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STATEMENTS

Acknowledging Community’s Agreement while Raising Concerns with World Bank’s Dispute Resolution Service

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19th June 2023

Kampala Uganda – Witness Radio and Accountability Counsel would like to acknowledge and applaud the Kawaala community in Kampala, Uganda, for their agency and decision-making in signing a recent agreement facilitated by the World Bank’s Dispute Resolution Service. The Kawaala community has faced agonizing threats to their livelihoods and well-being since the Government sought to evict them at the height of the pandemic. With our support, those communities fought for safety and just compensation, culminating in the agreement signed with the Kampala Capital City Authority. We recognize the community’s efforts in navigating a complex process and their commitment to resolving the issues they have faced.

The agreement was signed on 31 May 2023, the last day of the mediation, and in challenging circumstances. While we support the community’s decision to sign the agreement, we feel some concern about the way in which these events played out.

“The Kawaala case experiences provide a timely opportunity for everyone advocating for communities’ justice from all over the world to push and demand for change in the World Bank‘s Dispute Resolution Service (DRS)’s operating rules. These rules should exist to deliver holistic justice to communities negatively impacted by a development project in a mediation process instead of being used to propagate performance appraisals” – Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala – Country Director, Witness Radio

To the best of our knowledge, and as of 19 June 2023, the signed resolution has not been shared with many community members who signed it. Further, the Dispute Resolution Service has refused to share the signed agreement with us, even though Witness Radio and Accountability Counsel are officially named advisors on the case. Community members who engage in a dispute resolution process have the right to representation; the exercise of that right was hampered, in this case, by a lack of transparency in the days leading to, and since, the signing of this agreement.

While right now we are focused on the immediate needs of community members in Kampala, some of whom signed and some of whom didn’t sign the agreement, we remain committed to advocating for the World Bank’s Dispute Resolution Service to improve how it manages case processes in the future. We will share more on this work to guarantee an effective and fair dispute resolution process for communities in due course.

Collectively, we remain dedicated to promoting the rights and well-being of communities impacted by development projects, in Kawaala and beyond. We will continue to stand by the Kawaala community and support their pursuit of justice and fair treatment. We will also continue to advocate for transparent, accountable, and equitable processes to ensure that the voices of affected communities are heard, the issues they raise are fairly redressed, and their rights are protected.

Lastly, we wish to thank and appreciate everyone who supported the Kawaala community, directly and indirectly at different stages of the case. Your support and contributions went a long way to give this community an opportunity to be heard.

Notes:

[1] Read more about the complaint here: https://tinyurl.com/2kw66bak

[2] Press Release on Complaint filing ( 8th July 2021): https://tinyurl.com/yk8mdt23

[3] More information about the World Bank’s support for KIIDP-2, which includes the Lubigi drainage channel, is available here: https://tinyurl.com/2bc33wfc

[4] Dispute Resolution Service Press Release on Agreement: https://tinyurl.com/2et6eame

For more information, please contact:

 

Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala

Country Director

Witnessradio.org

Tel: +256 752 810 079

E-mail: gwssebaggala@gmail.com

executive@witnessradio.org

 

Robi Chacha Mosenda

Communities Associate, Africa

Accountability Counsel

Phone: +254 726 235 536

E-mail: robi@accountabilitycounsel.org

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STATEMENTS

Upholding Women’s Land Rights in the implementation of development projects will accelerate progress.

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Witness Radio – Uganda Statement: On the International Women’s Day, 2024.

Upholding Women’s Land Rights in the implementation of development projects will accelerate progress.

Wakiso, Uganda. 08th/03/2024. As the world commemorates International Women’s Day 2024 under the theme “Invest in Women, Accelerate Progress” it is imperative to underscore the critical importance of safeguarding women’s human and land rights.

In Uganda, where women play a pivotal role in agricultural production and rely heavily on the land for their livelihoods, the issue of land rights emerges as a central battleground in the fight for gender equality and women empowerment.

Women in Uganda face systematic barriers when it comes to land ownership and control despite their significant contribution to agricultural productivity.

Customary norms and cultural practices often favor male inheritance and land ownership perpetrating a cycle of discrimination and marginalization against women.

This disparity leaves women vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, particularly in the context of land grabbing and eviction.

