It is around 4pm when my cameraman and I arrive at Kijayo internally displaced peoples’ camp in Kikuube District, Bunyoro sub-region.
The children in the camp appear haggard and emaciated. They have not had a meal since morning and many are lying on empty and rumbling stomachs as they attempt to suppress the hunger pangs. Their families no longer have land to grow food after evictions started in 2012.
This is after Hoima Sugar Ltd, owned by Kenyan investors, purchased the contested nine square miles of land from Bunyoro Prince Herbert Kimera Rwakiswaza in 2011 to plant sugarcane in the new district of Kikuube, recently carved out of Hoima District.
The project has since left thousands of residents in the villages of Kijayo, Ikoba, Muziranduuru, Kyabataka, Kadiki, Kyakasoro and Kabango displaced and scores dead after the violent eviction on February 20, 2015.
Among those who died from their injuries were Augustine Karamira, Evylene Turyagumanawe, George Bangirana, and Francis Matovu. Matovu’s wife and three children were hacked to death using machetes. Others are Matia Mulumba, Aidah Kyarukunda, Wilson Singwire, Nakyanzi Akankunda wife to Erias Muganyizi, Hakim Sudayisi, Kiggundhu Adibayo son to Hamad Mwongerwa and Powerson Mugarura.
The chairperson of the project-affected persons, Mr Asaba Muhereza, says in total, 26 people died, largely as a result of wounds they suffered after the attack.
The affected families now live in squalor in mud and wattle structures and others have constructed shacks adjacent to the area where they evicted. The piece of land was offered by the Local Council chairperson, Mr Edward Kasigwa, for free.
“I do not understand the way this government works; they provide all the necessary social services to refugees but we Ugandans are not catered for yet we vote them. They cannot even provide burial grounds for them that I have to bury them on my land,” reveals Mr Kasigwa.
Ms Joy Nerimasi is at pains to reveal that the graves of her husband and children were destroyed by the sugar company.
“My husband, including seven children, died but now all their graves cannot be traced; the company has planted sugarcane on them,” says Ms Nerimasi.
She lives here with her granddaughter and cannot afford to feed, clothe and take her to school. They lack adequate shelter when torrential rains pound.
Ms Nerimasi and others were forcibly evicted as police, using teargas and batons, set their homes ablaze.
She wants to return to Kijayo where she was born.
Living in shacks
Ms Gorret Kushemereire is another victim who reveals that her husband and children were killed during the eviction.
“I came from Fort Portal many years ago and we bought land here. During the forceful eviction, my husband and some of my children died while others disappeared. I cannot trace them now,” says Ms Kushemereire.
“We now sleep in shacks and my only son who would be helping me out cannot be traced,” she adds.
Ms Kushemereire says government has not been of help. “Our children cannot go to school and pregnant mothers have challenges of accessing health facilities. I continue to wonder whether I am a Ugandan or a foreigner. Why would government care about refugees and give them land instead of us nationals?”
There is barely any government presence here. Authorities from the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness in the Office of the Prime Minister or Hoima District have not come to the people’s aid to provide them with clean water, food and tarpaulin. Ms Esther Turyahebwa also sleeps in a shack with her husband and seven children. “As a woman, I need privacy with my husband but this is impossible and as we talk now, my neighbours who went to dig to get food have not returned and all the children are very hungry, they have not had anything to eat,” says Ms Turyahebwa.
Many children have dropped out of school because they have to trek long distances to study. Hoima District Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Nathan Lujumwa told Daily Monitor that they have not acted because the matter is in court.
“Our hands are tied,” he said.
Mr Lujumwa, however, said the investor has compensated some of the claimants.
“We shall continue to push the investor to ensure that they compensate these people,” he added.
It is not yet clear why the district could not provide humanitarian aid to end the plight of the displaced as they await the court verdict.
As a result of pent-up frustration, Ms Harriet Kokwera, 78, has petitioned the President, protesting her eviction.
In April, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government compelled Mr Lujumwa, to follow up Ms Kokwera’s complaint. The CAO responded in his July 11 letter, saying attempts by the Hoima RDC to intervene have not yielded tangible results. “When I approached the investors of Hoima Sugar Ltd, they seemed not to know about Harriet Kokwera. After a couple of weeks, they responded to me in a letter, saying Kokwera was not a genuine claimant,” Mr Lujumwa’s letter reads in part.
Her eviction has sucked in State House, which isolates her concern from scores also affected by the eviction.
Daily Monitor has obtained a copy of an August 8 letter signed by Ms Flora Kiconco on behalf of the Principal Private Secretary to the President, Ms Molly Kamukama. The letter directs the Hoima RDC to investigate Ms Kokwera’s complaint and ascertain whether she owned a piece of land and whether she was compensated before her eviction.
In September 2017, the manager in-charge of land acquisition at Hoima Sugar Ltd, Mr Ramadus Raja Khasharan, appeared before the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters chaired by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire.
Mr Khasharan dismissed allegations that the company evicted residents from the land.
He claimed that some of the residents settled on the land after the company had purchased it from Prince Kimera. “We have not evicted anyone,” he said.
