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WITNESS RADIO MILESTONES

Bamugemereire blasts judges, courts over land grabbing

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A Court of Appeal judge has in a no-holds-barred missive exposed the rot in courts and Judiciary, offered evidence on how judges connive with land grabbers, and lashed out at what she called the “wanton abuse” of criminal justice system.

Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, who also chairs the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters has condemned “bogus judgements and orders” in the eviction of bibanja holders, and warned that if the Judiciary, the third arm of the State, “does not rise to the occasion, it will be captured wholly by land grabbers and used as a catalyst of untold social distress arising from pressure on land”.

Justice Bamugemereire’s verbal assault on the abuse of courts at a news conference on Friday, came four years after Anup Singh Choudry, a retired High Court judge also complained about corruption in the ‘temple of justice’ and accused senior lawyers and judges of conniving with the Attorney General’s office to defraud “impoverished” Ugandans.

Call for action
The judge called for stern action against a racket of ‘mafias’ in the country’s judicial system.
Criticising judges, Justice Bamugemereire said her team encountered a rising number of orders, rulings, judgments and injunctions entered by judicial officers which have led to eviction of thousands of bibanja holders [bona fide tenants] or giving away protected land like forest reserves and wetlands countrywide. She has recommended an urgent review of all judgments issued by the courts on matters of land.

Judiciary’s senior communications officer Solomon Muyita told Sunday Monitor that the Judiciary’s top management would convene soon next week to respond to Justice Bamugemereire’ s concerns.
He said the meeting will come up with possible solutions, adding: “There has been engagements before and the Judiciary also appeared and gave their position on some of those issues.”

Bamugemereire’s full statement

Date: October 26, 2018

Press release on the presenting role of the judiciary in catalysing rising land distress, grabbing of protected and fragile areas causing landlessness and a state of lawlessness.
The commission of inquiry has recently been faced with a number of developments on land for which a deserving press brief needs to be given. Notably, in the process of inquiring into the effectiveness of law, policies and processes of land in Uganda, the commission of inquiry has encountered a rising number of orders, rulings, judgments, and injunctions entered by judicial officers which have led to the eviction of thousands of bibanja holders or the giving away of land protected by gazette as a forest or wetland.

In a recent judgment, arising out of Civil Suit 885 of 2017, Justice Godfrey Namundi, on June 28 2018, ruled that about one square mile that is actually part of Kajjansi Central Forest Reserve belonged to Eria Mubiru, Vivian Keza and Peninah Busingye Kabingani, simply because they have land titles over the land.
This ruling was made in spite of the fact that a copy of the Legal Notices gazetting the forest, dated 1932, 1948, 1968 and 1998, were tendered as evidence before court. The judge declared National Forestry Authority (NFA) trespassers on the “forest reserve” because they had attempted to stop the encroachment, and awarded costs of the suit plus general damages of Shs200m against NFA. This judgement carries the import of degazetting a central forest reserve. Degazetting is the sole preserve of the Parliament of Uganda and not the High Court of the Judiciary of Uganda.

Relatedly, up to four court orders have been granted over Namanve Forest Reserve where titles were issued on an existent forest reserve. As a result of originating summons No. 9 of 2014, up to 50 private security guards were deployed on the land triggering a stand-off between UPDF [Uganda People’s Defence Forces] and NFA rangers. In this case, the court directed the commissioner of land registration to create hitherto non-existent plots in the forest reserve. Some judges and high-level government officers have been named in this forest reserve grab. The commission notes that speculators who get insider information on where future projects will be situated, desire titles in areas such as central forest reserves hoping to be paid astronomical compensation arising out infrastructural project over such areas. The preceding area is one such area bringing a convergence of projects such as the Bukasa Port, the Standard Gauge Railway, among others.

Further, more than 12 square miles of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve have been handed to Hoima Sugar Works through a ruling of court that reversed the cancellation of title to the land by the commissioner of land registration.
The commission continues to investigate sand mining in Lwera where individuals collude with officials from National Environmental Management Agency (Nema). Nema grants licences to mine the sand. The individuals then use these licences to apply for lands titles whose issuance contravenes the law as they are made over gazetted areas. Such activities have threatened fish breeding areas of Lake Victoria whose effects can be potentially catastrophic.
Multiple evictions in Entebbe, Wakiso, Mityana and Mubende [districts] have all been authorised by judicial officers. Some of these matters are under investigation by the commission.

Daily Monitor

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DEFENDING LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS

Kiryandongo leadership agree to partner with Witness Radio Uganda to end rampant forced land evictions in the district.

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By Witness Radio team.

Kiryandongo district leaders have embraced Witness Radio’s collaboration with the Kiryandongo district aimed at ending the rampant violent and illegal land evictions that have significantly harmed the livelihoods of the local communities in the area.

