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A son of the community defender is shot dead, another critically injured in a retaliatory attack by security guards evicting locals off their land to give way to large-scale sugarcane growing.

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By Witness Radio team

Kiryandongo – Uganda. Security guards attached to Magnum Limited, a private security company employed by Somdiam Limited, have shot dead a son of a community land rights defender in Kiryandongo district and critically injured his second son, currently admitted in the hospital. Somdiam Limited, is owned by an Indian investor.

Somdiam contracted Magnum Limited in October 2023 to carry out illegal evictions in the villages such as Nyamuntende, Kikungulu, and Ndoi in the Kiryandongo sub-county in Kiryandongo district without a court order.

The same security company has a record of being hired and carryout in illegal land evictions and guarding grabbed lands. It is on record that Magnum security carried out another violent land eviction involving over 2500 locals in Kapapi in Hoima district to give way to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP).

Since 2020, Somdiam has been grabbing land for over 809.3700 hectares that have been lawfully occupied and cultivated by over 3000 locals. In the early 2000s, the locals applied for a freehold title, and eventually granted by the government.

According to records seen by Witness Radio, Somdiam Company was established in 2011 in Uganda and owned by two Indian nationals Mr. Dhedhi Himatbhai and Mrs. Dhedhi Hansaben Himatbhai.

One of its lawyers includes the former attorney general in the current Kampala government Mr. Mwesigwa Rukutana.

The company has branches in Rwanda, Tanzania, Madagascar, and the United Arab Emirates – Dubai primarily deals in importing various food commodities, including rice, sugar, vegetable cooking oil, biscuits, salt, tomato paste, powdered milk, pasta, and spaghetti, among others.

According to investigations by Witness Radio team, the killing happened on November 25th, 2023.

Kato Geoffrey, aged 20, one of the sons of Kaliisa Joseph, was shot in his back at 5:30 pm and passed away at the gate of Kiryandongo Hospital while being rushed for treatment. Another victim, Rugazu Steven, was shot in the thigh and is currently receiving treatment at Bweyale General Clinic.

Eyewitness accounts detail that the distressing events unfolded in Kisalanda Village, Kiryandongo district, when 10 Somdiam armed personnel, guarding Somdiam on orders of Isaac Balute, Somdiam Company manager, raided the residence of a community land rights defender, Kaliisa Joseph at Kisalanda with the intent of forcibly evicting him from his property in vain.

Joseph Kaliisa, a community land rights in the Kiryandongo district, has been actively engaged in mobilizing his community of more than 3000 residents to push back Somdiam Company’s illegal land eviction in Nyamuntende, Ndoi, and Kikungulu, all villages in the Kiryandondongo district.

In addition, when the defender refused to give up on his land, the armed guards’ personnel proceeded to loot his livestock but found strong resistance from Kaliisa’s family members who were grazing the cattle. In the scuffle, the guards opened fire and killed Kato and injured Rugazu.

“These armed company guards have repeatedly patrolled my home and livestock enclosure, aiming to loot them. They have already displaced most of our community members in Ndoi, Kikukungulu, and Nyamuntende, alleging that we have no rightful claim to this land despite us being its rightful owners. When they tried to evict me on Saturday, I stood my ground, asserting that I wouldn’t be displaced. Their response was to loot my grazing cows,” recounted the Kaliisa.

He added that the investor and its agents are revenging because of his work to resist an illegal eviction.

Somdiam company manager, Mr. Balute Isaac, confirmed that cattle keepers were grazing on the company’s land.

“It’s true that our guards were impounding their cattle because they had grazed in our plantations. Initially, this process was peaceful. However, the cattle keepers resisted and attacked our guards. In self-defense, two individuals were shot,” Mr. Balute disclosed to Witness Radio.

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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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