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Corporate Accountability

A land grab case against a multi-million agribusiness Agilis Partners is saved from a dismissal

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By witnessradio.org Team

Masindi – Uganda – A case in which over 2300 families are accusing a multi-million agribusiness Agilis Partners limited of illegal eviction has been saved by the intervention of witnessradio.org‘s lawyers. The company had filed an application asking court to dismiss the main case alleging that it had no cause of action, whose hearing was slated to take place on November, 29th, 2019.

The attempt to dismiss the main case followed a loss of two applications seeking to stop Agilis Partners limited from further illegal and forceful eviction of victims off their land. The first application was thrown out earlier this year by the retiring Justice Frank Albert Rugadya Atwoki on grounds that the applicants “failed to produce evidence that the situation is dire warranting an injunction,” while the second application was dismissed by the court’s Assistant Registrar, Kintu Simon Zirintuusa on grounds that many of the occupants had vacated the contested land.

It is now 20 months since the impoverished families first dashed to court challenging their eviction which is superintended by Agilis partners limited, an agricultural development company owned by American twin brothers Philipp Prinz and Benjamin Prinz. Agilis Partners, which owns Joseph Initiative a beneficiary of UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) financial support and CFC based in the Netherlands, supplies food to United Nations’ World Food Program, among others.   

The 2300 victims under the auspices of Nyamalebe Landless Association accuse the company for undermining a free, prior and informed consent standard or principal.

We have suffered all round since our land was targeted by Agilis Partners limited and we shall take long to recover. “our case has suffered sabotage in court premises because we’re poor. On Monday, November 28th, we served Masindi high court about our new legal team that had come on board but while following up on the next day, we found court papers missing from the file and court official had no explanation” Said, Joseph Walekula, one of the community leaders.

Independent investigations by witnessradio.org‘s reveal that the investment of Agilis Partners limited has caused a permanent disability to a school going boy who was shot at by police during an eviction exercise at Kisalanda village, while 1200 pupils have dropped out of school after schools (private) were demolished, fourteen (14) community land defenders have since 2017 been under police harassment and intimidation with endless reporting on police bond after being arrested and charged with inciting violence among others. The victimized community has also lost churches, private hospitals, plantations, homes, subsistence piglets and cattle farms and small and medium businesses including retail shops among others.

 

Corporate Accountability

Investigate the criminalization of land rights defenders – witnessradio.org asks National Human Rights Body.

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By witnessradio.org Team

Kampala – Uganda – Witnessradio.org has petitioned the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) calling for investigations into the continued aiding of persecution of community land rights defenders and native land-owners.

Witnessradio.org, a land rights advocate is accusing some members of the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) namely; the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Police and Judiciary of fueling land grabbing and protecting the supposed investors, through promoting the use of the criminal offenses under the Penal Code Act against land rights defenders and native land-owners that resist illegal and violent evictions.

The petition is the first of its kind to bring criminalization of land rights defenders and land-owners issues to the attention of UHRC under Business and Human Rights thematic principles. UHRC is a constitutional body with obligations to protect and promote human rights in Uganda

“Witnessradio.org, expresses dismay and disappointment over the increasing violence orchestrated against bonafide land-owners and individual community land defenders by some justice, law and order sector members in order to give individual investors and companies access to people’s land and then dispose native

e communities”. The statement reads in part.

In the petition, the Executive Director, Mr Wokulira Geoffrey Ssebaggala says that the continued harassment of land-owners and community land rights defenders by Uganda police and the office of the director of public prosecution has immensely contributed to case backlog and subsequently overcrowding in prisons.

“According to the World prison’s brief of October 2017, Uganda has 54,059 people in Prisons implying that 129 prisoners for every 100,000 Ugandans”. Mr Ssebaggala says

He also says the rights of people to express themselves, to peacefully assemble and participate in decisions that affect them and to exercise the full panoply of individual and collective human rights has also been curtailed.

Witnessradio.org recommends that the Human Rights Commission investigates the continued aiding of persecution of community land rights defenders and land owns by JLOs members institutions to give way for land-related investments, make findings public.

It also recommends that the commission undertakes courtroom observer missions especially where land rights defenders are under trial starting with Mubende’s 2 land rights defenders trial.

The same petition has been copied to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner Human Rights and Democracy and Human Rights Donor, Working group.

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Corporate Accountability

Two EU member states, Norway named for aiding land eviction for carbon credit trading

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Green Resources’ pine plantation in Kachung. Credit: Kristen Lyons / The Oakland Institute.

