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A multi-billion project funded by AfDB and NDF is furthering poverty and food insecurity in Paten community targeted for a development project.

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By Witness Radio team

The Wadelai irrigation scheme project funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Nordic Development Fund (NDF) has turned out to be a curse to the Paten community targeted to benefit from a development project as individual members of the local community for some time now spend their precious time pushing back forced land eviction and human rights violations perpetrated by the army and police force personnel brought to guard the project.

The Wadelai irrigation scheme, under the Farm Income Enhancement and Forest Conservation Programme –Phase 2 (FIEFOC-2Project) is financed with an African Development Bank (ADB) loan of USD 76.70 million. The Project is co-financed by the Nordic Development Fund with a grant of Euro 5.00 million, and the Government of Uganda’s counterpart contribution of USD 9.13 million. The overall cost of this project is USD 91.43 million (341,576,079,900.00 Ugandan Shillings), approved in January 2016.

According to documents on the African Development Bank’s website, the Wadelai Irrigation Scheme covers a total area of about 1365 hectares (ha) including the proposed extension area of Paten. The original design of the Wadelai Irrigation Scheme included a portion of the command area of 365 hectares which, was owned by Ragem Prison (government facility). During the Mid-Term Review and upon the request of the Paten Community through their district head, the Executing Agency (Ministry of Water and Environment) proposed to substitute the same land area (365 ha) with Paten community land which the Bank agreed to.

The project objective is to improve household incomes, food security, and climate resilience through sustainable natural resources management and agricultural enterprise development. However, residents have expressed concerns that it is pushing them further into a state of extreme poverty.

To the contrary, the “development project” is being fought by locals to save their land which is the source of their livelihood.

The fight to defend Paten’s land rights from being grabbed by Wadelai irrigation scheme project has been marked by courage, and those who have stood against the project have endured violence orchestrated by project implementers.

The Paten Clan, an integral part of the Shilluk Luo tribe, traces its roots to a migration that took place between the 14th and 16th centuries from South Sudan. Initially, they found their first settlement in the Acholi region. However, their journey continued as they crossed both the Omee River and the formidable River Nile, eventually arriving at their current homeland, which they aptly named Paten.

The heart of Paten’s identity is in its language, as the inhabitants predominantly speak Jonam. Their way of life is deeply intertwined with their environment, primarily revolving around fishing and farming as their main sources of livelihood.

This resilient clan is composed of  seven (7) villages namely Adiri, Paten Upper and Lower, Paten Central, Borowio, Oborowio central and Paten Ocayo, each contributing to the rich tapestry of Paten’s culture and heritage. Located within the Pakwach district, Paten enjoys a picturesque setting on the western bank of the majestic River Nile. The clan’s geographical boundaries are defined by the Oraa River to the north, Madi Ayabu to the east, the Ocayo Clan to the west, and the Kaal Ragem chiefdom to the south. In this lush and historically significant region, the Paten Clan has thrived for generations, nurturing its traditions and cherishing its ancestral lands.

This community is known for its unique traditional mud and thatch homes, which serve as a proud representation of their rich cultural heritage. These dwellings, showcasing local craftsmanship, seamlessly integrate with the environment, underscoring the clan’s dedication to preserving their ancestral traditions.

The Clan accuses financiers and government of Uganda for forcibly taking their land through violent means. According to them, the government has been expanding the Wadelai Irrigation Scheme in the sub-county since 2020 and in the process, they allege that their land is being seized without compensation or being offered alternative settlements.

At least 16 Paten clan members fell victim to violence when they were shot and wounded. These grievous injuries were inflicted on them by soldiers from the Uganda Police and Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) who had been deployed by the Resident District Commissioner, district chairperson, and Chief Administrative Officer of the Pakwach district local government.

One of the victims, whose identity remains confidential due to concerns about potential retaliation, recounted to Witness Radio Uganda that on “August 9th, 2021, UPDF and police officers, under the command of Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Sunday Eseru, arrived on their land with a team of people from the Pakwach district. They began surveying and clearing communities’ land without prior notification. In response, the following morning on 10th August 2021, “we went to the site to plant trees, demonstrating our commitment to utilizing our land. The heavily guarded RDC, returned and got us planting trees in our land. We explained that this is our land, which was being forcibly taken from us without compensation. The RDC then ordered his soldiers to take action against us for interfering with their project. This marked the beginning of the confrontation.” A victim revealed.

According to eye-witnesses, about 20 community members were shot at using rubber bullets and wounded by security personnel.

