She is a South Sudanese refugee residing at Pagirinya Refugee Settlement Camp in Adjumani District. The widow and mother of four fled the mayhem in her home country in November 2016.
Ms Anyang, a resident of Block B10, together with four other women, are carrying their bundles of firewood back ‘home’.
While Ms Anyang cuts the trees from the nearby woodlands for firewood, others are cutting it for building. This is how Ms Anyang has been surviving at the camp after she and thousands of other refugees were forced to flee to Uganda in 2016 following an outbreak of war in South Sudan.
Both refugees and the host communities in the area use firewood for everyday cooking needs and making shelters, which activities have taken a toll on the environment and thus brewing tension over natural resources in the district.
Today, deforestation in the district has reached its highest rate in a decade, according to data at the district’s forest office, due to increased energy demands precipitated by the influx of refugees to the district. This has led to protests by host communities.
Mr Tonny Okot, a resident of Block E32 at Pagirinya Refugee Settlement Camp, says refugees cut trees in large quantities every day and the demand keeps increasing.
“Some organisations tried to train us on using eco-friendly alternatives like charcoal briquettes or stoves but it took only a few months before the raw materials for making them got used up due to high population and demand here,” Mr Okot says.
This is the same story at Maji Refugee Settlement Camp, also in Adjumani District. The environment, that formerly boasted of thick shrubs and tree cover, has changed to almost bare land surface after the refugees cut down most of the trees.
Adjumani District officials have petitioned the government and other development partners to intervene and create alternative energy sources for the refugees.
“The refugees have become a big challenge to us in regards to the environment in communities surrounding these settlements. Trees are indiscriminately cut down whereas no replacement is being done,” Mr James Leku, the Adjumani District chairperson, says.
Adjumani District provided 3,128Sqkm of land on which 17 refugee settlement facilities are established to host a total of 202,433 refugees, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
However, 93 per cent of these refugees rely on the environment around for their energy demands, a scenario shared by the rest of the districts across the West Nile region.
But efforts towards afforestation in these refugee communities, for example in Pagirinya, have equally been frustrated as distributed tree seedlings are not planted but left to dry on the verandas or under trees.
Mr Mark Dulu, the Adjumani East MP, in whose constituency a number of refugees camps are located, says the refugees do not only cut down trees but also steal food from gardens of the host communities.
“We are sensitising these refugees to let them understand that they have a role in ensuring that we escape the tough impacts of environmental degradation like global warming, drought and soil erosion,” Mr Dulu reveals.
Recently, UNHCR urged countries hosting large numbers of refugees to plant more trees as deforestation could trigger more conflict.
The refugee humanitarian body stated that tree planting was paramount since four out of five people who flee their homes rely on firewood for cooking and heating, which is a major cause of deforestation in most refugee settlements across the world.
But Mr Leku accuses humanitarian agencies operating in the district of not taking the reforestation initiative seriously and that refugees themselves have a negative attitude towards planting trees where they did not own land.
“Unfortunately, refugees’ attitude towards tree planting has been too bad that they do not want to plant seedlings given to them, as they claim they have nothing to benefit from planting the trees since they hope to return to their home countries anytime,” Mr Leku says.
Uganda has one of the most favourable refugee protection environments in the world; providing for freedom of movement, access to land for agriculture and settlement in line with the Refugee Act 2006.
UNHCR speaks out
Ms Duniya Khan, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson, told this newspaper in an interview recently that deforestation by refugees who largely rely on natural resources to meet their basic needs, has had a significant impact on the environment in the recent past, not only in Adjumani but across all the districts in West Nile region.
“UNHCR, the Office of the Prime Minister and the district are engaged in various activities to remedy the situation. For example, they are training communities on alternative energy use such as the use of biogas and energy-saving stoves,” Ms Khan said.
She said UNHCR has partnered with NGOs in refugee settlements and host communities in West Nile to plant 588 hectares of trees through “cash for work” programmes, support operations for 20 tree nurseries, as well as supporting 58 refugee groups by giving them briquette-making machines and providing training.
“UNHCR is supporting 14,620 households to access fuel-efficient stoves and 1,100 households with heat-retaining cooking bags, produce and distribute 122 tones of cooking briquettes to refugee communities and we believe it will relieve the pressure on the environment,” she said.
