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After being tortured by the army, the land rights defender is charged and remanded to prison

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By witnessradio.org Team

A community land rights defender who was kidnapped from his home and tortured by Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) soldiers guarding Kiryandongo Sugar Limited has been arraigned before a magistrate court in Kiryandongo district and charged with threatening violence.

According to family members, Olupot James was abducted from his home on Wednesday 23rd of March 2021 at 1:00 pm local time located at Kapapula village, Nyamuntende Sub County, Kiryandongo district by a group of six (6) soldiers in UPDF uniform, allegedly severely beaten in front of his children and wife before being taken to an unknown destination.

Apparently, Olupot’s family is one of several families whose homes are trapped in the middle of sugarcane plantations after their land was grabbed by Kiryandongo Sugar Limited and other multinational companies.

The available information indicates that Olupot was abducted alongside Kalisa Gregory and Emmanuel Mulanasaka, for filming the acts of torture meted on Olupot using mobile phones, but they were later abandoned along the way after their mobile phones were confiscated by captors.  Kalisa and Mulanasaka are neighbors to Olupot who intervened after they had him (Olupoti) screaming.

Witness Radio – Uganda’s investigations indicate that Olupot was first held in unknown places for some hours before being transferred to Kiryandongo Central Police Station.

Police records that were seen by Witness Radio – Uganda lawyers further indicate that the bleeding and limping Olupoti was illegally kept at Kiryandongo police for more than seven days without any treatment and before being taken to court.

A family member who preferred anonymity told Witness Radio – Uganda that upon learning that Olupot had been transferred to Kiryandongo Central Police Station, the family approached and pleaded with Kiryandongo district police chiefs to allow Olupoti to access treatment but all was in vain.

“Olupot’s kidnap and torture are linked to his work of mobilizing communities to resist an illegal eviction by Kiryandongo Sugar Limited and other multinationals”. A family member said.

While appearing before Kiryandongo Grade 1 Magistrate Court, Olupot was charged with threatening violence. A charge which carries a maximum sentence of four years imprisonment on conviction.

It’s not clear who’s the complainant in this case against Olupot.

He was remanded to Masindi Government Prison until May, 11th 2021.

 

Natives and Businesses

LOCKDOWN ILLEGAL EVICTION: Fresh waves of unabated acts of forced eviction violence have hit Kiryandongo once again…

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Mr. Baluma Sipiriano’s house that was burnt by the workers of Great Seasons SMC in Kiryandongo district.

By witnessradio.org Team

With only a few weeks of the second COVID 19 lockdown in Uganda, multinational companies have taken the advantage of the situation to brutalize and use other violent methods to force poor communities off their land in the Kiryandongo district.

Ever since Uganda went into a total lockdown on June 6th, 2021, agents of multinationals under the protection of area police, the army, and private security guards are burning people’s houses, arbitrarily arresting community land rights defenders, attack and beat up community leaders, and, have now hired out part of the grabbed land to pastoralists outside Kiryandongo district to purposely graze animals into poor communities’ gardens among other acts of violence.

The second lockdown was a result of a new surge of COVID causing outrageous infections and deaths. Currently, Uganda has 92,490 Coronavirus Cases and 2,557 deaths.

Multinationals with the support from security organs and operatives deployed to guard the grabbed land are likely not to stop the forced eviction despite this year’s ministerial directive halting further evictions that were issued on July 18th, 2021 by the lands minister, Mrs. Judith Nabakooba Nalule.

Since 2017, three multinationals have orchestrated violence to over 35000 inhabitants in the Kiryandongo district to give way to large-scale agribusiness projects.

The Multinationals include; the Dubai domiciled Great Season SMC Limited, Cayman Islands domiciled Agilis Partners Limited, and Mauritius domiciled Kiryandongo Sugar Limited.

Since that period, the area has witnessed various forms of violence ranging from rape, defilement, kidnap, torture, intimidation, illegal detention, imprisonment to the demolition of schools, worship centers, and homes, among others.

