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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Agilis Partners/Asili Farms resort to torture to disempower and grab land from the poor

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By witnessradio.org Team

 

Kiryandongo – Uganda – Just like any country under lockdown and a curfew, people living in Uganda are obliged to adhere to stipulated guidelines and time limits to be indoor. For Byaruhanga John, little did he know that his home when everyone is in bed would be raided at midnight and get kidnapped by unknown people because he has resisted illegal and violent land eviction orchestrated by Agilis Partners/Asili Farms; a company owned by American investor

 

Byaruhanga is the latest victim of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment after more than a dozen of smallholder land owners including Katusabe William, who was attacked and severely beaten by Agilis Partners/Asili Farms workers, One Odonga Jackson, a security guard deployed by Saracen, a private security firm hired by the company. Katusiime reports that on top of being tortured and degrading treatment, Kiryandongo district police blocked him from receiving treatment as a victim as well as opening criminal cases against the company, its workers and guards.

 

Agilis Partners/Asili Farm violence has caused permanent disability of an 11-year old Ssewankambo Ponsiano who has since dropped out of Kabyanga Memorial School. He was shot while in classroom studying with fellow pupils when police officers working on Agilis Partners opened live bullets and tire gas at residents. The incident incident occurred at Kisalanda village, Kimogola Local Council 1, Kiryandongo Sub county, Kiryandongo district.

 

On April, 22nd, 2020, Byaruhanga heard a knocking noise reverberating from the door to his house. It followed with voices of some unknown people who were demanding him to open the door and that should he refuse, they threatened to break into the house.

 

According to witnessradio.org investigations, Byaruhanga a resident of Nyamuntende and a bonafide land owner was raided by a group of laborers dressed in Asili Farms uniform, a subordinate of Agilis Partners while others were from Saracen, a private security firm. Agilis Partners plantations are guarded by its internal security firm (Asili Farms), Uganda Police Force (UPF) and Saracen, a private security firm.

 

witnessradio.org has learnt that once Byaruhanga succumbed to pressure, opened and stepped out of his house, a group of men grabbed him, beat and kicked him. “ I was severely beaten, which beating lasted about 30 minutes. When I started making noise, they bundled me into the trunk of an awaiting pick-up truck, and drove off to the Agilis Partners’s camp which is about 30 miles from my home” Said Byaruhanga. 

 

Byaruhanga added that when they arrived at the camp, he was locked up in a company store, saying the security personnel, were instructed to shoot him if he dares to get out.

 

In an interview with witnessradio.org, Byaruhanga testifies that the following day, the Kiryandongo District Police Commander (DPC) One Bakaleke Joseph and other police personnel visited him in the illegal detention dressed in plain clothes did nothing.

 

Before to his torture, Byaruhanga lost his banana and maize plantations, paw paw as well as pine trees which were plowed down by Agilis Partners without compensation.

 

Byaruhang has since opened up criminal charges against company workers and private security guards but no arrests have since been made.   

Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Kawaala community land rights defenders will report for police bond for the fourth time on 1st August.

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By Witness Radio – Uganda team

Kampala, the three community land rights defenders from Kawaala Zone II charged with fraud are reporting back at the Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters on Monday 1st of August.

It will be the fourth time for the defenders to report for the bond.

While appearing at the station on 18th July 2022, the two of the three defenders were re-arrested and subjected to another interrogation which lasted for one hour between 11 am to 12 pm local time.

They were quizzed by the head of the investigations at the Old Kampala Police headquarters, Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Patrick Domara. Land rights defenders Kabugo Michael and Kasozi Paul Ssengendo reported.  The third defender Busobolwa Adam did not turn up due to health-related issues.

On the third time, the two defenders who reported before police recorded additional statements on fraud charges that were preferred against them on July 11th, 2022.

Section 342 of the Penal Code states that forgery is the making of a false document with the intent to defraud or deceive. It carries three-year imprisonment on conviction.

The lawyers representing the defenders said their clients were questioned by the police about their land ownership in Kawaala and the documents proving ownership. Police said that the complainant accuses defenders of forging land sales agreements and occupying land illegally.

The defenders were summoned, arrested, and interrogated on the orders of the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division Anderson Buroora who is accusing them of fraud.

The Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.

