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land, livelihood and investment

Civil Society Petitions U.S, British Governments Over Kiryandongo Evictions

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A look of anguish covers their faces, some break down in tears as they reminisce the events that led to their forceful eviction from a 13-square-mile chunk of land in Kiryandongo district.

The evictions that started on Christmas day in 2017 have left more than 30,000 families homeless after three plantation farmers – Kiryandongo Sugar Ltd, Agilis Partners, and Great Seasons Ltd took ownership of land that the government had originally allocated to Nyamalebe Farmers Association.

“We have petitioned several government ministries and departments including Parliament, we have been to courts and State House but no one seems to care about our plight,” John Isingoma, the chairman of Nyamutende village told a group of rights activists that visited the area on March 12.

The activists were drawn from Food Rights Alliance, International Accountability Project, GRAIN and Witness Radio which taking the lead in pursuing a litigation process against the government and the investors whom they accuse of rights violations.

The land in question is part of the 37.8 square miles of land, originally registered under the Bunyoro Ranching Scheme but allocated to landless people in 1997 under the ranches restructuring program that began in 1990.

It is part of what was formerly registered as Nyamakere and Kibeka Central Forest Reserves.

According to a June 16, 2014 letter by the then State Minister for Environment, Flavia Nabugere to the Prime Minister, the decision to allocate the forest reserves to the landless people was reached after an assessment that proved that human settlement was a better option than having ranches along the River Nile Basin.

This was the position of the relevant government Ministries, Kiryandongo district local government and backed by a cabinet and Parliamentary approval especially after the government found the same land suitable for the resettlement of the 2011 Bududa landslide victims.

Behind the scenes, the district leadership entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Kafu Sugar Ltd to take over the land for sugarcane growing.

The locals ran to the High Court in Masindi to the challenge the MOU and for an injunction to the activities of the sugarcane growers on the land.

The suit has remained in the court shelves while the Asian directors of Kafu Sugar Ltd incorporated another company in the names of Kiryandongo Sugar Ltd that went ahead with the sugarcane growing program.

MINISTERS FIGHT

Kiryandongo Sugar Ltd moved to take possession of the land after a November 16, 2017 letter by then Lands minister, Betty Amongi, addressed to the Kiryandongo district leadership, telling them that the Uganda Land Commission had allocated ranches numbers 23, 28, 29 and 30 to the sugarcane growers.

She reported that Museveni had approved the allocation while other private holders of the ranches had sold their stake to other investors.

Agilisi Partners from the Cayman Islands paid more than Shs 7.7 billion to take possession of 2600 hectares (four square miles) of land to cultivate simsim, soybean, and maize while another five square miles of land is held by a coffee-growing company, Great Seasons Ltd.

“In respect of the above, the resident district commissioner [RDC] and the district leadership are instructed to assist in all ways possible the owners of the specified ranches to amicably negotiate and settle any disputes with the legal tenants on the subject properties In accordance with the relevant land laws,” Amongi wrote.

Her letter was in protest of an earlier letter by the State Minister for Lands, Persis Namuganza that favoured the tenants against the interests of the investors.

“The issue of Kiryandongo ranches is before cabinet and His Excellency the President guided that a clear government program be drawn to come up with projects that will be established in these ranches, and also guided that all title [deeds] that were acquired on the same land be canceled, and those who purport to have bought [the land] be arrested because these are government ranches,” Namuganza’s November 7, 2017 letter to the Kiryandongo RDC partly reads.

Amongi told the Kiryandongo leaders to disregard Namuganza’s letter because it was “bound to cause legal suits” against the government.

While Namuganza relied on what transpired in the cabinet, Amongi acted upon Museveni’s July 17, 2017 letter in response to hers written on May 15, 2017, requesting for presidential approval to lease the Kiryandongo ranches to Kiryandongo Sugar Ltd.

REGRETS

What is so hurting for Joyce Bududu Tayebwa is that the evictions started a year after she had mobilized the locals to give Museveni a 100 percent score in the 2016 presidential elections.

“I feel ashamed that Museveni is doing this to us; it hurts me so much that for all this time, I have been working for NRM but Museveni found no difficulties in deploying his soldiers to inflict all sorts of atrocities on us,” a teary Badudu said.

Unlike others who were resettled on the land, Badudu was born here in 1975. Her mother, Stella Kamwoshe looked on as her daughter narrated their ordeal.

Kamwoshe now sleeps by the roadside under tarpaulin covers as she keeps watch over her herd of about 30 heads of cattle.

Attempts by the Kiryandongo district leaders to get her back on her land, and for her cattle to access her valley dam have not yielded any fruit.

“I blame Museveni for the scars on my body because it is him who sent the army to shoot at us, beat us, raze our homes and kill our animals,” Badudu said.

ONLINE CAMPAIGN

The CSOs led by Witness radio have in the meantime launched an online campaign urging the governments of the UK, Netherlands and the United States to freeze their support to the companies involved in the evictions over human rights violations.

The CSOs put the number of victims at more than 30,000 families that have suffered violations such as the use of excessive force, illegal arrest, and detention, harassment, intimidation, demolition of schools, worship centers and homes.

Source: The Witness

farm news

A government project is pushing hundreds of families off the land without re-settlement in the Lyantonde district

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By witnessradio.org Team.

Lyantonde – Uganda – without any informed consultations or community engagements, the government of Uganda is constructing a world-class pre-export quarantine facility for animals on a piece of land which has been feedings hundreds of native families for more than three decades.

Once the project takes off, a source of food, employment, education, and a provider of finances to meet basic needs for hundreds of families will be no more.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, the facility will act as a quarantine ground for animals before export for a specified period of time for veterinary observation, sampling, testing, and vaccination among others.