At least 400,000 trees out of a target of 700,000 trees for this year had already been planted by the beginning of July in Adjumani District, according to Ms Khan.
Today, UNHCR-funded partners have reported planting more than two million trees in the South Sudanese refugee and host communities (primarily in the West Nile) this year.
In October last year, a joint United Nations and World Bank report warned on the competition for available resources such as trees and land for cultivation, among other factors, as a possible cause of tension between the refugees and host communities.
Beijing proposes seven-point plan for upgrading China-Africa cooperation
Chato, Tanzania | XINHUA | The 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has achieved great success and become a new monument to China-Africa friendly cooperation, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Friday.
Wang made the remarks at a joint press conference here with Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Palamagamba Kabudi during his official visit to the African country.
Wang noted that over the past two years, China has fully implemented the eight major initiatives with African countries proposed at the Beijing Summit.
Cooperation in areas of industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, health care, people-to-people exchange, and peace and security have been carried out in a comprehensive way, he said, adding that the overall implementation rate has exceeded 70 percent.
Noting that China-Africa cooperation on the “Belt and Road” is progressing smoothly, Wang said over 1,100 cooperation projects continue to operate during the epidemic.
Meanwhile, nearly 100,000 Chinese technical and engineering personnel also stick to their posts to coordinate and promote epidemic prevention and control as well as resume work and production, making important contributions to local economic and social development.
The friendship between Chinese and African people has continued to grow and the two sides have established 11 pairs of new sister cities, bringing the total number to 150, said Wang,
Furthermore, the China-Africa Institute has been inaugurated, a number of Confucius Institutes have been set up in Africa and exchanges in sectors of sports, health, tourism and youths between the two sides have yielded fruitful results, Wang added.
Wang noted that despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will not stop China and Africa from moving forward together. The two sides are scheduled to hold a new session of the FOCAC in Senegal later this year.
“China is ready to enhance communication with our African friends and we will carefully design the outcomes of the meeting and upgrade China-Africa cooperation based on the new situation, new needs and new opportunities of China-Africa cooperation,” said Wang.
A seven-point plan for upgrading of China-Africa cooperation is also proposed by Wang.
- –China will strengthen health cooperation, work together with Africa to completely defeat the epidemic, help Africa enhance its capacity to prevent and respond to major diseases, and jointly build a “Healthy Africa”.
- –China will enhance production capacity cooperation and upgrade China-Africa project cooperation to a more clustered, large-scale, industrialized and localized scale. China will help Africa raise its capacity for independent production and jointly build a “Made in Africa”.
- –China will strengthen regional connectivity, explore China-Africa free trade cooperation, and help Africa enhance internal infrastructure connectivity, unimpeached trade and financial integration so as to jointly build an “Inter-connected Africa”.
- –China will strengthen agricultural cooperation, carry out cooperation in grain production, storage and transportation, help Africa strengthen its food security and guarantee capability to jointly build a “Harvest Africa”.
- –China will strengthen digital cooperation, give full play to China’s technological advantages, help Africa seize the opportunity of the information revolution and jointly build a “Digital Africa”.
- –China will carry out environmental protection cooperation, practice the concept of sustainable development, help Africa improve its ability to cope with climate change and jointly build a “Green Africa”.
- –China will strengthen military security cooperation, promote political solutions of critical issues in Africa, help Africa enhance its peacekeeping and anti-terrorism capabilities, and jointly build a “Safe Africa”.
Wang also expressed confidence that with the joint efforts of both sides and under the guidance of the forum mechanism, China-Africa cooperation will continue to bear fruits and make greater contribution to the building of a closer China-Africa community with a shared future.
Trauma and wounds caused by evictions in Kiryandongo still fresh three years down the road…
By witnessradio.org Team
Kiryandongo-Uganda -Anna Maria Mukabariyanga a mother of four is one of the people that have tested the wrath of Kiryandongo Sugar Limited. It’s one of the multinational companies that have evicted over 35000 people to pave way for different projects
Mukabariyanga a resident of ranch 23 was attacked by security operatives of Kiryandongo Sugar, beaten, and thrown out of her house on the fateful night that left many homeless.