“As if the shooting was not enough, victims were denied medical treatment at a government hospital in Pakwach district. Police refused to give us a medical check-up form known as police form three (3) to be used while diagnosing victims of violence. Sadly, area police refused to register our case when we went to report the attack” one of the victims said.

On August 11th, 2021, another distressing incident occurred when four women, one of whom was pregnant, were severely beaten and forced to sleep in dirty and stagnant water because they attempted to access their land to fetch water.

Adding to the already troubling circumstances, on August 16th, 2021, two clan members who also served as civil servants within the Pakwach district local government faced dire consequences when they were interdicted from their position.

Residents continue to live in fear as their land remains heavily guarded by government officers, severely limiting their access to and use of their own land.

The Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Pakwach, Mr. Sunday Eseru maintains that the issue was resolved three months ago when representatives from the African Development Bank and the Ministry of Water and Environment visited. According to the commissioner, during this visit, the concerned parties were taken to Gulu, where they engaged in discussions and negotiations.

Furthermore, a Cooperation Agreement was signed to formalize the agreed-upon terms and conditions. The commissioner asserts that, to date, no formal complaints or disputes have been raised regarding the project.

“Every project affected person was compensated, and if there is anybody who hasn’t compensated, they will be compensated because there is nobody that government can’t compensate.” The commissioner said during an interview with Witness Radio on August 27, 2023.

Efforts to contact the African Development Bank for confirmation of the RDC’s statements proved to be challenging.

Members of the Paten Clan however maintain that they have not received any compensation and argue that the government has imposed the project on their land through coercive methods.

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Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to hear an Appeal filed by CSOs which seeks to reinstate a petition against the construction of the EACOP project tomorrow.

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By Witness Radio team.

In a stirring development for environmental and human rights advocacy in East Africa, the Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) is set to hear an appeal that four East African civil society organizations (CSOs) filed to re-instate the petition challenging the construction of East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project.

The organizations spearheading this appeal include the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) from Uganda, the Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) also from Uganda, Natural Justice (NJ) based in Kenya, and the Centre for Strategic Litigation (CSL) from Tanzania.

This appeal comes in response to a ruling handed down in November 2023 by the Court of First Instance at the EACJ, which dismissed the case on ground that it was filed out of time.

The pipeline, spanning 1443 kilometers from Uganda to Tanzania, has been met with fierce opposition from many groups and environmental activists all over the world, who argue that it violates key East African and international treaties, as well as laws safeguarding human rights, environmental conservation, biodiversity, and the protection of Lake Victoria.

According to activists, the EACOP project is traversing through sensitive ecosystems, including protected areas and internationally significant wetlands, posing threats to biodiversity and ecosystems that local communities depend on for their sustenance posing grave environmental risks.

Furthermore, the project also termed as a curse by the majority of the would-be beneficiaries due to displacement of thousands of individuals from their ancestral lands, and human rights violations/abuses.

Despite the setback of the initial dismissal, the four organizations pressed forward their pursuit of justice.

In their appeal, groups contend that the Court of First Instance erred in its ruling, and want the Appellate Division to reinstate their case.

Mr. Dickens Kamugisha, the CEO of AFIEGO, expressed that they remain resolute in their pursuit of justice through the East African Court of Justice and other courts.

He further mentions that millions of East Africans have high hopes in the regional court to protect their socio-economic and environmental rights and help them continue advancing their aspirations for climate change mitigation and clean energy.

Mr. Kamugisha added that they maintained hope that the court would prioritize the rights of East Africans over the profit-seeking endeavors of large corporations, even if it came at the expense of people.

According to the Executive Director of Natural Justice, Ms. Farida Aliwa, the EACOP and related projects have already led to serious human rights abuses, including evictions, assaults and environmental destruction

“In the interests of justice, we believe that this case needs to be heard at the East African Court of Justice, as a positive outcome will be good for the East African people and planet. The Court has the power to affirm that the governments, investors, and companies violate both national and international laws and that the EACOP project must be stopped. We trust that the East African Court of Justice will see this, and decide to hear the merits of this case.” She revealed.

The case will be heard tomorrow 9:00 East Africa Standard Time at the Court of Appeal of the East African Court of Justice.

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PFZW scraps funding from Total and others for failure to transition into a cleaner energy mix.

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By Witness Radio team.

In a significant move towards aligning its investments with environmental goals, Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW) has announced its decision to disinvest from fossil fuel giants such as Shell and Total.

