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After 15 years of anguish, NFC evictees reunite to rent land to fight food insecurity



By Witness Radio – Uganda.

Thousands of poor smallholder farmers that lost their livelihood to a forced eviction carried out by the New Forest Company (NFC) have decided to pick up the broken pieces and embark on a new journey to rebuild their lost glory. Armed with high hopes, the evictees are determined to acquire a three-year lease for 500 acres of land.

Purposely, the land is for agriculture, which was their sole source of income before being forcefully evicted by NFC which benefits from carbon credit financing. The chairperson of the evicted community said they have so far accessed 205 acres of land on a gentleman’s agreement from ‘good landlords’ whose lease fees will be partly paid after seasons’ harvests. The land is being occupied by 130 NFC victims. Evictee leaders’ target is that all NFC evictees get land to live on like they hitherto lived.

The chairperson of the evictees further confirmed that after a brutal eviction, many of the affected families were scattered in neighboring districts like Kassanda, Mubende, Hoima, Kakumiro, Kyegegwa, Rakai, Kibaale, Kagadi, and Kamwenge among others looking for survival.

“After over 15 years of suffering. A few of us resolved to start looking for our colleagues and get re-united to start advancing our original dreams. When people find something to do like finding land to grow food, everyone will be able to contribute some money to our causes and look for another piece of land to rent or buy so that we can live and feed our families. When we traveled and met them. We informed them about the proposal, and they accepted. It is now three months ever since we started farming on this land,” A leader of the NFC evictees said.

A glance at a village, where NFC evictees camped, you will see makeshifts littered everywhere and covered with blue tarpaulins. The residents have embarked on tilling their land preparing for the reason. They vowed to channel their eviction-related anger towards farming.

To many of them, this is not just a land lease, but a new lease of life to them.  The heydays of the 2000s are creeping back. They wake up earlier to till their gardens.

“Our life is back. We are not used to that life of calling for support from the government. If we have land we can support our families,” a joyful 45-year-old Munguzi Asanansi not a real name due to fear of retaliation from the company told Witness Radio-Uganda. His family lives in a rental unit provided to him by a friend in the Kyegegwa district.

Between 2006 and 2010, more than 900 families in 7 villages in Mubende were evicted to make a way for the UK- based New Forests Company (NFC). The villages included; Kyamukasa, Kanamire, Kyato, Kisita, Mpologoma, Kigumbya and Kicucula.

NFC was founded in 2004 with the “vision” of producing “sustainable” timber in East Africa amidst rampant deforestation. It was funded by Agri-Vie Agribusiness Fund, a private equity investment fund, and UK-bank HSBC Private Equity.

NFC is currently also benefiting from a new project supported by the Dutch Fund for Climate and Development (DFCD); 160 million euros (more than 185 million dollars) from the Dutch government fund that aims to mobilize private sector finance into carbon projects. The DFCD is managed by investment manager Climate Fund Managers (CFM), NGO Worldwide Fund for Nature Netherlands (WWF-NL), and NGO SNV, and it is led by the Dutch Development Bank, FMO. (1)

In August 2020, DFCD approved a 279,001 euros (around 327,000 dollars) grant and WWF technical assistance package for The New Forests Company (NFC), intending to develop the final business investment proposal for carbon certification in Uganda, for sustainable smallholder growth and timber market diversification.

This in reality would translate into generating carbon finance to support expanding their monoculture plantations and land grabbing.

In 2005, the tree plantations company signed a deal with Uganda’s National Forestry Authority (NFA) to develop 20,000 hectares of tree plantations in the Namwasa and Luwunga forest reserves under the carbon trading program, a market-based approach to privatize the carbon dioxide stored in trees for selling it as carbon credits to polluters.

Namwasa residents felt betrayed by their government which fronted profit-making ahead of their livelihood. “Some residents were not compensated. Even those that the Company claimed it compensated, are still struggling, and wallowing in poverty. We were duped and cannot trust the government again,” revealed a resident who preferred anonymity

A 59-year-old Nguzoba Stephie, not his real name due to fear of retaliation from the company still recounts the misery caused by the eviction. He said on a fateful day, he lost his garden of 35 acres in Kicucula village, houses were destroyed and livestock was looted. His property was not an inheritance but the fruit of hard work.

“I received no compensation after the eviction not even being resettled and now my family of 14 lives a miserable life. We currently live on my brother’s acre of land in the Rakai district. My children have nothing to eat. They don’t go to school. I also don’t have money to foot their medical bills when they fell sick,” he added.

