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Breaking Alert: Barely a year after signing the remedy agreement, World Bank Project-Affected Persons (PAPs) receive fresh land eviction threats

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By Witness Radio team.

Kawaala community, which signed a dispute resolution agreement between the Kawaala community and the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), facilitated by the World Bank Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) a year ago, has received a fresh land eviction threat. PAPs say they have received a three-day notice to vacate the land or face an eviction by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

This community first faced a forced eviction in December 2020, shortly after Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) acquired a loan from the World Bank on behalf of the government of Uganda to construct the Second Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2).

A USD 175 million project was started before consultations with the project-affected community, with no compensation or alternative settlement.

The remedy agreement signed on May 31st, 2023, aimed to mitigate the negative impacts of the drainage channel development on the livelihoods of the affected community and agreed to compensate all PAPs.

On June 3rd, 2024,  PAPs and their advisors  (Witness Radio and Accountability Counsel) issued a statement titled One Year Later, Justice is Delayed expressing disappointment in the way the post-agreement phase was being managed. In the agreement, KCCA, on behalf of the Government, offered to compensate all victims, resettle, and restore livelihoods, which have not been met since.

However, as the victim community is still waiting for the full implementation of the agreement by the KCCA, NEMA is forcing the urban poor community to vacate their land without any due process.

On June 13, 2024, NEMA’s representatives, under the protection of over 30 heavily armed soldiers and police officers, descended on the Kawaala Zone II community and issued an ultimatum of three days to vacate their land. Community members’ houses and other structures were marked with a big “X,” indicating they would be demolished.

“NEMA deployed at our homes soldiers and policemen to intimidate us, warning us that if we fail to remove all our belongings in three days, they will be brought down. Yet this is the land that we have held for decades. We are surprised that this is happening.” Kawaala community members revealed to Witness Radio.

According to Project-Affected Persons (PAPs), this is a collusion between KCCA and NEMA to evict them without receiving additional and fair compensation and their livelihood support under the Second Kampala Institution and Infrastructure Development (KIIDP2) project as terms of the May 31st, 2023 agreement.

Witness Radio investigations show that this is the third eviction attempt by the government to run away from its responsibility of providing fair and timely compensation to victims.

The first attempt occurred in December 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Kawaala Zone II community received an eviction notice with a 28-day deadline and no explanation from the government. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) officials heavily guarded by armed soldiers marked the houses with letter “X,” indicating they were to be demolished under the guise of the Public Health Act Cap 281.

KCCA had hidden intentions of taking the community land for the project without compensation. Upon learning that the project is funded by the World Bank, the Project Affected Persons filed a complaint to the World Bank’s inspection Panel demanding to be fairly compensated among others. The parties (KCCA and the Affected community) opted for the dispute resolution supported by the World Bank’s Dispute Resolution Service (DRS).

Still later on, on 23rd August 2022, when the community was still under the dispute resolution, NEMA emerged under the protection of the military, and anti-riot police descended on gardens for the same families in Kawaala Zone II, cut down food crops and demolished houses belonging to over 100 families.

The grieved PAP revealed that this tactic between the two government entities is intended to deny justice to them.

Mbabali Hamis, a 47-year-old father of 15, is cursing the World Bank-funded project. According to Mbabali, ever since they learned about the project’s implementation in their area, they have faced evictions by government agencies, including KCCA and NEMA, which they believe is a tactic aimed at grabbing their land. Mbabaali’s sentiments were re-echoed by many other project-affected persons.

“We have lived here happily for many years, but everything changed when this project began. Since then, we have witnessed numerous attempts to evict us from our land under the pretense that we have been living in the Lubigi Wetland. This is not true,” He revealed.

Like other residents, Mbabali has lived on his land since 1999, farming yams, sugarcane, and trees to provide for his family. When we spoke to him, his words were coming from far away, “he said, this is my land, and I have been living on it for two decades. I have all the documents proving ownership. Where do they want me to take my family when I bought this land with my hard-earned money?” he asked.

Currently, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is disguising itself as ‘evicting wetland encroachers’ a move targeting the urban-poor families’ land well aware that these individuals are the rightful owners of the land.

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CSOs, oil host communities, and concerned citizens have petitioned the President of Uganda to stop oil drilling in the Murchison Falls National Park.

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By Witness Radio team

A group of 828 civil society organizations (CSOs) such as Witness Radio- Uganda, oil host communities, fisherfolk, small-scale farmers as well as tour and travel operators, and other individuals from Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have petitioned the President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to stop the ongoing TotalEnergies’ oil drilling in Murchison Falls National Park and its planned deployment of a second oil rig in the park. 

