down well with importers and distributors, accusing the URA of making business more expensive. Importers usually keep their goods in warehouses manned by the URA as they prepare themselves to clear all tax obligations, while others delay their introduction onto the market, anticipating for better proceeds.
However, for re-exporters, the system is used to prepare them for another market, including the processing of documents, organizing for logistics before shipping them out to their final destination. Sometimes, the importers have been accused of offloading goods declared as transit goods, onto the local market, which amounts to dumping.
It is based on this that R1 Distributors led 11 other importers and distributors to challenge this decision. Now, the Tax Appeals Tribunal has ruled that URA’s decision to list sugar among items not to be warehoused was lawful, rational and within URA’s mandate.
Kampala City Traders Association Chairman Everest Kayondo says the URA has the mandate of securing warehouses from leaking and to keep the records of all imported and bonded goods, and that banning the practice is unnecessary. He says that sometimes the goods are shipped in when the demand as dropped and traders need to hold them for some time.
The main point of contention in the Tribunal, therefore, was whether the notice published by URA was lawful and/or proper. The tribunal acknowledged that there is ample evidence to prove that the government of Uganda has to protect the local industries that manufacture sugar from unfair competition arising from dumping, diversion of sugar in transit and tax evasion.
The Tribunal agrees with URA that this will ensure that Ugandans are protected from the consumption of expired sugar and that the local sugar manufacturers are protected from unfair competition arising from dumping. URA Manager Corporate Affairs Ian Rumanyika says the ruling a will now allow the Commissioner to make similar decisions on goods it deems not safe for warehousing.
While the URA says that the move aims at curbing unfair competition in the country, KACITA says it puts Uganda on the back-foot in the region because warehousing facilitates re-exports, which is a legal trade activity.
Kayondo says countries like Rwanda, which are instead promoting warehousing of the said goods will attract Ugandan investors to the neighbouring country, especially re-exporting products to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Complaint against unprofessional conduct of the DPC Kiryandongo district for aiding and abetting land grabbing in kiryandongo district.
Professional Standards Unit, Uganda Police-Kampala.
RE: COMPLAINT AGAINST UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT OF THE DPC KIRYANDONGO DISTRICT FOR AIDING AND ABETTING LAND GRABBING IN NYAMUTENDE KITWARA PARISH KIRYANDONGO DISTRICT AND CARRYING OUT ILLEGAL ARRESTS AND DETENTION OF INNOCENT RESIDENTS/ BIBANJA OWNERS FOR PROTESTING AGAINST THE ILLEGAL EVICTION FROM THEIR LAND.
We act for and behalf of the Lawful and bonafide occupants of Land described as LRV MAS 2 FOLIO 8 BLOCK 8 PLOT 22 (FORMERLY KNOWN AS RANCH 22).
Our Clients are residents of Nyamutende Village, Kitwara Parish in Kiryandongo District where they have lived for more than 30 years and sometime in 2017, they applied for a lease of the said Land to Kiryandongo District Land Board through the Directorate of Land Matters State House.
As they were still awaiting their Application to be processed, they were shocked to establish that the said land had been instead leased to and registered in the names of Isingoma Julius, Mwesige Simon, John Musokota William, Tumusiime Gerald, Wabwire Messener Gabriel, Ocema Richard and Wilson Shikhama, some of whom were not known to the Complainants. A copy of the Search is attached hereto
Our clients protested the above action and appealed to relevant offices, but were shocked to discover that the above persons had gone ahead and sold the same to a one Maseruka Robert.
Aggrieved by these actions, the Complainants appealed to the RDC who advised them to institute proceedings against the said persons, and assigned them a one Mbabazi Samuel to assist them to that effect. The said Mbabazi accordingly filed Civil Suit Noa 46 of 2019 against tne said registered proprietors at Masindi High Court challenging the illegal and fraudulent registration, sale and transfer of the subject land to Maseruka Robert.
While awaiting the progress of the case mentioned hereinabove, the Complainants were surprised to find that the said Mbabazi, instead of assisting them, he went into a consent settling the said suit on their behalf without their knowledge or consent. A copy of the Consent is attached hereto.
Among the terms of the said consent Judgment was that the residents would be compensated without specifying how much and would in return vacate the Land.