Namugera Harriet (not real name), a former resident of Mpologoma is also among those that were evicted. Her family of 10 stays in Kampindu where residents were resettled. She says the harvests in Kampindu are poor due to barren rocky soils. She has never benefited from the Kampindu land. Her family too is struggling and children often starve due to scarcity of food.

“When I had this opportunity, I rushed to take it because the fact is Kampindu land is not land. Our harvests are always poor yet the family is bigger. In the end, it is difficult to support it. What some of us could do was to labor in people’s plantations to get what to feed the family,” she said.

The trio Nguzoba, Namukisa and Munguzi are beneficiaries of the land lease project. They are among the 130 families, who have so far gotten land. They said with this land, they shall be able to support their families and try to cope with better lives and probably wipe away the tears of 15 years of misery.

“We have suffered a lot. We have lost our dear ones just because, we have no money to pay hospital bills. Our children are married off at a tender age because we can’t afford education bills and many other related situations,” Mr. Patricia Kabuye not real name, another beneficially said.

Residents lauded their leaders for this achievement. However, the prayers and efforts of their leaders are to secure enough land for all residents who were evicted.

“Once we secure land for all people that will be a good move. We expect more than 500 acres on the same land for the families,” Mr. Ndagize told Witness Radio-Uganda.

He added that the communities were allowed to buy that same land once they have enough money.

The evictee leader further says 34 of the evictees have died due to eviction-related injuries and illnesses.

A leader of a village which is hosting evictees said, they welcomed the developments in the community and are looking forward to supporting them.

“That land has been free for many years. We are happy that people shall be settling and utilizing it,” he added.

When we spoke to the NFC about the poor lives people are living in and its failed attempts to secure them enough land, their Corporate Social Responsibility Programme Manager, Mr. Kyabawampi Alex, in emailed documents said four hundred and fifty-three households were carefully selected by the Resettlement Committee and were resettled on the land, now known as the Kampindu Settlement and priority was given to those in most need.

“Residents were encouraged to form a Cooperative. They named it Bukakikama Cooperative Society Limited representing the affected communities. 600 Million Uganda shillings (about 168,921 dollars) were wired on its account was able to purchase 576 acres of productive land in the Mubende district and priority was given to households most in need as the Cooperative was not able to purchase enough land to resettle every member,” the documents read.

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



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.


Download the statement:

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Uganda: Judicial harassment of environmental and human rights activist Desire Nkurunziza



UGA 001 / 0923 / OBS 037
Arbitrary detention /
Release /
Judicial harassment
September 5, 2023The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Uganda.

Description of the situation:The Observatory has been informed of the arrest and subsequent release of Desire Nkurunziza, an environmental and human rights activist and the elected leader of Nyairongo village, Kikuube district, mid-western region of Uganda. As a member of the Save the Bugoma Forest Campaign (SBFC) community task force, Mr Nkurunziza has been calling out the local and central government authorities about the deforestation of the Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, which has been leased to the Hoima Sugar Limited company, mainly for sugarcane cultivation, by the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, South-West region of Uganda. This project is not only affecting the biodiversity of the forest but also the local community, which has been subjected to extortion by land grabbers associated to Hoima Sugar Limited and/or its agents.

On July 16, 2023, two cars came to Desire Nkurunziza’s home in Nyairongo trading center, one of them belonging to a supervisor of Hoima Sugar Ltd and the other to an associate of the Kikuube Resident District Commissioner, both known by Mr Nkurunziza. The two men informed him that two of his village members were arrested in the forest, now a sugar cane plantation, and he agreed to go with them to help his constituents. Upon reaching the plantation, he was handed over to armed Hoima Sugar Ltd personnel, who started beating him and then recorded a video accusing him of illegally cutting down sugar cane. He was then taken to the Kikuube police station by the same Hoima Sugar Ltd car, where he was arrested on the grounds of “incitement of violence” and “criminal trespass” under Section 51 and 302 of the Penal Code Act, respectively, and detained there by the police for two days. He requested temporary release from police bond – custody -, but his request was denied.

On July 18, 2023, he applied for Court bail, which was denied even though he fulfilled all the requirements set by the Court and no reason was provided. He was then remanded to Kiryatete prison.

After reporting back to court on July 24, Desire Nkurunziza was released on Court bail. He had to pay a cash bail of 300,000 Ugandan shillings (approximately 74 Euros) in addition to satisfying all the conditions for release, with the obligation to report back on August 31, 2023, to the Chief Magistrates Court of Hoima, which is handling the matter. During his audience, the magistrate informed him that he would need to report back once again to the Court on November 2, 2023, without providing any reasons.

