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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

A land grab case against Agilis Ranch 20 and 21 Limited kicks off next week.

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Some of the evictions performed by Agilis Company in Kiryandongo District.

By Witness Radio Team

A human rights enforcement suit filed against Agilis Ranch 20 and 21, a subsidiary of Agilis Partners Limited, is set to take off on the 20th of April 2022 at the High Court in Masindi. Agilis Ranch 20 and 21 Limited is part of a group of multinationals grabbing land in the Kiryandongo district for large scale commercial farming.,

In 2021, hundreds of families affected by Agilis’s violent land grab ran to court seeking its intervention to block the ongoing illegal evictions by the company. Through their lawyers, Messrs. Kiiza and Mugisha advocates, the communities demand compensation for damages for the human rights violations by the company and its agents.

Hon. Mr. Justice Byaruhanga Jessie, the Resident Judge at the Masindi High Court, fixed 20th April 2022 for the hearing of High Court Miscellaneous Cause No.  11 of 2020 of Joseph Mangfu and 11 others vs. Agilis Partners.

Agilis is one of the three multinational companies that have been implicated in the land grabbing scandal which has rendered thousands of smallholder farmers homeless in the Kiryandongo district. The others are Kiryandongo Sugar Company and Great Seasons SMC limited.

The company is owned by American twin brothers, Philipp Prinz and Benjamin Prinz. It owns Joseph Initiative, a beneficiary of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) financial support and Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) based in the Netherlands, and supplies food to United Nations’ World Food Program. The company deals in large-scale plantations of grains and oilseed. At the height of the evictions, the company received the 2019 United States Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence in Sustainable Operations (ACE), something that did not go well with the victim of its land grab.

Since 2017, Over 2500 residents have been evicted by the company on more than 2000 hectares. The victims claim they were violently, forcefully, and illegally evicted off their land without any compensation or resettlement.

Homes were burnt, crops were destroyed and women were raped during the evictions. And many members of the local community have been rendered homeless.

“We sought the court’s attention to intervene since we have suffered a lot. We have lost our gardens, we lost schools and our children have since dropped out of school. We are arrested, beaten, and charged for our resistance to vacate our land, we want all this to end and regain back our land.” Said, Sam Kusiima, a community land rights defender.

He added that as a community, they are excited to hear about a hearing date of the case with high hopes that violence is going to stop.

A 45-year-old Namala Zedekiah is one of the community members that have recently tested the wrath. Mr. Namala told Witness Radio that his cows were stolen at gunpoint by the company workers and later demanded a ransom of one Million Ugandan Shillings for their return. “My cows were found grazing before were forcefully taken. They demanded two million to return them.”

During the lockdown, gross human rights violations/abuses were meted out against the community. These include; torture, kidnaps, arbitrary arrest and detention, and fly-grazing, and recently the company has rented out land that was grabbed from poor communities to rich people to further the eviction.

The overwhelming violence continues despite the court’s schedule for hearing the company’s gross abuses. Despite this, the community is not willing to give up on their land. “We don’t want their money; we want our land. We went to court to get justice.” One of the aggrieved smallholder farmers told Witness Radio.

The hearing of the case is scheduled to start at 10am local time.

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Kawaala community land rights defenders will report for police bond for the fourth time on 1st August.

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By Witness Radio – Uganda team

Kampala, the three community land rights defenders from Kawaala Zone II charged with fraud are reporting back at the Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters on Monday 1st of August.

It will be the fourth time for the defenders to report for the bond.

While appearing at the station on 18th July 2022, the two of the three defenders were re-arrested and subjected to another interrogation which lasted for one hour between 11 am to 12 pm local time.

They were quizzed by the head of the investigations at the Old Kampala Police headquarters, Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Patrick Domara. Land rights defenders Kabugo Michael and Kasozi Paul Ssengendo reported.  The third defender Busobolwa Adam did not turn up due to health-related issues.

On the third time, the two defenders who reported before police recorded additional statements on fraud charges that were preferred against them on July 11th, 2022.

Section 342 of the Penal Code states that forgery is the making of a false document with the intent to defraud or deceive. It carries three-year imprisonment on conviction.

The lawyers representing the defenders said their clients were questioned by the police about their land ownership in Kawaala and the documents proving ownership. Police said that the complainant accuses defenders of forging land sales agreements and occupying land illegally.

The defenders were summoned, arrested, and interrogated on the orders of the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division Anderson Buroora who is accusing them of fraud.

The Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.

However, Witness Radio – Uganda believes that charges preferred against the community land rights defenders are a result of their continued mobilization of the local community of Kawaala to resist forced eviction, seek fair compensation, and resettlement before the Lubigi drainage channel is constructed.

“We challenge the RCC to bring evidence pinning the community land rights defenders on the alleged charges. We believe this is intimidation and continued efforts of fighting back to silence the work of the land rights defenders, wastage of their time and resources,” said one of the lawyers.

Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced evictions by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) funded by World Bank. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) is the implementer of the project.

The said project first impacted Kawaala Zone II around 2014, when a channel diversion was constructed. The current planned expansion will widen that channel and require forced evictions across an area at least 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long.

According to Witness Radio-Uganda lawyers, the community which is being forced off of its land without due process started living on that land in the 1940s and did not invite the project on their land.

The defenders will be reporting back on police bond at 10 am local time on the 1st of August 2022.

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Police re-arrest and interrogate Kawaala Community land rights defenders upon reporting back on bond.

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By Witness Radio Team

Kampala, Two of the three community land rights defenders from Kawaala Zone II, Kampala suburb have been re-arrested and re-interrogated on fraud charges at Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters.

The duo had reported back to police on bond on fraud charges for the third time since they were first summoned on June, 29th 2022.

Kasozi Paul and Kabugo Micheal were subjected to another interrogation which lasted for one hour between 11 am to 12 pm local time. They were quizzed by the head of the investigations directorate at the Old Kampala Police headquarters, Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Patrick Domara. The third defender Busobolwa Adam could not make it due to health-related issues.

According to defenders’ lawyers, the duo recorded additional statements on fraud charges that were preferred against by police on July, 11th, 2022.

According to defenders’ lawyers, the victims were questioned by the police about their land ownership in Kawaala and the documents proving ownership. Police are saying that the complainant is accusing defenders of forging land sales agreements and occupying land illegally.

Section 342 of the Penal Code states that forgery is the making of a false document with the intent to defraud or deceive. It carries three-year imprisonment on conviction.

The defenders were summoned, arrested, and interrogated on the orders of the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division Anderson Buroora who’s accusing them of fraud.

Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.

Witness Radio-Uganda says that the community which is being forced off its land without due process started living on that land in the 1940s and did not invite the project on their land.

Witness Radio – Uganda further believes that charges preferred against the community land rights defenders are a result of their continued mobilization of the local community of Kawaala to resist forced eviction, seek fair compensation and resettlement before the Lubigi drainage channel is constructed.

Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced evictions by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) funded by World Bank. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) is the implementer of the project.

This project first impacted Kawaala Zone II around 2014, when a channel diversion was constructed. The current planned expansion will widen that channel and require forced evictions across an area at least 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long.

The defenders were released on a police bond and required to report back on the 1st of August 2022 at 10 am local time.

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Six community land rights defenders from Kawaala have turned up at police for interrogations but, failed to take off

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By Witness Radio Team.

The six community land rights defenders from Kawaala zone II and the local leader that were summoned to appear at the Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters have turned up, however, the interrogations did not take off due to the absence of the head of investigating team.

The six community defenders were required to report back to police for further investigations into alleged crimes that have not yet been officially disclosed to defenders’ lawyers. They were supposed to appear before the police investigation team today the 06th of July 2022 at 10:00 AM.

The defenders include; Kasozi Paul, Busobolwa Adam, Kabugo Micheal, Serugo Charles, Ssemanda David, Sserukwaya David, and the area vice-chairman Patrick Kato Lubwama.

While appearing before police for the first time last week on Wednesday 29th, the Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Domara Patrick who heads the investigations team casually said the defenders and the local leader are being investigated for obtaining money by pretense and forgery, which charges are not mentioned on police summons.

Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced eviction by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) being implemented by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The drainage channel construction is financed by the World Bank.

This project first impacted Kawaala Zone II around 2014, when a channel diversion was constructed. The current planned expansion will widen that channel and require forced evictions across an area at least 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long.

Witness Radio – Uganda has established that the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division, Mr. Anderson Burora is among the complainants. Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.

Witness Radio – Uganda believes that police are being used to harass and intimidate defenders to back off the justice campaign for people negatively impacted by the drainage channel.

The defenders and the local council leader have been booked to report back to the police on Monday, the 11th of July 2022 at 9:00 AM local time.

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