However, Witness Radio – Uganda believes that charges preferred against the community land rights defenders are a result of their continued mobilization of the local community of Kawaala to resist forced eviction, seek fair compensation, and resettlement before the Lubigi drainage channel is constructed.

“We challenge the RCC to bring evidence pinning the community land rights defenders on the alleged charges. We believe this is intimidation and continued efforts of fighting back to silence the work of the land rights defenders, wastage of their time and resources,” said one of the lawyers.

Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced evictions by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) funded by World Bank. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) is the implementer of the project.

The said project first impacted Kawaala Zone II around 2014, when a channel diversion was constructed. The current planned expansion will widen that channel and require forced evictions across an area at least 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long.

According to Witness Radio-Uganda lawyers, the community which is being forced off of its land without due process started living on that land in the 1940s and did not invite the project on their land.

The defenders will be reporting back on police bond at 10 am local time on the 1st of August 2022.

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Police re-arrest and interrogate Kawaala Community land rights defenders upon reporting back on bond.

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By Witness Radio Team

Kampala, Two of the three community land rights defenders from Kawaala Zone II, Kampala suburb have been re-arrested and re-interrogated on fraud charges at Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters.

The duo had reported back to police on bond on fraud charges for the third time since they were first summoned on June, 29th 2022.

Kasozi Paul and Kabugo Micheal were subjected to another interrogation which lasted for one hour between 11 am to 12 pm local time. They were quizzed by the head of the investigations directorate at the Old Kampala Police headquarters, Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Patrick Domara. The third defender Busobolwa Adam could not make it due to health-related issues.

According to defenders’ lawyers, the duo recorded additional statements on fraud charges that were preferred against by police on July, 11th, 2022.

According to defenders’ lawyers, the victims were questioned by the police about their land ownership in Kawaala and the documents proving ownership. Police are saying that the complainant is accusing defenders of forging land sales agreements and occupying land illegally.

Section 342 of the Penal Code states that forgery is the making of a false document with the intent to defraud or deceive. It carries three-year imprisonment on conviction.

The defenders were summoned, arrested, and interrogated on the orders of the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division Anderson Buroora who’s accusing them of fraud.

Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.

Witness Radio-Uganda says that the community which is being forced off its land without due process started living on that land in the 1940s and did not invite the project on their land.

Witness Radio – Uganda further believes that charges preferred against the community land rights defenders are a result of their continued mobilization of the local community of Kawaala to resist forced eviction, seek fair compensation and resettlement before the Lubigi drainage channel is constructed.

Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced evictions by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) funded by World Bank. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) is the implementer of the project.

This project first impacted Kawaala Zone II around 2014, when a channel diversion was constructed. The current planned expansion will widen that channel and require forced evictions across an area at least 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long.

The defenders were released on a police bond and required to report back on the 1st of August 2022 at 10 am local time.

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Six community land rights defenders from Kawaala have turned up at police for interrogations but, failed to take off

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By Witness Radio Team.

The six community land rights defenders from Kawaala zone II and the local leader that were summoned to appear at the Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters have turned up, however, the interrogations did not take off due to the absence of the head of investigating team.

The six community defenders were required to report back to police for further investigations into alleged crimes that have not yet been officially disclosed to defenders’ lawyers. They were supposed to appear before the police investigation team today the 06th of July 2022 at 10:00 AM.

The defenders include; Kasozi Paul, Busobolwa Adam, Kabugo Micheal, Serugo Charles, Ssemanda David, Sserukwaya David, and the area vice-chairman Patrick Kato Lubwama.

While appearing before police for the first time last week on Wednesday 29th, the Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Domara Patrick who heads the investigations team casually said the defenders and the local leader are being investigated for obtaining money by pretense and forgery, which charges are not mentioned on police summons.

Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced eviction by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) being implemented by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The drainage channel construction is financed by the World Bank.

This project first impacted Kawaala Zone II around 2014, when a channel diversion was constructed. The current planned expansion will widen that channel and require forced evictions across an area at least 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long.

Witness Radio – Uganda has established that the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division, Mr. Anderson Burora is among the complainants. Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.

Witness Radio – Uganda believes that police are being used to harass and intimidate defenders to back off the justice campaign for people negatively impacted by the drainage channel.

The defenders and the local council leader have been booked to report back to the police on Monday, the 11th of July 2022 at 9:00 AM local time.

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