 

The petition follows reports that Total Energies E&P (U) B.V. is sweet-talking the President to allow them to deploy the second rig in the park following the Petroleum Authority of Uganda’s (PAU) refusal to allow them to deploy another oil rig in the park over biodiversity conservation concerns.

The undersigned led by the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) claim that the oil extraction in one of the pristine areas presents risks such as immense environmental destruction witnessed in the Albertine Graben in Uganda.

 

TotalEnergies is drilling oil from 130 oil wells in Murchison Falls National Park under the Tilenga oil project as well as from tens of wells from Lake Albert under the Kingfisher oil project, which is widely criticized by experts given the fact that Murchison Falls National Park alongside the Bugungu and Karuma Game Reserves remains one of Uganda’s most important conservation areas.

“Biodiversity experts and tour guides are worried about the impact that oil rigs, well-pads, oil roads, and other infrastructures could have on biodiversity.  Light pollution from the rig has caused a risk to the conservation of nocturnal wildlife such as lions, leopards, various bird species, and others. 

 

Paved oil roads in the park have been identified as a risk factor for increasing poaching, which is already affecting the conservation of wildlife such as hippopotami Plus, an increased human presence in the park has also been implicated as a conservation risk for shy and nervous wildlife such as waterbuck and bushbuck. The fact that well pads and an oil pipeline called the Victoria Nile Crossing are being developed a few meters from or will affect the Murchison-Falls Albert Delta Ramsar Site is concerning.” The petition mentions.

 

Given the imminent or ongoing risks, TotalEnergies E&P (U) B.V. is not concerned, it plans to deploy a second oil rig to extract oil from Murchison Falls National Park, which is likely to exacerbate negative impacts on biodiversity concerns further. ­

 “We are saddened by reports that TotalEnergies E&P (U), B.V. wants to deploy a second oil rig to extract oil from Murchison Falls National Park. The company is already operating an oil rig to drill the Jobiri wells under the Tilenga oil project in the park. The time is now for you to protect the park and through this petition,” the petition reads in part.

 Murchison Falls National Park plays a critical role in Uganda’s tourism sector as it received the highest number of tourists between 2019 and 2023. According to the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, the park received 141,335 visitors, equivalent to 36.4% of the 387,914 tourists that visited Uganda’s ten national parks in 2023. Further, in 2022, the park received 146,649 visitors, accounting for 39.8% of the 367,869 tourists that visited Uganda’s national parks.

 “Your Excellency, you have variously championed tourism, noting that it is important for Uganda’s economic growth. In your 2023 State of the Nation Address, you informed Ugandans that the tourism sector had earned Uganda US$ 1.047 billion by February 2023. This was equivalent to 59% of all the services export receipts. As you may know, TotalEnergies E&P (U) B.V. wants to put more pressure on the park by deploying a second rig. We are writing to you today with heavy hearts to stop the ongoing oil activities in the park.” The signatories requested in the petition.

Murchison Falls National Park is one of the biodiversity features affected by the EACOP project. The East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) connects the Tilenga and Kingfisher oilfields in western Uganda with the port of Tanga in eastern Tanzania upon completion, the project will be the longest heated crude oil pipeline in the world crossing through 10 districts in Uganda, and 25 districts in Tanzania.

 

Despite Civil societies and concerned citizens raising concerns over environmental and human rights violations associated with the EACOP project, the government of Uganda and Tanzania, and EACOP financiers such as TotalEnergies remain unbothered.

 

Read the petition: https://www.afiego.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/07/Petition-to-president-Museveni-to-stop-oil-rig-deployment-in-MFNP-4-July-2024.pdf

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Well connected: The resistance against the fossil industry in East Africa.

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Uganda and Tanzania have created facts about the promotion of the fossil industry by launch on the construction of the East African crude oil pipeline. At the same time, the internationally networked resistance of civilian actors towards the booming oil production in East Africa is growing. Judicial complaints are a central element in their fight to uphold the rule of law, human rights and environmental protection.

Last year, the beginning of the end of the fossil era was ushered in at the world climate conference in Dubai. Some countries interpret this as follows: it is necessary to get the last fossil fuels out of the ground. This means drilling, dredging, pumping – to earn crude oil, gas and coal once again.

One example is the fossil industry in Uganda, which is trying to feed its last fossil occurrences from the ground into the global economy. It wants to pump the petroleum down there to the surface and through a heated pipeline into a deep-sea port into the Tanzanian tanga. From there, it, together with the French energy giant TotalEnergies and Chinese participation, is being shipped for the global oil industry.