As if that was not enough, Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel are going ahead to execute the said Consent Judgment by forcefully evicting the occupants without compensation which has prompted the complainants to challenge the said Consent by applying for its review and setting aside at Masindi High Court which is coming up for hearing on the 29th March 2023. A copy of the Application is attached hereto.
Sensing the imminent threat of eviction, we also filed an application for interim stay of execution of the said consent to avoid rendering their application for review nugatory but unfortunately the same could not be heard on the date it was fixed for hearing (6th February 2023). A copy of the Application is attached hereto
On Thursday last week, three tractors being operated by 6 workers of a one Mbabazi Samuel [the very person who had been entrusted to represent our Clients to secure their Land through Civil Suit No.46 of 2019] encroached close to 50 acres of our Clients’ land and started ploughing it but our Client’s protested and chased them away.
We have however been shocked to receive information from our Clients that on Sunday at Mid night, 3 police patrols invaded the community in the night and arrested community members; Mulenje Jack, Steven Kagyenji, Mulekwa David, Ntambala Geoffrey, Tumukunde Isaac 15 years, Kanunu Innocent, Mukombozi Frank, Kuzara, Rwamunyankole Enock, and took them to Kiryandongo Police Station where they are currently detained.
We strongly protest the illegal arrests and detention of our Clients as this is a carefully orchestrated land grabbing scheme by Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel who are receiving support from the DPC Kiryandongo.
The purpose of this Letter therefore is to request your good office to investigate the misconduct, abuse of office and unprofessionalism of the said DPC Kiryandongo District and all his involvement in the land grabbing schemes on land formerly known as Ranch 22.
Looking forward to your urgent intervention,
C.C The Head Police Land Protection Unit Police Head Quarters Naguru
CC The RDC Kiryandongo District
CC The Chairman LCVKityadongo District
CC The Regional Police CommanderAlbertine Region
Witness Radio Milestones
The Executive Director of Witness Radio Uganda talks about the role played by Witness Radio in protecting communities affected by large-scale agribusinesses in Kiryandongo district in an interview with the ILC.
Witness Radio Milestones
Witness Radio Uganda wins the best CSO land rights defenders award at the National Land Forum Awards.
By Witness Radio Team
Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog, Witness Radio has been awarded the best CSO land rights defender award 2022 in the recently concluded National Land Forum Awards held last week at Mestil hotel in Kampala.
Witness Radio’s executive Director, Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala attributed the award to the community land and environmental rights defenders who stand up against the intimidation and different forms of harassment from land grabbers (economically powerful and politically connected companies and individual investors).
“This is an award for defenders at a community level. They work in very deadly environments filled with harassment, torture, death threats, arrest, trumped-up charges, and kidnaps among others to advocate for community land and environment rights. This is happening at a spate where criminalization and silencing of community land rights defenders are at increase.” Jeff added.
The award has come at a time when hundreds of Ugandans in different parts of the country are accessing services provided by the organization ranging from legal service provisions, non-judicial mechanism engagements, empowerment to help them understand their rights, and using the same knowledge to use the same skills to push back against illegal and forced evictions
The chairman of the organizing committee of the second National Land Forum, Mr. Jimmy Ochom noted some progress on legislation in Uganda’s land Governance. He cited growing inequalities on land where the poor are more vulnerable.
During awards, the state minister for housing, Hon persis Namuganza revealed that the government approved the plan for 2018-2040 that maps the land use in the country.
According to the minister, the government had identified land for settlement, game reserves, wildlife, arable land for farming, and water bodies among others in the plan which she said was passed a few weeks ago.
The event was organized by Oxfam and partners and provided a platform for discussions by the different actors in the land sector on issues around land governance, including land rights, land administration, and land governance for improved collaboration, cooperation between the actors, and improved land service delivery for Ugandans under a theme “Taking stock of the National Land Policy in addressing Land inequality in addressing Land inequality in Uganda.”
Other categories of awards that were won by different organizations and individuals including Mr. Eddie Nsamba-Gayiiya for his contribution to research on land rights, Justice Centers Uganda for Promoting Access to Land Justice, and Mr. Henry Harrison Irumba for Championing Legal Reforms among others.
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