She was pregnant and in the process, she had a miscarriage.
“I was 8 months pregnant when the armed operatives attacked us, beat me up on the back. My husband was away and had no one to come to my rescue. I was thrown down by one of the evictors who continued beating me,” Says Anna Maria Mukabariyaga.
“In five days, I started bleeding but could not go to the hospital because I did not have money and later on I lost my lost child. However, I was later taken to Kiryandongo Hospital by neighbors in the area I had moved to”. She adds.
Such violent repression is the tale of villagers in Kiryandongo who were never consulted or given information privy to the eviction.
“I heard notices over the radio that, people should prepare to have their land valued for compensation but that did not trickle down to us in form of meetings”. Said 78-year old Bakaikara Edward, a resident of Kakoba village, Kitwala Sub County in Kiryandongo district.
Bakaikara says, the advert ran for two months and later evictions started.
“I was born and raised on this land by the late Kamiri Kajula. My siblings and I have been staying here since childhood. They cultivated and lived on 400 hectares as a family”. He narrates.
“I had also developed the land as a farmer, but all crops were destroyed, I have nothing to feed the family on.” He added.
“Our hearts are broken. Our children are not going to school and we do not have food. We are very angry and hungry too,” Another resident only identified as Joyce chorused in as Mr. Bakaikara told his story.
Before the agribusiness companies came in, Badudu and the other small farmers of Kiryandongo planted beans, maize, sweet potatoes, bananas, groundnuts, cassava, and mangoes, and reared pigs, goats, and cows.
Much of their former land is now occupied by sugarcane, coffee, soya, and maize which are all solely exported for profits.
Joseph Walekula one of the community leaders in Kiryandongo says, many people have been turned into beggars and reduced to working on land that they used to own.
“When Kiryandongo sugar company limited came in, people lost their land, no due compensation was done. Many people joined refugee camps where they live up to now, others ran away, and we don’t know where they are.” Says Mr. Walekula.
This is all happening under the watch of government bodies and security agencies like Police that have instead turned against the communities in defense of the investors.
Kiryandongo Sugar is owned by the Rai dynasty operating agribusiness and timber activities in DR Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi. One of its directors is a shareholder of a British Virgin Islands company, which was listed in the Panama Papers database
It arrived in 2017, owns about 2400 hectares of sugarcane plantation project in Kiryandongo, and one of the three multinational projects that have continuously evicted people in the area.
Others are the; Great Season SMC Limited, a Dubai-based company reportedly owned by Sudanese businessmen building a coffee plantation on 1,165 hectares, and Agilis Partners, a company owned by US businessmen and backed by several foreign development agencies and “social impact” investors establishing a large-scale grains farm on around 3,850 hectares.
CONFIRMED! Abducted lawyers found at Special Investigations Unit of Uganda Police Force at Kireka…
By witnessradio.org Team
23rd/12/2020; Kampala – Uganda – It is confirmed that the five lawyers that were abducted by unidentified armed men are being held at the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of police based at Kireka, a Kampala suburb. The development happened after lawyers, and the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) were granted access to speak to them today. UHRC is a constitutional body in Uganda mandated to protect, promote, and uphold human rights in Uganda.
The five include Kampala-based renowned lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, members of the Witness Radio legal team Anthony Odur, and Esomu Simon Peter Obure.
Others include Herbert Dakasi and Hamid Tenywa, a National Unity Platform (NUP) human rights Officer.
Members of our legal team were given chance to speak to the human rights commission and disclosed the brutal arrests during their abduction
According to Esomu and Odur, they were beaten inside a van that was used to abduct them and they had bruises on their body. While Nicholas Opiyo was in a jovial mood at the time of speaking to lawyers and UHRC teams.
Elly Womanya, the SIU commandant confirmed that the victim lawyers were given medication at their arrival, however, did not name which agency abducted the lawyers.
At the time of writing this article, all the victim lawyers had no idea about the cause of their arrest, had not recorded statements and no charges were preferred against them.
However, via its social media channels, police accuse Opiyo and the four of money laundering.
The five lawyers yesterday at 2:45 PM Uganda time were abducted from Lamaro restaurant in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb.
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