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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Breaking Alert! Uganda Police Nets a middleman linked to the Kiryandongo district land grab saga

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Mr. Mwesigye Reuben being held and handcuffed at Special Investigation Unit (SIU) Kireka, Kampala.

By witnessradio.org Team

Kiryandongo – Uganda. A joint team of detectives from Land Protection Unit, Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) have arrested one of the land dealers in Kiryandongo district who masterminded a land grab and transferred it to Great Seasons SMC Limited for large scale coffee and maize growing.

Great Seasons SMC Limited, solely owned by a Sudanese investor based in Dubai, is part of a group of three multinational companies consisting of Kiryandongo Sugar Limited and Agilis Partners Limited owned by an Indian family (RAI Dynasty) and the American twin brothers (Benjamin Prinz and Phillip Prinz) respectively.

The three multinational companies have arbitrarily perpetrated violence against poor communities. It is estimated that about 35000 people have been evicted since 2017.

The communities plagued by the continued forced evictions comprise three categories: The first category consists of people who were born on the land since 1935; the second, those that settled on the land during and after civil wars, including the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which lasted for 2 decades in Northern Uganda; and lastly, those who settled on the eviction site at the instance of government in 2011 through the Nyamalebe Landless Association.

Mr. Mwesigye Reuben, a local land dealer allegedly involved in the illegal evictions was picked from his home in Kimogola village on Friday, May, the 28th, 2021 at 6:00 am local time by a team of detectives led by Richard Ekebu.

The arrest followed several complaints from victim communities to higher authorities at Uganda Police headquarters about the fraudulent manner in which a group of middlemen from Kiryandongo district land board, Kiryadongo local government administration, political groups, and the local business community, dealt with their land causing irreparable economic, social and cultural harm.

Residents accuse Mwesigye of using machete wielding men, private security guards, and police officers attached to Kiryandongo district police to commit violent acts which include: sexual and gender based violence, illegal arrest and detention, torture, kidnap, demolition of houses, cutting down their food crops, and stealing their household properties among others.

In one of the most recent transactions by the district land board, Mwesigye with the help from technical members of Kiryandongo district land board, fraudulently acquired the land on Ranch 21(b), which was lawfully occupied and cultivated by over 300 families, part of 35000 that have been displaced.

The villagers lived on their land peacefully. However, their quiet possession was interfered with when Mwesige facilitated the unlawful eviction of a significant number of families leaving a handful who have resisted his illegal actions.

“Our village was attractive, but look now, we have nothing to eat, and our houses were demolished. In fact, we own nothing,” one villager who resisted to vacate the land said.

According to a letter dated 15th November 2016 addressed to community members, the chairman area land committee, Mr. Oola Venacious denied allegations that he was involved in approving applications that Mwesigye used to acquire land. However, he confirmed that all the signatures and stamps that were presented to the district land board and the area land committee as forgeries.

The sale agreement dated 27th may 2019, between Mwesigye the “vendor” and Great Seasons SMC Ltd the “purchaser” seen by Witness Radio – Uganda show that Mwesigye sold three plots of land which include; block 7 plot 66, 68 and 69 in Kimogola,  Kiryandongo district equivalent to approximately 580.337 acres to Great Season SMC limited, which document Mwesigye has been using to accuse locals of encroaching on his land in addition to justifying his highhandedness in having them evicted.

According to detective Ekebu, the suspect has been called several times to voluntarily record his statement on charges related to fraud, violence and land grabbing but declined. This left police with no option but to have him arrested.

“So government uses all means to arrest anyone who does not abide by the laws. We have written to him more than three times, no response. His actions will be dealt with in full force after investigations, he added.

Mwesigye is currently being held at the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) of Uganda police at Kireka, a Kampala suburb.

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

The abducted community land rights defender is found and released on a police bond.

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By Witness Radio Team.

A Kawaala Zone II community land rights defender who was waylaid and arrested by eight (8) armed policemen has been found at Old Kampala regional police headquarters and released without a charge.

On 31st/10/2022, armed Policemen arrested Kabugo Michael who was due to set off for a community meeting between the residents, Witness Radio – Uganda, and the Accountability Counsel intended to discuss issues surrounding their land interests targeted by the infrastructural project.

Kabugo is a community land rights defender in Kawaala Zone II Rubaga division, Kampala district. He is one of the community land rights defenders facing reprisals for defending the community’s land targeted by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) for a drainage channel construction and expansion project funded by the World Bank.

After a long day search for the abducted community defender, Witness Radio lawyers found him held at the Old Kampala regional police headquarters.

Mrs. Adongo Sarah, one of the victim’s lawyers said the police reviewed an old file where the victim was accused of ‘fraud’ and re-interviewed him.

“He was able to make an additional statement, and his police bond and that of his other colleagues accused alongside with on the old file was extended to Friday 4th November this year.” She added.

She further said Michael’s arrest was arbitrary, adding that even the Officer in Charge of the case at Old Kampala Regional Criminal Investigations Department could not give reasons.