The oil project called the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) with a targeted running time of 25 years has been under construction since this April. In Tanzania and Uganda, the scope of civilian actors who are fighting against land seizures for the 1,443-kilometre-long pipeline corridor and defending human rights is severely restricted. In Uganda, the police have arrested farmers, journalists, human rights and environmental defenders who have spoken out against the oil projects. Reporters Without Borders once again stated in May that freedom of the press and civil say are strictly curtailed. At the end of May, eight environmental activists were arrested when a letter of protest to the Chinese Embassy was arrested by Ugandan security forces. Obviously, governments sacrifice freedom of expression, human rights and livelihoods for their fossil utopianism.

Bizarre oil shops

Uganda’s government is not only pursuing an export strategy for its crude oil, which is stored in the Albertgraben on the border with the DR Congo. It also wants to modify its own oil import infrastructure. For this purpose, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni initiated an old oil dispute with Kenya: In February, the neighbouring countries decided to resume the plan to expand the Mombasa-Eldoret-Kampala pipeline. This pipeline originates in the port of Mombasa/Kenya, on the Indian Ocean and currently leads via Nairobi to Eldoret in West Kenya. This part has been in operation since May 2014. For many years, plans to extend the pipeline have been circulating, first to Kampala on Lake Victoria, Ugandan, then on to Rwanda’s capital Kigali, possibly even to Lake Bujumbura Burundi around Lake Tanganyika.

This would mean that on the one hand, the export of crude oil is being produced, while at the same time the import of refined oil will be extended. This contradicts any economic logic that the finishing of a product is not outsourced as far as possible. While Uganda wants to transport its crude oil via the East African crude pipeleline EACOP to the port to Tanga and sell it from there on the world market, from Mombasa, 130 kilometres north of Tanga, refined oil via the Mombasa Eldoret pipeline to Kampala is to be pumped at the same time.

On the one hand, crude oil transport for the world market, on the other hand, import of refined oil – that is, of fishing-for fuels – for one’s own energy needs: this is an old pattern for asymmetric trade relations – or, as the Kenyan climate activist Omar Elawi said: business colonialism. Others will benefit from the refinement of the crude oil and transport. The oil, transported twice over thousands of kilometres, puts a heavy impact on the environment and undermines the social development of the adjacent municipalities. The economic dependence of the Global South is simply reproduced in terms of trade policy. And climate policy, the EACOP is also a disaster that undermines the fair energy transition in Uganda.

Problems and protest on the spot …

It is therefore not surprising that the sharpest critics of EACOP include many regional environmental and human rights defenders as well as initiatives affected. For example, Witness Radio Uganda documents land veins on an interactive map and has been providing legal assistance to people in rural areas affected by land expulsion for years. Tonny Katende from Witness Radio says: “We combine legal assistance and media work to mobilize the rural population. This is the only way she can protest with a strong voice against the injustices in land use and environmental destruction and advocate for equal access to resources in our country.”

Another activist is Christopher Opio, founder of the Oil Refinery Residents Association (ORRA). The NGO with over 7,000 members recently protested before the Court in Hoima in Western Uganda. This is where the pipeline is to start, and 42 households have recently been sued by the government, because they refused to accept compensation for their country: “This means that these people are now being driven out of their country,” said Opio. At the protest on the 15th April the landowners moved through the city towards court. They hold signs high with messages such as “Do not attach our rights” and “do not self-elige us for oil”.

TotalEnergies has been drilling in Tilenga on the northern shore of Lake Albert on Lake Albert since June 2023. Four hundred holes are planned, one third of which are in a natural park. In the Kingfisher area further south of the lake, the Chinese company CNCOOC is taking hold to light since January 2023. Fishing communities of both places turn to the companies with a protest letter in April 2024: the light from the drilling rigs violates and distributes the fish, and nitrogen- and phosphorous-containing wastewater is burdening the water quality. The risks documented by international environmental organizations such as Les Amis de la Terre, Natural Justice and Greenpeace, as well as Human Rights Watch and BankTrack, are concerned about water and the health of over eleven million residents at Lake Albert: 426 wells ensure that water is pumped from Lake Lake Lake. The water is then heavily heavy metal and poses a threat to the population as wastewater. A leak would be a disaster for which no one is sufficiently prepared.

… and anti-imperial rhetoric of the revolt

Local civilian actors in Tanzania and Uganda, including lawyers, students and stakeholders, are often discredited by their own governments as an extended arm of imperial Western environmental extremists. An environmental journalist and a community worker temporarily left the country for persecution and intimidation.