The Observatory recalls that the Bugoma Forest is the second biggest natural forest reserve in Uganda. In recent years, it has been claimed by the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, Western Uganda, which obtained a land title through irregular ways before it leased it to sugar manufacturer Hoima Sugar Limited for sugarcane cultivation, to establish an urban centre, develop eco-tourism, and restore a portion of the forest reserve. Before leasing the land to Hoima Sugar Limited, an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) certificate was issued by the National Environment Management Authority, in circumstances that have been contested by the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) in courts of Law. The contestation is based on the allegations that the assessment was made without consulting the local community, even though this issue clearly concerns them. A trial which aims to annul the ESIA certificate is ongoing in front of the Court of appeal.

The Observatory further recalls that this is not the first time that defenders of the Bugoma Forest are targetted for their legitimate human rights activities. In September 2020, nine environmental rights defenders were arbitrarily arrested for defending the Bugoma Forest, including Venex Watebawa and Joshua Mutale, respectively team leader and Head of Programmes of Water and Environment Media Network (WEMNET), who were first arrested on their way to a radio talk show to discuss the dangers of sugar cane cultivation in the Bugoma Forest and call on peaceful protests, as well as Sandra Atusinguza, member of AFIEGO who went to the police station to negotiate their release and got arrested herself. These various acts of harassment against environmental and human rights defenders, in addition to the numerous arrests of local residents defending their right to access their own land, show the will of the local and national governments to intimidate and silence them.

The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of Desire Nkurunziza, as well as the other above mentioned human rights defenders, which seem to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities.


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Uganda: Targeting community land and environmental defenders with criminal offenses is rising as two community land rights defenders arrested in a hotspot district of forced land evictions.



By Witness Radio team

As land and environmental rights defenders strive to better their areas, they continue to bear the brunt of defending communities’ land rights from negative impacts brought by the development projects.

In Kiryandongo District, multinationals have increasingly chosen to adopt a strategy of criminalizing activities of community defenders who are working tirelessly to protect communities’ farming fields.

This criminalization method has captured area police units and use it to cause arbitrary arrest and detention, and prefer various offenses against community land and environmental defenders. Commonly used charges include criminal trespassing on a piece of land communities have cultivated for generations and causing damage to their own property. These actions have weakened the activism charisma of defenders and deter them from continuing with pushing back against illegal and forced land evictions. These tactics do not only undermine the legitimate work of community land and environmental rights defenders but also create an environment of fear and intimidation among those who dare to resist land grabbing and environmental degradation.

On the 22nd of August 2023, two community land rights defenders were rounded up for the seventh time in a period of two (2) years by police officers attached to Kiryandongo district police, and three workers from Great Seasons SMC Limited company Limited arbitrarily arrested and dumped in the Kiryandongo district police cells.

The defenders Barumangabo Sepriano and Ramu Ndahimana rounded -up and arbitrarily arrested from their farming fields preparing for the upcoming planting season, handicapped, and subsequently taken away.

“In the early morning hours, we were suddenly confronted by a group of armed people comprised of Kiryandongo district police personnel and individuals representing the company. Swiftly and forcefully, we were pushed into a white land cruiser bearing the registration number UBF 417C, which was later identified as the property of the evictors. Initially, the captors asserted that one of the grounds for our apprehension was our alleged trespassing on the company’s land.

However, upon arrival at the police station, the officers altered their claims and stated that we had supposedly posed threats to the company’s workers, a charge we vehemently denied. Shortly after a short period of time, another accusation of malicious damage was leveled against us. Astonishingly, we were informed that we were being held accountable for purportedly setting a structure ablaze.” One of the defenders narrated when visited by Witness Radio team at police.

The two defenders are among a group of community land and environmental rights defenders who have been on the forefront advocating for land, social and economic justice of communities in Kiryandongo district whose land is targeted for large-scale farming by multinationals.

Great Seasons SMC Limited, planting coffee on a large scale, is one of the multinational companies in the Kiryandongo district that have violently deprived communities of their rights to own land, and homes, demolished community schools, cut down food crops owned community members/families, destroyed water sources, and privately-owned health centers.

Over 35000 residents have lost their family lands after violent and forceful land evictions to pave the way for industrial agriculture. In addition to the Great Seasons SMC Limited, there are other multinationals implicated in land-grabbing activities, such as Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, Agilis Partners Limited, and Somdiam Limited.

Kiryandongo district police has preferred threatening violence, criminal trespass and malicious damage to property charges against the two (2) defenders.

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