Early this month, at 8:00 AM local time, a family of Baluma Sipiriano was attacked by three armed agents allegedly part of Great Season SMC Limited and torched one of his houses before running away. Baluma is a community land rights defender who has been charged and persecuted on trumped-up charges.

“I was not at my home by the time of the attack. But three of my children, who were at home told me that armed with machetes, spears, bows, and arrows, company workers with the protection from armed police carried out the attack. One of them pulled out a matchbox and set my house on fire and all property was reduced to ashes”.  Baluma narrated.

According to residents, more than 10 houses have been burnt in the area but the police are silent and no intervention has been made.

Whereas Mr. Baluma reported the incident to the area police in Kimogola, police have not taken any against the perpetrators.

Another case of violence involves a 78-year-old Mr. Kajasiyo David. He was attached by cattle keepers who hired part of the grabbed land from companies and was severely beaten.

Mr. Kajasiyo David a small holder farmer showing his forearm that was fractured during a scuffle with herders

A medical report seen by Witness Radio -Uganda confirms that the old man’s left hand got a fracture.

“Three (3) herdsmen came and grazed their cattle in my small garden left. When I approached and requested them not to destroy my food crops, they responded by beating me until I became unconscious” Narrated the old man.

According to residents, multinationals are using fly-grazing as a form of eviction with more than 1000 heads of cattle.

“These cattle keepers have abandoned grazing spaces to target gardens and destroy our food crops, we are being pushed into extreme hunger and poverty while the multinationals reap huge profits from our own country,” Said Benon Baryeija, one of the community leaders.

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Natives and Businesses

New booklet: Nine Reasons to Say NO to Contract Farming with Palm Oil Companies

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Why do peasant farmers lose out when they produce for the palm oil industry? A publication based on experiences from Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

This publication explains how contract farming with palm oil companies works, and why it is a serious threat to peasant farming and food sovereignty. The booklet looks at nine of the most common promises that companies make, and most importantly, the information they conceal behind each promise.

The publication is available in English, PortugueseFrenchSpanish and Bahasa Indonesia.

 Download the publication in English here: Two pages per sheet | Single pages

The main focus of industrial palm oil companies is to maximise their profits. Their goal is to keep production costs as low as possible and to sell as much palm oil as they can. The more land they can control, the more palm oil they can sell.

With the full support of governments and financial institutions, palm oil companies have taken control of millions of hectares of land. They have destroyed and contaminated fishing grounds, fertile soils, water sources and forests. This corporate takeover of community land has also resulted in violence against people living in and around oil palm plantations, including abuse and sexual violence against women. The few jobs on plantations that are available to community members are poorly paid and dangerous.

Because resistance to these large-scale concessions is rising, companies have started to use different strategies to take control of community landOne of these strategies is to create smallholder, or outgrower schemes. Other names for this are contract farming or alliances with smallholders.

What companies do is propose that peasant farmers grow oil palm on their own land, and in turn, the company will buy all the oil palm fruit they produce. Governments usually support these schemes, which are presented as a win-win deal. But in fact, they are a trap. Peasant farmers accumulate debt right from the start, lose the freedom to decide who to sell their production to, face strict restrictions on planting other crops, and give up autonomy and even their land. These are some of the major consequences for peasant farmers who get locked into contract farming. Experiences in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia have already shown this.

Contract farming allows oil palm companies to control more land and increase their production without being accused of land grabbing or evicting peasant families. Governments have also started to promote these schemes, in order to avoid the social conflicts that tend to arise when large concessions are handed over to corporations. Furthermore, contract farming has become a tactic for palm oil companies to access new, often public funding from development banks, aid agencies, governments and other funders.

>> Download the publication in English here: Two pages per sheet | Single pages

The booklet is also available in PortugueseFrenchSpanish and Bahasa Indonesia..