Governments sacrifice the environment for their fossil utopianism

Activism does not arise from a capitalist lobby, but scientifically proven risks to the environment, dangers to the health of neighbouring communities, concrete human rights violations such as land displacements and expropriations, and de facto violent attacks by the police and the military – including rape and massive bodily injury to the rural population. On the basis of research and witness reports, problems are combated, such as the inadequate compensation of the oil lobby or the authoritarian behavior of the project operators. Here the anti-imperial rhetoric of the government side is like a diversionary manoeuvre.

The Chinese CNCOOC and TotalEnergies are now feeling resistance from all over the world in addition to the local protest. This is the international (instead of imperial) dimension of the debate. More than 260 civil society organisations are demanding a stop from EACOP. The political forms of action and protest of the well-connected movement against the construction of the EACOP are manifold: an important lever is legal complaints against violations by companies and governments. Another strategy is divestment. Potential investors or insurance companies should be persuaded not to invest in environmentally harmful and anti-social projects, or to deduct their capital from such projects.

Complained, divestment and political pressure

In November 2020, four East African civil society organisations, including AFIEGO, Natural Justice Kenya and the Tanzanian Strategic Litigation Centre (SLC), filed a complaint against EACOP at the East African Court (EACJ). After an initial dismissal, the Appeals Division of the East African Court requested the plaintiffs at the beginning of the year, until 22. March submit written comments. By the end of April, the defendants were again allowed to react to them in writing. The civilian plaintiffs see legal principles violated by the state, including the environmental and human rights standards enshrined in the Treaty of East African Community for the benefit of current and future generations, as well as compliance with international treaties.

The consortium of lawsuits is an expression of a regionally and internationally well-connected NGO community, which takes legal action against the fossil fuels, including its financial and reinsurance companies, through legal action. This means that among the global civilian NGO networks is growing know-how to strategies for how to take several tracks against the land grabbing of the climate-damaging fossil industry. With the worldwide campaign “StopEACOP, 29 investors have now been discouraged to be part of the pipeline project, including the second largest German insurance group Talanx.

In the fight against the large-scale fossil-fuel project EACOP, the strategy of divestment is considered promising, especially in Europe: Public pressure on the suppliers from the construction, insurance, logistics and credit institutions sectors is to prevent the cash flow for the project, which is still not financially secured. Another great success of the international campaign alliance “StopEACOP” was the withdrawal of the Japanese Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group over a year ago. Meanwhile, 27 banks and 23 reinsurers as well as four export credit agencies have announced that they will not support EACOP. Therefore the mood on the Instagram account of the campaign alliance is sometimes euphoric.

The political pressure was also some success. International alliances confront politicians with studies such as “A Disaster in the Making” by Les Amis de la Terre or “Our Trust is Broken” by Human Rights Watch 2023. The European Parliament called on the governments of Uganda and Tanzania to comply with human rights standards in September 2022. In a decision on the COP27 climate conference, the German Bundestag spoke out against the financing of the EACOP in 2022.

Do the climate complain?

Lucien Limacher from the organisation Natural Justice from South Africa, one of the members of the plaintiffs against the EACOP before the East African Court, generally likes the effects of climate lawsuits. On the one hand, climate lawsuits are also increasing on the African continent. However, Limacher also says: “In the global North there is a misunderstanding about how we define climate processes. Africa will suffer massively from the consequences when global warming of more than 2.5 degrees is suffering.” In addition, in view of the 400 to 600 fossil projects that are up to 400 to 600, the climate cannot be saved solely through the route of the process. “So we need to think about how we proceed in legal disputes. A new way of thinking is emerging on the African continent: local climate lawsuits are no longer just about emissions, but about much more comprehensive risk factors such as access to food and water or land, because these areas that will be most severely affected.”

Despite the manifold resistance, the further construction of the EACOP is also progressing – and thus Uganda’s desire to become part of the ranks of the petrostate, half of which cover their economy from oil business. After the exit of European and Japanese banks from EACOP financing, the French energy giant TotalEnergies has signed a contract with China Petroleum Pipeline Engineering (CPP) for the construction and supply of line pipes. This means that the cross-border project has been relocated to Beijing, from where most of the still missing loans are likely to come from. During the recent visit of China’s head of state Xi Jinping to France in early May, there was no public talk of the oil shipping in Uganda. It is hardly conceivable that Macron and Xi of all people can silence the issue, because the resistance against the EACOP is great, especially in France.