By witnessradio.org Team

Two EU member states and Norway are in the spotlight for financing the eviction of native communities in Uganda to pave way for a Norwegian forestry and carbon credit company.

In the latest briefing paper authored by The Oakland Institute entitled “Evicted for Carbon Credits: Norway, Sweden, and Finland Displace Ugandan Farmers for Carbon Trading”.

The institute brings forward irrefutable evidence that the Norwegian forestry and carbon credit company, Green Resources, forcibly evicted villagers around their plantation in Kachung, Uganda.

“As thousands of Ugandan villagers struggle to survive after the loss of their land and natural resources to the plantation, the institutions and government agencies that enable Green Resources to operate must be held accountable for their wrongdoings and their complicity in this land grab.” The policy director at the institute Frédéric Mousseau says.

The report exposes the complicity of three prominent international certification bodies—the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), The United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA)—that are supposed to verify the company’s compliance with environmental and social standards. 

“Based on flawed audits, the accreditation Green Resources received from the certification agencies calls into question their commitment to social and environmental standards. In the name of fighting climate change, they claim that a large-scale plantation of non-native pine trees, which are to be cut and sold as timber, is preferable to subsistence activities of African farmers,” Reads the report in part.

The institute concludes that beyond the need for accountability that such a flawed project could run with the backing of three European governments, several international bodies, and specialized private auditing firms, raises serious questions around the true motives of these institutions as well as the purpose and the functioning of the whole carbon economy.

The establishment of the plantation on land previously used by subsistence farmers precipitated an on-going food security crisis that has not been addressed by the company, its financiers, nor the Ugandan government.

Green Resources has been the subject of two reports published by the Institute in 2014 and 2017. The exposés documented the plantation’s destructive impact on the local population as well as the misleading audit commissioned in 2017 by the Swedish Energy Agency—Green Resources only carbon credit buyer. Company documents released with the briefing paper—including letters threatening the local villagers, corroborate the Institute’s previous findings.

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Corporate Accountability

Government body dispossessed 2000 people in Karamoja region

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By witnessradio.org Team

Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) is in possession of an illegal land title for more than 867 hectares of land reserved for the development of Karamoja Industrial Park, according to the Commission of Inquiry into land matters.

The commission declared the land title illegal following investigations into its procurement processes by the Uganda Investment Authority – UIA while buying the land in 2011. The Commission says Uganda Investment Authority illegally dispossessed more than 2,000 people of their customary land when it acquired the land from improper owners.

The land measuring 186.68 hectares had been fraudulently converted from customary tenure to freehold before being sold to Uganda Investment Authority in 2011. It was acquired from one Peter Amodoi Ayubu, a former employee with the Ministry of Lands, at a tune of 624 million Shillings, down from an initial 2.5 billion Shillings asking price.

Amodoi said that he had acquired the land a year before at 45 million Shillings from a group of elders in the area. The Commission has since established that the elders were relatives and wives of Amodoi.

Justice Catherine Bamugemerire, the chairperson of the commission says Amodoi colluded with a group of elders in Loputiput village in Nadunget Sub-county, Moroto district to sell land belonging to the 2,000 affected residents of Kautakou village, Napak district.

The residents petitioned the Commission to investigate the transaction during a recent tour of the region. They told the Commission that they are living with a lot of threats to their land after being assaulted and evicted from their land on orders of the authority.

But Lawrence Byansi, the Acting Director-General of Uganda Investment Authority says the land was acquired after Amodoi presented freehold title of the land on recommendations of the then LCV chairperson of Moroto district Ken Peter Locap, Chief Administrative Officer Godfrey Stephen Ouma as well as the Moroto District Land Surveyor.

Byansi acknowledged that the authority committed commissions in the transaction and asked for negotiations with the affected residents. He said when residents complained to UIA, Amodoi was notified to resolve the impasse and indemnify the Authority, something he has failed to do.

According to Byansi, their initial understanding of the land dispute was that there were politicians and Non-Government Organizations opposed to government development project frustrating the park. He was appearing before the commission to defend the transaction following complaints from the affected residents.

Justice Bamugemerire said Uganda Investment Authority failed to undertake due diligence before acquiring the land and ended up causing heavy financial loss to the government.

The Commission recommended that reform is needed in how the Uganda Investment Authority undertakes due diligence in land acquisition. It says a unit should be set up at the authority for this purpose in order to also prevent conflict of interests.

Napak Industrial Park is one of the nine industrial parks being developed by the government across the country. The others are in Namanve, Mbale, Mbarara, Kasese, Luzira, Bweyogerere, Jinja and Soroti with others proposed in Gulu and Arua.

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