However, the Commission established that some residents who agreed to receive compensation were paid as low as Shs30,000 for half an acre.
Though some families at Kijayo were not affected by the eviction, they continue to live in misery, earning a pittance for their toil at the sugar plantations.
In 2012, the High Court in Masindi issued a temporary injunction, halting the eviction of the locals until the main suit is disposed off. However, the investor flagrantly rejected the orders to evict these families. Though the hearing of the main suit ended in 2016, judgment is yet to be delivered. Judge Simon Byabakama, who presided over the case, has since then been appointed chairperson of the Electoral Commission.
Buhaguzi County MP Daniel Muhairwe said the sugar company used corruption and impunity to force people off their land.
Sources revealed to Daily Monitor that some officials in Hoima Sugar Ltd have close ties with power brokers in State House.
Daily Monitor has also established that the Bamugemereire-led commission is seeking mediation between the investor and the claimants.
Hoima District Land Board has distanced themselves from the Kijayo land allocation to the investors. Mr Yostus Ireba, the chairperson of the district land board, says: “I have never reached that place because of the nature of our work. Our board has no transport to investigate such cases.”
He adds that the district land board is not responsible for the conflict because the land belonged to a private person who decided to sell it to investors.
However, Mr Ireba is concerned about the conditions in which these landless Ugandans are living in. “Those are our people; why should they be displaced?” he said.
Bunyoro Kingdom prime minister Andrew Kirungi Byakutaaga says there has been a scramble for land since the discovery of oil and gas. He says many of the kingdom subjects have been arbitrarily evicted.
“We have been asking government to mitigate the challenges that arise as a result of such evictions,” he says.
Bunyoro’s historical land problems have spilled over after the discovery of oil, throwing the locals into the throes of despair.
Beijing proposes seven-point plan for upgrading China-Africa cooperation
Chato, Tanzania | XINHUA | The 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has achieved great success and become a new monument to China-Africa friendly cooperation, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Friday.
Wang made the remarks at a joint press conference here with Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Palamagamba Kabudi during his official visit to the African country.
Wang noted that over the past two years, China has fully implemented the eight major initiatives with African countries proposed at the Beijing Summit.
Cooperation in areas of industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, health care, people-to-people exchange, and peace and security have been carried out in a comprehensive way, he said, adding that the overall implementation rate has exceeded 70 percent.
Noting that China-Africa cooperation on the “Belt and Road” is progressing smoothly, Wang said over 1,100 cooperation projects continue to operate during the epidemic.
Meanwhile, nearly 100,000 Chinese technical and engineering personnel also stick to their posts to coordinate and promote epidemic prevention and control as well as resume work and production, making important contributions to local economic and social development.
The friendship between Chinese and African people has continued to grow and the two sides have established 11 pairs of new sister cities, bringing the total number to 150, said Wang,
Furthermore, the China-Africa Institute has been inaugurated, a number of Confucius Institutes have been set up in Africa and exchanges in sectors of sports, health, tourism and youths between the two sides have yielded fruitful results, Wang added.
Wang noted that despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will not stop China and Africa from moving forward together. The two sides are scheduled to hold a new session of the FOCAC in Senegal later this year.
“China is ready to enhance communication with our African friends and we will carefully design the outcomes of the meeting and upgrade China-Africa cooperation based on the new situation, new needs and new opportunities of China-Africa cooperation,” said Wang.
A seven-point plan for upgrading of China-Africa cooperation is also proposed by Wang.
- –China will strengthen health cooperation, work together with Africa to completely defeat the epidemic, help Africa enhance its capacity to prevent and respond to major diseases, and jointly build a “Healthy Africa”.
- –China will enhance production capacity cooperation and upgrade China-Africa project cooperation to a more clustered, large-scale, industrialized and localized scale. China will help Africa raise its capacity for independent production and jointly build a “Made in Africa”.
- –China will strengthen regional connectivity, explore China-Africa free trade cooperation, and help Africa enhance internal infrastructure connectivity, unimpeached trade and financial integration so as to jointly build an “Inter-connected Africa”.
- –China will strengthen agricultural cooperation, carry out cooperation in grain production, storage and transportation, help Africa strengthen its food security and guarantee capability to jointly build a “Harvest Africa”.
- –China will strengthen digital cooperation, give full play to China’s technological advantages, help Africa seize the opportunity of the information revolution and jointly build a “Digital Africa”.
- –China will carry out environmental protection cooperation, practice the concept of sustainable development, help Africa improve its ability to cope with climate change and jointly build a “Green Africa”.
- –China will strengthen military security cooperation, promote political solutions of critical issues in Africa, help Africa enhance its peacekeeping and anti-terrorism capabilities, and jointly build a “Safe Africa”.
Wang also expressed confidence that with the joint efforts of both sides and under the guidance of the forum mechanism, China-Africa cooperation will continue to bear fruits and make greater contribution to the building of a closer China-Africa community with a shared future.