Original Source: World Rainforest Movement

 

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Corporate Accountability

Forced eviction during covid-19 lockdown: KCCA with the World Bank funding is excluding me and my siblings from being compensated for our properties because we evolved lawyers in the eviction process.

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Nasande Kadijah, seated in one of the village meetings.

By witnessradio.org Team

Nasande Kadijah, not real name due to fear of retaliation, is one of the residents of Kawaala zone II, in Rubaga division, in Kampala district whose piece of Kibanja is being grabbed by Kampala Capital City Authority, (KCCA) to expand and construct the Lubigi Primary Channel with the aid of the World Bank loan to tune of USD 175 Million without compensation.

Nasande was born on the same piece of land in 1972 and, later with her siblings, they inherited the same property from their parents. The land measures an acre on which she constructed a house and also uses it to grow beans, bananas, and maize.

In early December 2020, Nasande’s family was among the 120 families that first received an eviction notice from KCCA without prior notice. It later dawned on them that the eviction notice was to pave way for the channel construction.

According to Nasande, they learned about the Second Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) from Witness Radio – Uganda lawyers.

A selfless community leader claims that she has been targeted by KCCA for mobilizing other community members to resist the COVID-19 land grab. As a result, her land has not been valued and compensated for, and yet KCCA is insisting on constructing and finishing the channel by December 2021.

After filing a complaint to the World Bank’s Inspection Panel on 17th June  2021, and holding a meeting with all stakeholders, KCCA was advised to repeat the whole evaluation process however, KCCA instead went ahead to carry out a forceful surveying exercise. Many property owners were excluded from the exercise including Nasande. KCCA also went ahead and asked them  to sign documents whose contents were  unknown to the project Affected Persons since they are illiterate who can barely read and write in English.

“We have requested lawyers from Witness Radio – Uganda to represent us. I never went to school, and I don’t know how to read. Documents were in English and no one could interpret for me. This is why I wanted my lawyers to be present on my behalf,” she said.

She added that there was a list of property owners allegedly circulating from KCCA but her name (Nasande) did not appear on it.

“One of the project members, Mr. Kyaddondo David accused me of ‘fighting KCCA work’ in one of the interfaces. I told him I was not fighting them but instead fighting their injustices in the eviction process. This is my land and I deserve to be compensated. If they claim what they are doing is right, why do they discouraged me from associating with my lawyers? My lawyers are there to fight for me and it is their role to do what I cannot. If they believe they want my land, let them follow what is right. Am one of the persons who welcomed the project for the development of our community,  of what importance does it have when we are left suffering?”, she added.

“My land is my everything. Am a poor woman unlike them working in the offices, this is what I depend on to feed my family of five. Do they want to find me on the streets begging? I asked those officials if they can give me part of their land, then I leave this for them but they refused,” she emphasised.

According to Kadijah, even those that were allegedly valued, KCCA did not display the evaluation rates.

“Many of them were caught unaware, they are now crying, and no one knows which rates were used. The systems were fraudulent. And some of us who were mobilizing others to resist started using fellow villagers to fight us back. They told them that we are the ones holding KCCA from paying them by involving lawyers who will take our money. Our purpose of getting lawyers was to get justice, because if these people wanted to compensate us, why did they think of evicting us at first. Before saying we are bad, they are bad too,” she further added.

According to Kadijah, had it not been for the intervention of Witness Radio Uganda, and Accountability Council they would have been already evicted.

“No one could hear our voices, everyone would not listen to our stories, not even the government offices. When Witness Radio came in to help us, they slowed down and even accepted to compensate us. So why do they want us to leave Witness Radio, they want to grab our land which we cannot accept. We have given KCCA many chances and we agree to be compensated but fairly and allow the government project to proceed,” she explained.

Such unlawful processes prompted, Witness Radio Uganda together with its partner Accountability Counsel on behalf of community members to file a complaint to the inspection panel seeking their interventions.

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