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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Agribusiness on rise in north Uganda region where rebels fought



GULU, Uganda – For nearly two decades, the Lord’s Resistance Army stalked the grasslands of north Uganda, abducting children as soldiers and sex slaves in its war against the government. Now at peace, the land is being put to a new use: large-scale agriculture.

Uganda is Africa’s largest coffee exporter and its strong economic growth has been boosted by manufacturing, telecoms, retail and banking. The government wants agribusiness to be the next big sector.

Investors have poured tens of millions of dollars into a landscape now dotted with tracts of maize, rice, sunflower, sesame and commercial forests.

“Northern Uganda has the potential to become the bread basket for not only Uganda but even for East Africa,” Martin Maugustini, country manager for Afgri Uganda (AU), a unit of South African agribusiness giant Afgri Limited, told Reuters.

Developing the north is not easy. The region borders war-torn South Sudan and its crops must be trucked long distances over rough roads. Farming is dependent on rainfall as the River Nile is not developed for irrigation.

Even so, the legacy of the conflict that pitted the government against warlord Joseph Kony gives the plan to expand large-scale agriculture an unusual advantage.

During the war, the military herded the population into camps to separate them from rebels. The displacement caused hardship but when the war ended 10 years ago, leaving President Yoweri Museveni in full control of a country he has ruled since 1986, many people chose to stay in the camps, which had become sprawling urban centres.

The result is large tracts of virgin, fertile land that may give the country of 45 million an advantage over Kenya and Ethiopia, which lead the region in mechanised agriculture.

Afgri Uganda has invested $10 million since 2013, first leasing a 6,400-tonne warehouse in the regional capital Gulu for buying, processing and bagging maize, and is completing a warehouse and silo that towers over the plains of Nwoya district and can process 15 tonnes per hour.

Another company, Amatheon, started cultivating maize, sorghum and sunflower in Nwoya in 2013, and has spent $15 million and planted 1,700 hectares so far, said Chief Executive Carl Heinrich Bruhn.

Bruhn says his company aims to plant another 3,000 hectares this year, spend $100 million beyond that and contract 5,000 smallholder farmers to supply it with produce.


But resentment is on the rise against the investors many locals see as outsiders grabbing land that is rightfully theirs.

In June, legislator Odonga Otto told an election rally that people should have lots of children to help reoccupy the land.

“I call upon each family in this region to have at least eight to nine children so that in eight or nine years time they can be able to effectively occupy the remaining land,” he said, according to local media reports.

Rows over who actually owns the land has hampered some plans. A $100-million, 40,000-acre sugar plantation and processing plant by the Madhvani Group, one of Uganda’s most established agribusinesses, stalled due to a land ownership dispute.

The government has for years tried to convince locals to exchange their land for a project stake. Locals say investors should hold direct talks with landowners and farmers to lease or sell land or create business partnerships.

Amatheon Agri Uganda Ltd (AAUL), a unit of Berlin-based Amatheon Agri Group, attracted by the region’s “rich and virgin agricultural land,” negotiated leases directly with owners directly rather than going through the government, as Madhvani had done.

But that process can be tricky, especially as much of the land lacks clear titles of ownership.

Anthony Akol refused an offer for his 509 acre plot, saying the bid the investor made was low because he lacked land title. Since then he uses just 40 acres for rice farming, the maximum his own finances could afford.

Investors have not been deterred, however.

Gulu Agricultural Development Company Ltd (GADCL), owned by South African entrepreneur Bruce Robertson, leased a rusting 1960s warehouse in Gulu, spruced it up and started buying organic cotton for process and export.

The company started business in the region in 2009 backed by the New York-based Acumen fund, a non-profit organisation, and has since expanded to buy sesame, chilli and sunflower from 35,000 contract farmers.

It has also planted more than 1,000 acres of eucalyptus, pine and teak and plans to build a plant to produce cooking oil from sesame and sunflowers rather than selling the seeds raw.


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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Breaking; Lands Minister directs police chief to arrest armed mobs involved in forced and illegal land evictions.



By Witness Radio team

Uganda’s Lands Minister Judith Nabakooba has directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Martins Okoth Ochola to arrest all organized and armed mobs involved in forced and illegal land evictions.

The directive is the second one from the same minister to the police chief in three (3) months due to widespread forced and illegal land evictions in Uganda.

On February 28, 2022, President Yoweri Museveni came out and banned all land evictions in the country that are carried out without the consent of the respective District Security Committees (DSC).

The latest directive was triggered by violent scenes that occurred on the 19th of March 2023 when armed groups of men with graders invaded the St peter’s Church of Uganda’s land in Kibiri and started destroying crops planted on the church land. The armed group whose employer is not yet established claims the church is occupying someone’s land illegally.

In an attempt to stop the unlawful eviction, Church leaders, led by Reverend Maxwell Ssebuggwawo and some faithful tried to intervene but in vain.

According to eyewitnesses, the armed group immediately attacked the Clergyman and other Christians causing severe bodily injuries. In the scuffle, Rev. Maxwell Ssebuggwawo’s vestments were torn by the mob, whom the community believes was being targeted.

In response to the violent attack against the church leader and congregation, the minister observed that many land grabbers have resorted to using organized and armed mobs to evict people from their land. She further describes eviction as illegal and unacceptable since the government has capable security agencies that can effect lawful evictions.

“We have noted incidents where some crooks employ mobs to evict people yet we have security forces that can do this concerning the law. This is wrong. I have therefore directed the IGP to arrest everybody involved in these illegal acts and be brought to book”, the Minister added in an interview with the local media.