This decision comes after two years of intensive engagement with fossil fuel companies, during which PFZW sought to encourage the development of climate transition plans in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

PFZW is the pension fund for the care and welfare sector based in the Netherlands. PFZW invests the contributions paid by employers and employees to achieve a high, stable, and responsible return over the long term at an acceptable level of risk. The fund invests globally in the investment categories of variable-yield securities and fixed-income securities. The pension fund had a total of € 217 billion of assets under management at the end of 2022.

According to PFZW, 310 oil and gas companies failed to demonstrate a clear transition to a cleaner energy mix.

Some of the big oil and gas companies that PFZW parted ways with are Total, Shell, and BP among others. These major corporations have frequently faced criticism for investing in fossil fuel projects.

For example, Total, among other projects putting the World climate at risk, is advocating for the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and Tilenga projects in western Uganda. Despite, environmental experts warning of potential environmental damage, Total has persisted in heavily funding these projects.

PFZW’s disinvestment strategy is part of its broader commitment to sustainability and responsible investing. The PFZW fund has sold its stakes in 310 oil and gas companies, totaling 2.8 billion euros, for failure to demonstrate a clear transition to cleaner energy sources.

During this period, dialogue with oil and gas companies was significantly intensified to encourage them to produce verifiable transition plans that support the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Joanne Kellermann, chair of the board of PFZW said that “the intensive shareholder dialogue over the past two years with the oil and gas sector on climate has made it clear to us that most fossil fuel companies are not prepared to adapt their business models to ‘Paris’. While the largest companies in this sector do invest in sustainable forms of energy, the switch from fossil to low carbon is not nearly fast enough. Incidentally, this reflects the slow pace we see globally in the transition to renewable energy.”

According to PFZW, seven listed oil and gas companies with a compelling climate transition strategy will remain part of the portfolio. This contributes to the goal of investing more in companies that play a positive role in the global energy transition.

Despite parting ways with numerous fossil fuel companies, PFZW will continue to invest in seven oil and gas companies that have demonstrated a commitment to transitioning towards renewable energy sources. These companies, including Cosan S.A., Galp Energia, and Neste Oyj, are regarded as frontrunners in the energy sector due to their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and invest in low-carbon technologies.

“The seven companies we will continue to invest in are the only ones that show a switch is possible. At the same time, it is disappointing that there are only seven. We encourage the biggest players in the oil and gas sector to also accelerate the switch to a cleaner energy mix.” She revealed.

Furthermore, to significantly increase its investments in companies focused on improving the climate and energy transition, allocating two billion euros over the next two years to companies with measurable impacts on climate and the energy transition reflecting PFZW’s dedication to achieving a climate-neutral investment portfolio by 2050, with interim goals such as a 50% absolute carbon reduction by 2030 for equities, liquid credit, and real estate.

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Museveni grants avocado growing investor 5 square miles of refugee camp land

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President Museveni has granted investors permission to use part of the land, where Kyaaka One and Kyaaka Two refugee camps sit, for avocado growing.

Museveni, in his letter dated January 30, 2024, directed the minister of relief, disaster preparedness and refugees, Hon. Hillary Onek, to secure 10 square miles of land (2,600 hectares) off the two refugee camps of Kyaaka one and Kyaaka two.

The president says half of the land will go to avocado-growing investors, while the other half will be used to develop an industrial part in the area.

“One purpose is for an Investor to use 5 Square Miles and develop a plantation of Avocadoes, with value addition facilities for the Avocadoes being part of the package. Avocado oil is important for use in the manufacturing of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. The other square miles will be used to develop an industrial Park for that area,” the letter reads in part.

Museveni says the industrial park and avocado plantation will create approximately 200,000 jobs for Ugandans.

“An industrial Park in that area would create a lot of jobs, and so would a big plantation of avocadoes, apart from the other benefits for the Country. Namanve Industrial Park will create 200,000 jobs when it is fully developed,” the letter adds.

Museveni also noted that he had been informed that part of the land was invaded by land grabbers and promised to visit the area in April 2024, directing that the 10 square miles be secured from the available land.

“I intend to come and meet those people who invaded a well known Government land in April 2024. In the meantime, I want the 10 Square Miles from the surviving Refugee Camp of Kyaaka. That is the size of 11 Square Miles“, he said.

He says the industrial Parks would give Uganda the tax money to support both the citizens and the Refugees.

Original Source: Chimp reports  Via farmlandgrab.org

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