Trauma and wounds caused by evictions in Kiryandongo still fresh three years down the road…
By witnessradio.org Team
Kiryandongo-Uganda -Anna Maria Mukabariyanga a mother of four is one of the people that have tested the wrath of Kiryandongo Sugar Limited. It’s one of the multinational companies that have evicted over 35000 people to pave way for different projects
Mukabariyanga a resident of ranch 23 was attacked by security operatives of Kiryandongo Sugar, beaten, and thrown out of her house on the fateful night that left many homeless.
She was pregnant and in the process, she had a miscarriage.
“I was 8 months pregnant when the armed operatives attacked us, beat me up on the back. My husband was away and had no one to come to my rescue. I was thrown down by one of the evictors who continued beating me,” Says Anna Maria Mukabariyaga.
“In five days, I started bleeding but could not go to the hospital because I did not have money and later on I lost my lost child. However, I was later taken to Kiryandongo Hospital by neighbors in the area I had moved to”. She adds.
Such violent repression is the tale of villagers in Kiryandongo who were never consulted or given information privy to the eviction.
“I heard notices over the radio that, people should prepare to have their land valued for compensation but that did not trickle down to us in form of meetings”. Said 78-year old Bakaikara Edward, a resident of Kakoba village, Kitwala Sub County in Kiryandongo district.
Bakaikara says, the advert ran for two months and later evictions started.
“I was born and raised on this land by the late Kamiri Kajula. My siblings and I have been staying here since childhood. They cultivated and lived on 400 hectares as a family”. He narrates.
“I had also developed the land as a farmer, but all crops were destroyed, I have nothing to feed the family on.” He added.
“Our hearts are broken. Our children are not going to school and we do not have food. We are very angry and hungry too,” Another resident only identified as Joyce chorused in as Mr. Bakaikara told his story.
Before the agribusiness companies came in, Badudu and the other small farmers of Kiryandongo planted beans, maize, sweet potatoes, bananas, groundnuts, cassava, and mangoes, and reared pigs, goats, and cows.
Much of their former land is now occupied by sugarcane, coffee, soya, and maize which are all solely exported for profits.
Joseph Walekula one of the community leaders in Kiryandongo says, many people have been turned into beggars and reduced to working on land that they used to own.
“When Kiryandongo sugar company limited came in, people lost their land, no due compensation was done. Many people joined refugee camps where they live up to now, others ran away, and we don’t know where they are.” Says Mr. Walekula.
This is all happening under the watch of government bodies and security agencies like Police that have instead turned against the communities in defense of the investors.
Kiryandongo Sugar is owned by the Rai dynasty operating agribusiness and timber activities in DR Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Malawi. One of its directors is a shareholder of a British Virgin Islands company, which was listed in the Panama Papers database
It arrived in 2017, owns about 2400 hectares of sugarcane plantation project in Kiryandongo, and one of the three multinational projects that have continuously evicted people in the area.
Others are the; Great Season SMC Limited, a Dubai-based company reportedly owned by Sudanese businessmen building a coffee plantation on 1,165 hectares, and Agilis Partners, a company owned by US businessmen and backed by several foreign development agencies and “social impact” investors establishing a large-scale grains farm on around 3,850 hectares.
CONFIRMED! Abducted lawyers found at Special Investigations Unit of Uganda Police Force at Kireka…
By witnessradio.org Team
23rd/12/2020; Kampala – Uganda – It is confirmed that the five lawyers that were abducted by unidentified armed men are being held at the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of police based at Kireka, a Kampala suburb. The development happened after lawyers, and the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) were granted access to speak to them today. UHRC is a constitutional body in Uganda mandated to protect, promote, and uphold human rights in Uganda.
The five include Kampala-based renowned lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, members of the Witness Radio legal team Anthony Odur, and Esomu Simon Peter Obure.
Others include Herbert Dakasi and Hamid Tenywa, a National Unity Platform (NUP) human rights Officer.
Members of our legal team were given chance to speak to the human rights commission and disclosed the brutal arrests during their abduction
According to Esomu and Odur, they were beaten inside a van that was used to abduct them and they had bruises on their body. While Nicholas Opiyo was in a jovial mood at the time of speaking to lawyers and UHRC teams.
Elly Womanya, the SIU commandant confirmed that the victim lawyers were given medication at their arrival, however, did not name which agency abducted the lawyers.
At the time of writing this article, all the victim lawyers had no idea about the cause of their arrest, had not recorded statements and no charges were preferred against them.
However, via its social media channels, police accuse Opiyo and the four of money laundering.
The five lawyers yesterday at 2:45 PM Uganda time were abducted from Lamaro restaurant in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb.
I write Human Rights1 week ago
The World Bank project affected persons have petitioned the court seeking to halt an illegal eviction by capital authority
Livelihood2 weeks ago
A tree planting Chinese Company, Formosa Limited in fresh illegal land eviction…
I write Human Rights1 week ago
Renewing demand for justice; the 28 land rights defenders have applied for bail
land, livelihood and investment1 week ago
Beijing proposes seven-point plan for upgrading China-Africa cooperation
I write Human Rights2 days ago
Two Witness Radio members, 26 others have been released on bail after spending close to 3 years in jail…
Special Projects21 hours ago
U.S. Congress Requires USAID to Create an Accountability Mechanism.