The warm welcome was made at the dialogue organized by Witness Radio Uganda, Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog at the Kiryandongo district headquarters, intended to reflect on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

Speaking at the high-level dialogue, that was participated in by technical officers, policy implementers, religious leaders, leaders of project affected persons (PAPs), politicians, media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and development partners that support land and environment rights as well as the Land Based Investments (LBIs) Companies in the Kiryandongo district, the leaders led by the District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Ms. Edith Aliguma Adyeri appreciated the efforts taken by Witness Radio organization to organize the dialogue meeting aimed at bringing together stakeholders to safeguard community land and environmental rights in order address the escalating vice of land grabbing in the area.

During the dialogue, participants shared harrowing accounts of the impacts of land evictions and environmental degradation, including tragic deaths, families torn asunder, young girls forced into marriage, a surge in teenage pregnancies, limited access to education, and significant environmental damage which have profoundly affected the lives of the local population in Kiryandongo.

Participants attending the dialogue.

In recent years, Kiryandongo district has been embroiled in violent land evictions orchestrated to accommodate multinational large-scale agriculture plantations and wealthy individuals leaving the poor marginalized.

According to various reports, including findings from Witness Radio’s 2020 research Land Grabs at a Gun Point, the forceful land acquisitions in Kiryandongo have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 individuals have been displaced from their land to make room for land-based investments in the Kiryandongo district. However, leaders in the district also revealed in the dialogue that women and children are affected most.

The Kiryandongo Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Jonathan Akweteireho, emphasized that all offices within the Kiryandongo district are actively involved in addressing the prevalent land conflicts. He also extended a welcome to Witness Radio, acknowledging their collaborative efforts in tackling and resolving land and environmental issues in the district.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that the land rights together with environmental rights have been violated in our district, but because we don’t know what our rights are, because we have not directly done what we could to safeguard our rights and now this is the time that Witness Radio has brought us together to safeguard our rights. I want to welcome you in Kiryandongo and be rest assured that we shall give you all the necessary support to help us manage these rampant cases,” Ms. Adyeri said in her remarks during the dialogue meeting.

The team leader at Witness Radio Uganda, Mr. Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala expressed gratitude to the participants for their active involvement in the dialogue and revealed that Witness Radio’s objective is to find a holistic solution to the escalating land disputes in Kiryandongo district serving as an example to other districts.

“We are here to assist Kiryandongo district in attaining peace and stability because it stands as a hotspot for land grabbers in Uganda. Mismanagement of land conflicts in Uganda could potentially lead to a significant internal conflict. Everywhere you turn, voices are lamenting the loss of their land and property. Kiryandongo, abundant with ranches, suffers from a lack of a structured framework, which amplifies these land conflicts. The influx of wealthy investors further complicates the situation,” Mr. Ssebaggala disclosed.

Within the dialogue, Mr. Ssebaggala emphasized the need for the Kiryandongo district council to pass a by-law aimed at curbing land evictions as an initial step in addressing the prevalent land injustices.

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WITNESS RADIO MILESTONES

Kiryandongo authorities decry rising cases of land disputes

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The LC5 chairperson of Kiryandongo, Ms Edith Aliguma Adyeri, has saidnland dispute has impacted on people’s lives, dignity and children’s education in the district.

Just like other parts of Uganda, conflicts over land in Kiryandongo arise when individuals – who often are blood relatives – compete for use of the same parcel of land or when members of the community lay claim over ownership of unutilised government land.

Ms Adyeri further said land and environmental rights affect people both directly and indirectly, “and we are not hearing it from afar. It is already together with us [here], it has already affected us!”

She was speaking at a meeting which sought to discuss alternative remedies to salvage the appalling land and environmental rights situation in Kiryandongo at the district headquarters on Thursday.

The one-day dialogue was aimed at reflecting on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

It was attended by private companies, members of civil society and local government officials and organised by Witness Radio – an advocate for land and environmental rights in Uganda – in partnership with Oxfam, and Kiryandongo District leadership.

“Some people have even died, families are broken up, and brothers are not seeing eye-to-eye because of land rights. Access to justice is equally becoming very difficult because when you hire one lawyer that
lawyer will talk to learned friends, and they agree. They leave you in suspense,” Ms Adyeri said.

According to her, some children have not accessed education because of land and environmental rights.

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the deputy Resident District Commissioner of Kiryandongo, said enlightened people especially should be sensitive to the historical injustice of this area.

“We can never handle the Bonyoro land question without thinking about that history. It will be an injustice to the incomers, to the government and to the leaders who don’t understand,” he said.

“We had 38 ranches here which on the guidance of these international organisations, especially the World Bank, the government restructured them, allowing people to settle there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he added.

Mr Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the executive director of Witness Radio, said that a well-functional land sector supports land users or holders and investors, reduces inefficiencies and provides mechanisms to resolve land disputes.

Mr David Kyategeka, the secretary to the Kiryandongo District Land Board, said the issue of land rights is very clear but the major challenge has been sensitising the locals to know what rights he or she expects to enjoy out of this very important resource.

Source: www.monitor.co.ug

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DEFENDING LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS

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

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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.

Source: iisd.org

Download the statement: https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2023-09/ngo-statement-on-energy-sector-strategy-2024-2028.pdf

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