The struggles for oil production in Uganda, with the words of the Ugandan anthropologist Paddy Kinyeras 1, show that pipelines as critical infrastructures represent physical manifestations of power geometry. The realization of the pipeline requires governmental power and strengthens it at the same time. Since the Paris Climate Agreement, the World Climate Summits have been a place to publicly confront this government and corporate power and to create political back pressure against the fossil industry. They also serve as an international networking area for the civilian actors.

At the end of 2024, after the United Arab Emirates in 2023, a fossil heavyweight will once again host the World Climate Summit: Azerbaijan. And thus for the third time in a row a country that plans to rely on fossil resources and revive oil and gas production before the agreed phasing-out. Once again, the summit will be headed by a long-standing employee of an oil company, Muchtar Babaiev. He is the Minister for the Environment of a host country that has little understanding for civilian engagement. It is not very promising to take place against the charged fossil lobby. This is one reason upon all, internationally networked environmental, research and human rights initiatives in the fossil industry. They are essential to open the oil business with protests, climate lawsuits, divestment campaigns and political pressure.

Source: www.iz3w.org

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Sexual violence as a tool to grab land: a local woman accuses industrial agriculture investor Agilis Partners Limited of sexual violence.

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By Witness Radio team.

When the industrial agriculture investor Agilis Partners Limited targeted the communities’ land for its investments in the Kiryandongo district in 2017, the poor residents never knew that the company had employed several tactics to force them (indigenous & local communities) off their land. One of them was sexual violence.

Sexual violence means that someone forces or manipulates someone else into unwanted sexual activity without their consent. At the same time, defilement of a child is any sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 18 years old.
In this article, we bring back a story published about a woman alleging sexual violence against Agilis Partners Limited.

In 2021, in an article published by Witness Radio, women were facing significant backlash in defending their land rights. In the article, a local woman allegedly said she was raped by Agilis Partners Limited’s workers. The matter was reported to area police but refused to open a case file.

Agilis Partners Limited is owned by American brothers Philipp Prinz and Benjamin Prinz. It owns Agilis Ranch 20 and 21 Limited, Asilis Farms Limited, and Joseph Initiative Limited, a beneficiary of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) financial support and Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) based in the Netherlands.

The Company has also received funding from Vested World, USAID under the Feed the Future Uganda program. It is currently a beneficiary of a USD 1 million loan from the World Bank’s private lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

On the fateful day of 18th August 2020, when Opondo Cathy (real names withheld) was returning home from a nearby trading center Bweyale. She got attacked and sexually abused by a private security guard whom she claimed belonged to Agilis Partners. The incident happened close to her home.

According to Opondo, the rapist attacked her from behind and tried to strangle her neck and grabbed her mouth, and hit her to the ground. “I struggled with him, but he overpowered me, put me down and raped me. I yelled louder for my rescue, but the neighbors were far away and took some time to reach the scene. As soon as the rapist had them coming, he ran away,” she revealed.

“The louder yelling brought those nearby to come to my rescue, but they did not even bother to ask me what had happened because I already looked victimized. They decided to look for the rapist, who was hard to trace. Whereas I could not walk well after the horrific incident, we went to the company offices where I always used to see him, but unfortunately, he was not there,” she further revealed.

After two days, Opondo says she managed to get to the area police to report the incident. In her words, the officer on duty (a policeman) asked her if she had evidence. When she asked for a police medical form to be examined, she was referred to a nearby Health Centre Three (III) with a small chit of a paper indicating that she was assaulted instead of being a victim of rape. On meeting the medical officer, she handed over the chit and was examined on grounds of assault, not rape.

“I could hardly walk because of severe pain in my genital organs, which even a blind person could see, but because the police work with the multinational company to evict us, they said I was only assaulted not raped,” the mother of four added.

According to Opondo, she had already received several threats and warnings from the agents of her evictors (Agilis Partners Limited). “They used to tell me, if I don’t leave the land, I should not regret what will happen to me,” she mentioned during one of the interviews with Witness Radio Uganda.

Since 2017, the company has illegally evicted over 2500 residents who were lawfully occupying and cultivating more than 2000 hectares without any due diligence or a court order, no fair compensation, and it did not provide an alternative settlement to the poor families.

Witness Radio and its partners call on the World Bank and the governments of the United States of America and the Netherlands, as key financial backers of Agilis, to support an independent investigation into the human rights abuses committed by the company.

To peace and justice advocates, click on this link and ask the World Bank and other financial backers to act swiftly to end these abuses, support the affected communities in the struggle for land rights, and hold Agilis Partners Limited accountable for all human rights abuses.

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