Witness Radio in the recent past has documented incidents where organized and armed mobs are participating in violent land evictions.  For instance, a recent eviction of a 99-year-old Hellena Namazzi in Numugongo in Kira Municipality in Wakiso district by Sema Properties boss, Ssemakula Sulait, another ugly case involved a violent eviction of over 2000 people off 328.1 hectares by one Moses Karangwa and Abid Alam in Kassanda district among others.

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Over 500 Kapapi families in Hoima district remain stranded after the district security committee fails to resettle them back on their land as directed by the minister.



By Witness Radio team.

Hundreds of families, violently evicted from their land in Kapapi and Kiganja sub-counties in Hoima district are still pondering their next moves as efforts to return to their grabbed land remain ambiguous.

The directive came after Hoima district police and private guards from Magnum, a private security company raided people’s homes in Waaki North, Kapapi Central, Waaki South, Runga, and Kiryatete villages in Kapapi and Kiganja sub-counties, Hoima district on 10th of February 2023 at 1:00 am.

The violent scenes left hundreds of children with scores of injuries, houses were torched, and property worth billions was destroyed.  The animals such as goats, sheep, and cows were butchered and others were looted.

On 22nd of February 2023, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Honorable Judith Nabakooba while addressing a meeting in Rukola village Kapapi sub-county, Hoima district directed the security committee to return the victim villagers back to their land.

She considered the eviction unlawful since it was conducted at night and without a court order.

In that meeting, area leaders, Hoima district police and Hoima Resident District commissioner, Mr. Rogers Mbabazi, Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Michael Kyakashari were in attendance.

The victim community accuses a group of people including Ndahura Gafayo, Aston Muhwezi, David Mpora, Monica Rwashadika, Agaba, and Wilber Kiiza of being responsible for the land grab.

The grabbed land is situated at the shores of Lake Albert adjacent to the Kabaale parish in Buseruka Sub-county where the greenfield oil refinery is to be established. In April 2018, the government selected the Albertine Graben Refinery Consortium (AGRC) as the private sector investment to finance, develop, construct, and operate the Greenfield oil Refinery estimated to cost $4b.

According to the Witness Radio research team, ever since the directive was made instead, there’s increased human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, detentions and threats, and intimidation against victims of residents encamped at Rwenyana Church to vacate.

The evictees report that after the minister’s directive, three community members include; Mbombo Steven, and Kalongo Steven have been arrested, charged, and remanded to Hoima government prison.

“Our families encamping at church and waiting to be resettled back as directed by the Minister are facing further threats and intimidation to go away. They say they don’t want us at the church. Some of us are currently in hiding for fear of arbitrary arrests or kidnaps.” A community member who preferred to be called Enos due to fear of retaliation told Witness Radio.

He further added that the community is living at the mercy of God, with no food, or shelter, and predicted an uncertain future for their children since they are not attending school.

“Families are scattered in different centers while others continue to live with their relatives. However essential services such as shelter, food, health services, and education for their children remain a challenge. These people found us on land and started claiming ownership of this land. Imagine when we went for a search at a land registry, we found out that they only have a title of 2 acres but everyone knows we have been on this land for over 30 years. We have people who were born on this land.” He added.

Witness Radio contacted Mr. Rogers Mbabazi, Hoima Resident District Commissioner who heads the district security committee, to understand how far the committee had gone with the implementation of the minister’s directive. He instead referred us to his Deputy Mr. Michael Kyakashari.

Mr. Michael Kyakashari, when asked about the status of the directive, told our reporter that he did not have an answer for him before he hung up.

“I don’t have an answer for you” He repeatedly said.

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

State House Anti-Corruption Unit nets a surveyor implicated in Mubende district land-grabs



Mr. Mafumu Paul and his accomplices at police after their arrest.

By Witness Radio Team,

The State House Anti-corruption Unit has arrested an alleged landgrabber in Mubende district whose evictions have rendered masses homeless.

Mr. Mafumu Paul, a Mubende based surveyor is accused of using police and conniving with some officials in the Lands ministry to issue forged titles that have been instrumental in illegal land evictions in the districts of Mubende, Kiboga and Kyankwanzi.

The alleged land grabber has been arrested alongside two of his farm workers who include Ssenyondo Ronald and Sseruyange Ben.

The arrest follows complaints of grave human rights abuses to the State House Anti-Corruption Unit and the minister for lands housing and urban development. In response, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, the Hon. Judith Nabakooba Nalule, visited the families whose crops were sprayed with chemicals by Mafumu’s workers. She later requested the State House Anti-Corruption Unit to intervene and investigate circumstances under which forged certificate of land titles are issued and used to forcefully evict local communities off their land. She further directed the Mubende Police to oversee the arrest of the Mufumu.

He has been implicated in instigating unlawful arrests, beating people, denying communities to access clean water sources, razing-down people’s houses and gardens, fly-grazing, and spraying their crops with chemicals in order to evict them from their land.

In one of the recent cases, on the 14th of January 2023, violence was meted out on the residents in Nalyankanja village, Kyenda Town Council in Mubende district. Mafumu is said to have ordered his workers to spray their crops, an act they believe has escalated hunger in their area. The crops sprayed with chemicals included: sweet potatoes, pineapples, coffee, bananas, and Cassava.

According to Witness Radio research, Mafumu has been accused of violently evicting over 17 families since 2018 from their land measuring approximately 248 acres.

The alleged land grabber and his accomplices are currently being detained at Mubende Police.

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