The victim’s lawyers believe these increased actions of arrests, kidnaps, and detentions of Kawaala community land rights defenders are reprisals for their work of opposing

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Breaking: A Kawaala community land rights defender kidnapped and taken to unknown destinations, others on the run.

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By Witness Radio-Uganda.

Armed Policemen have this morning waylaid and arrested a community land rights defender in Kawaala zone II Rubaga division, Kampala district, Witness Radio-Uganda has learned.

Mr. Kabugo Micheal is a renowned community land rights defender who advocates for fair compensation of the community land on an ongoing project of Lubigi drainage channel expansion funded by the World Bank and implemented by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).

According to eyewitnesses, the defender was at Mr. Kasozi’s home (one of the community defenders) before setting off for a community meeting between the residents, Witness Radio – Uganda, and Accountability Counsel. The meeting was to discuss issues surrounding their land interests targeted by the infrastructural project.

“As he was sitting on a Boda (motorcycle taxi driven in Uganda and other East African States), police rounded him up before his arrest. We saw him being manhandled. They (police) forced him onto one of the police bodas before he was taken to unknown destinations.” Said an eyewitness.

Another eyewitness further explained that he was arbitrarily arrested by eight (8) armed policemen on a police patrol

Mr. Kasozi Paul Ssengendo who also witnessed the arbitrary arrest of Michael said police are targeting them with arrests because of their work to resist forced eviction by Kampala Capital City Authority.

“I am currently on the run. I was a target of police but I managed to escape.” The defender told Witness Radio.

In June this year, Mr kabugo and 5 others were arrested and falsely charged with forgery, a charge they said is retaliation for their work in fighting for their land rights.

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Accountable Development To Communities

Breaking: Court dismisses a criminal case against a community land rights defender for want of prosecution.

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By Witness Radio Team.

Kiryandongo. A criminal trespass case against a community land rights defender has been dismissed over the prosecution’s failure to adduce evidence before the Chief Magistrate Court that pinned the community defender on the alleged charges.

On 27th October 2021, Kiryandongo Chief Magistrate Court charged Otyaluk David with criminal trespass and remanded him to Masindi prison. He was later granted court bail and since then, he has been traveling 48 kilometers to and from court every fortnight.

Before he was presented before a court, Otyaluk was kidnapped and illegally detained in Kiryandongo Central Police Station (CPS) cells for five (5) days for trespassing on a piece of land he (Otyaluk) had lived and cultivated since he was born.

In the afternoon of 21st October, two (2) armed men cladding Uganda People Defense Forces (UPDF) uniform and police personnel raided Otyaluk’s home and got him kidnapped to an unknown destination. UPDF soldiers guard Kiryandongo Sugar Limited plantations.

“On the day of his kidnap, Otyaluk was found praying in his house. In a blink of an eye, the defender was rounded up and bundled onto a vehicle owned by Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, forcefully evicting us off our land. We later learned that he was taken into evictor’s facilities where he was kept for some time before being transferred to Kiryandongo CPS” A family member remembers.

A family member further added that before the kidnap, Otyaluk’s family had lost about 12 acres of land to Kiryandongo Sugar Limited.

“Company workers under the protection of soldiers brought a tractor and plowed acres of semi-mature maize, beans, sorghum, and sim-sim. We were only left with a small piece of land where our house sits and we are currently trapped in the middle of a sugarcane plantation” a family member added.

Since the trial period was announced, the prosecution failed to bring witnesses to pin Otyaluk for trespassing on his land. It was only on the 19th of July, 2022 during a court session, one Adamuru Peter, allegedly to be a company manager turned up as a company representative but not as a witness.

In her ruling last week, a magistrate at Kiryandongo Magistrate court discontinued the trial of Otyaluk and dismissed the case.

Otyaluk is one of the luckiest among hundreds of community land and environmental rights defenders currently under persecution to have his case dismissed. It’s an order of the day for the community land and environmental rights defenders to be kidnapped, arbitrarily arrested, and tortured on orders of investors for their work of mobilizing the communities to desist land grabs.

Kiryandongo Sugar Limited is among multinationals forcefully evicting over 35000 local and indigenous people off their land to give way to large-scale agribusinesses.

Kiryandongo Sugar Limited is one of the many companies owned by the Rai Group of Mauritius. The dynasty owns several other companies in DR Congo, Kenya and Malawi, and Uganda. A dynasty owns companies such as West Kenya Sugar (which owns Kabras Sugar), Timsales Limited, Menengai Oil Refineries, Rai Ply, and Webuye Panpaper.

In Uganda, the Rai Group of Mauritius owns Nile Ply limited, Kinyara Sugar Limited, and Masindi Sugar Limited among others. One of its directors is a shareholder of a British Virgin Islands company, listed in the Panama Papers database recently.

The same company has fraudulently gotten a license to replace part of Bungoma natural forest with a sugarcane plantation.

“Court has shown today that the company is maliciously arresting us to keep us in jails. To weaken our hearts, wasting our time and resources. They intentionally do this because we refused to surrender the land we have lived on for years. It is shaming that the government has failed to protect the rights of the poor people.” The defender noticed.

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