Tragically, women who assert their rights to land frequently encounter severe threats and human rights violations/abuses.

Witness Radio has documented numerous cases of violence against women smallholder farmers and women rights defenders (WHRDs), including gang rape and physical assault perpetrated by economically powerful and politically connected individuals and institutions with vested interests in land grabbing.

These egregious acts not only violate women’s rights but also perpetrate a culture of impunity and injustice.

The failure to investigate and prosecute violence against women smallholder farmers and WHRDs further exacerbates the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators, leading to more human rights abuses.

Additionally, the aftermath of land evictions often leaves women and their families vulnerable with men sometimes abandoning their responsibilities and leaving women to bear the burden alone.

At the heart of the 2024 theme lies a recognition of the pivotal role women play in driving societal progress. Investing in women encompasses various aspects, including education, healthcare, economic opportunities, and legal rights. However, securing women’s access to and control over land is equally crucial as it intersects with multiple dimensions of their lives.

When women have secure land rights, they are empowered economically and socially. Land ownership enables women to participate meaningfully in economic activities, access financial resources, and contribute to households and community well-being.

Moreover, it enhances women’s agency and autonomy, enabling them to make choices that positively impact their lives and families.

Additionally, access to land is closely linked to food security and healthcare. Secure land rights enable women to engage in sustainable farming practices, improve agricultural productivity, and ensure adequate nutrition for their families.

Furthermore, land ownership can serve as a pathway to accessing health care, thereby promoting women’s overall well-being.

However, the current legal framework governing land rights in Uganda falls short of adequately protecting women’s land rights. Biased laws and customary practices perpetrate gender disparities leaving women vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Amending land rights is a critical step towards addressing issues affecting women about land rights and promoting gender equality.

In conclusion, protecting women’s land rights is not only a matter of social justice but also a strategic investment in accelerating progress towards gender equality and healthier lives. As we commemorate International Women’s Day 2024, let us reaffirm our community to ensure that women everywhere have equal rights to access, own, and control land resources. By prioritizing women’s land rights, we can unlock the full potential of women and girls as agents of change and drive transformative progress toward a more inclusive and equitable society for all.

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DEFENDING LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS

Statement: The Energy Sector Strategy 2024–2028 Must Mark the End of the EBRD’s Support to Fossil Fuels

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The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is due to publish a new Energy Sector Strategy before the end of 2023. A total of 130 civil society organizations from over 40 countries have released a statement calling on the EBRD to end finance for all fossil fuels, including gas.

From 2018 to 2021, the EBRD invested EUR 2.9 billion in the fossil energy sector, with the majority of this support going to gas. This makes it the third biggest funder of fossil fuels among all multilateral development banks, behind the World Bank Group and the Islamic Development Bank.

The EBRD has already excluded coal and upstream oil and gas fields from its financing. The draft Energy Sector Strategy further excludes oil transportation and oil-fired electricity generation. However, the draft strategy would continue to allow some investment in new fossil gas pipelines and other transportation infrastructure, as well as gas power generation and heating.

In the statement, the civil society organizations point out that any new support to gas risks locking in outdated energy infrastructure in places that need investments in clean energy the most. At the same time, they highlight, ending support to fossil gas is necessary, not only for climate security, but also for ensuring energy security, since continued investment in gas exposes countries of operation to high and volatile energy prices that can have a severe impact on their ability to reach development targets. Moreover, they underscore that supporting new gas transportation infrastructure is not a solution to the current energy crisis, given that new infrastructure would not come online for several years, well after the crisis has passed.

The signatories of the statement call on the EBRD to amend the Energy Sector Strategy to

  • fully exclude new investments in midstream and downstream gas projects;
  • avoid loopholes involving the use of unproven or uneconomic technologies, as well as aspirational but meaningless mitigation measures such as “CCS-readiness”; and
  • strengthen the requirements for financial intermediaries where the intended nature of the sub-transactions is not known to exclude fossil fuel finance across the entire value chain.

Source: iisd.org

Download the statement: https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2023-09/ngo-statement-on-energy-sector-strategy-2024-2028.pdf

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STATEMENTS

Witness Radio Condemns Violent Gunfire Incidents during State Land Minister’s Visit.

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By Witness Radio Team.

Date: August 29, 2023.

Witness Radio, an advocate for land and environmental justice in Uganda, vehemently condemns the shocking and reprehensible act of gunfire that transpired during the visit of State Land Minister Sam Mayanja to the disputed land in Hoima district. The incident, which occurred on the evening of August 24, 2023, serves as grim evidence of the prevailing impunity surrounding land disputes in the country.

The events of that fateful evening in Rwabunyonyi village have laid bare the deeply unsettling reality of a land crisis that has engulfed the lives of countless innocent citizens. The State Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, tasked with upholding the principles of justice and legality, was subjected to a perilous situation by a barrage of gunfire emanating from security personnel associated with Pyramid Private Security. These armed guards, aligned with the interests of businessman Fred Mugamba, unleashed a torrent of bullets into the air in a brazen attempt to deter the Minister from carrying out his official duties.

The backdrop to this horrific incident can be traced back to a series of harrowing events that commenced in 2022, causing upheaval in the Rwobunyonyi and Kirindasojo areas of the Buraru sub-county in Hoima district. A land dispute, centered around 810-hectare parcel of land, has ignited a firestorm of displacement and anguish, displacing more than 2000 residents and plunging them into a state of distress. The chief orchestrator of these violent evictions, businessman Fred Mugamba, has heartlessly disrupted the lives and livelihoods of these innocent families who claim ownership of land, that has been a home to many since the 1940s.

Throughout this agonizing saga, the affected communities have borne the brunt of a relentless campaign of intimidation and violence, orchestrated by casual laborers and armed security guards in the service of Mr. Mugamba. Tragically, the situation escalated to a point where two lives were lost. Furthermore, those brave enough to raise their voices against this land grab were met with unjust arrests, perpetuating an atmosphere of fear and tension.

In a bid to stem the escalating turmoil, the State Lands Minister, guided by a sense of responsibility to restore peace, intervened in this crisis. Accompanied by Deputy Resident District Commissioner Mr. Michael Kyakashari and District Police Commander (DPC) Jackson Bogere, the Minister embarked on a mission to engage both the affected residents and the purported landowner, Mr. Mugamba. However, the hunt for peace was thwarted by the menacing presence of private security guards, who callously obstructed the Minister’s path and resorted to gunfire, causing panic and chaos.

Witness Radio’s records have documented a disheartening pattern of eviction cases, where private security entities have consistently perpetrated violence against vulnerable communities. These entities have acted with impunity, leaving the marginalized with no means of defense except vacating their own land.

In the face of escalating violent evictions, a directive was issued in March 2023 by the Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, Honorable Judith Nabakooba Nalule. This directive explicitly forbade armed groups from participating in evictions, emphasizing the government’s capacity to conduct lawful evictions through its security agencies. Regrettably, the distressing surge of violent evictions has displayed a blatant disregard for this directive, persisting at an alarming rate.

While a handful of suspects have been apprehended in connection to the Minister’s shooting incident, and charges of threatening violence have been imposed against them, these actions must set a precedent. The police must intensify efforts to enforce the recent ministerial order, presidential orders aimed at curbing the menace of armed thugs, and security guards committing unlawful evictions under the directives of land grabbers.

Witness Radio is deeply concerned with the distressing surge in unlawful land evictions, often executed with the complicity of government forces, armed individuals, and private security guards.

This concerning trend continues unabated, inflicting severe harm upon local communities. The incident involving gunfire during the Minister’s presence serves as a stark reminder of the undue influence wielded by land grabbers, who exploit their power to destabilize communities.

It is glaringly evident that these orchestrated land evictions are the handiwork of influential interests that openly defy legal mandates and employ violent means to advance their agendas. Such actions not only infringe upon the fundamental rights of citizens but also pose a dire threat to the security and stability of the communities affected.

In light of these deeply distressing developments, we urgently beseech the President of Uganda, Mr. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Tibuhaburwa, to take decisive and resolute action. We implore him to rein in the actions of individuals associated with land grabbers and to ensure the unwavering protection of citizens’ rights.

Accountability must prevail for those responsible for these heinous acts, and robust measures must be instituted to prevent further harm to vulnerable communities. Witness Radio stands steadily committed to the pursuit of justice and the safeguarding of the land and environmental rights of all Ugandans.

…………..END…………..

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