The project which targets land measuring approximately 98.2 Hectares, shall facilitate the export of animals and meat in bulk from Burundi, Rwanda, and DR Congo, and other neighboring East and Central African countries.

But, Grace Batine, 57 years and a mother of 12 children who has been deriving a livelihood from the targeted land says, the project is shattering the future of her family as it will deprive them of the right to food and other basic rights.

“I settled on the land in 1994, which has been a source of everything. When the government decided to develop it, why do they fear to consult us and whose responsibility is it to protect and care about our wellbeing? Do they want the European governments to care for us if they can’t,” a poor Batine questioned.

Benon Musinguzi, a resident of Makukulu Village, says they only want the government to compensate if not, resettle them because they have nowhere to go.

“We respect the government’s move to construct the facility but it would not be fair if they evict us from our only livelihood. We think if they have no money for the compensation they should allocate to us part of the land for us to continue thriving. We admit this is not our land but for more than 30 years we have been on this land,” adds Musinguzi a father of 8.

In an interview with the land desk officer at the Ministry of Agriculture, Bruce Turyatunga, claimed the move to evict residents is ready and the government shall not even compensate a single coin to them since they illegally occupied the land.

“This is a government land that was surveyed and we have a title on it, how do you compensate someone on your land, we are even consulting from the Attorney General and Administrator-General to see how these people can compensate us for using our land for all that time,” Mr. Turyatunga added.

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land, livelihood and investment

A new pattern of senior UPDF officers’ involvement in the land grab

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By witnessradio.org Team

 

Barely two weeks after witnessradio.org exposed a senior officer of Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) involved in grabbing land for 20000 inhabitants in Kassanda district, another UPDF officer is allegedly dispossessing 240 families.

 

Uganda People’s Defense Forces is a national force with several Constitutional obligations, and among them is to preserve and defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Uganda, which is anchored under article 209 (a) of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.

 

The reported cases of land grabbing by UPDF officers allude to the fact that both cases use similar tactics to dispossess poor natives that are legally occupying public land with help from district land offices.

 

According to witnessradio.org investigations, both communities have derived their livelihoods from their land and have become victims of fraud in different districts’ land offices as they are blocked from legalizing their existence on the land.

 

Earlier in January 2021, more than 20000 inhabitants in Kyakatebe, Namuganga A, and Namuganga B, leaped out of their skins when the Mityana district land office blocked them from acquiring a freehold lease on their land, saying the said land was acquired by a senior UPDF officer, a one Lieutenant David Kabagambe and others.

 

In Rakai district, the Southern border district between Uganda and Tanzania, another senior UPDF officer a one Captain Geoffrey Kalamuzi, is alleged to have fraudulently acquired land owned by more than 240 families.

 

Residents of Kyakago and Kasese villages in the Kibanda Sub-county, Rakai district explain that they legalized their occupancy in 2010 on a piece of land which Captain Kalamuzi claims to have gotten a lease offer.

 

“As bona fide occupants we got proof of ownership from the district land office in order to secure our livelihood, we wonder how Captain Kalamuzi can acquire legal documents on the same land, says Thaw Seruyima the Kyakago village chairperson.

A father of 30 children, Mugonza Habibu explained that the land Captain Kalamuzi is grabbing, is an ancestral home to more than 200 families on which a number of people from previous generations were buried there.

 

“We are shocked by this behavior of armed men. It’s impunity, which we cannot accept. I have an extended family which I cannot feed if my 5 acres are grabbed, I even question where I can take it”, angrily said Mugonza, a father of 30.

 

He further accused Captain Kalamuzi of misusing his powers as an army commander to grab their land.

 

However, the Secretary Rakai District Land Board Mr. Edward Kamya said Captain Kalamuzi was granted permission to open boundaries of a piece of land adjacent to that of the communities.

 

Captain Geoffrey Kalamuzi denied the allegations of land grabbing. He however said his interest is to map and survey his land. He however did not mention the exact location of a piece of the land he owns.

 

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land, livelihood and investment

Industrial Park Development in Buikwe is dispossessing hundreds of Native Families…

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Structures of houses demolished by G.M Sugar in Namabere village, Buikwe District.

 

By witnessradio.org Team.

Buikwe – Uganda – Close to 1000 families in Namabere landing site, Buikwe District are forcefully being evicted off their land to give way for an industrial park, witnessradio.org has learned.

The industrial park which measures approximately 329.5 Ha, along the shores of Lake Victoria, is the brainchild of Magan Patel, the head of Nile Group of Companies. It is not clear whether the park authorities obtained the social and environmental impact assessment from environmental regulatory bodies as it is adjacent to the lake.

witnessradio.org findings indicate that so far the park has attracted about 26 companies amongst others include; Nile Agro Ltd; Nile Aluminum Ltd; Nile Batteries Ltd; Nile Wheat Ltd; Auro Meera Paper Ltd; Modern Distillers Ltd; Modern Laminates Ltd; Nile GM Plastics Ltd; Modern Rubber Ltd; and Cable Ltd and many others.

According to the affected persons, GM Sugar Company one of the companies targeting their land, since November 2020 with the help of Buikwe police has been forcing natives to receive payment in form of transport on a gunpoint to vacate the land. The payment ranges from 100,000 – 200,000 Ugandan shillings to residents of the area to vacate their land.

“Imagine at a gunpoint, someone is paid Uganda Shillings 100,000, his/her properties get destroyed and your forced to vacate where you earn a living. How do you feel? Do you know how hard this is?” angrily asked a 45-year-old Bayati Kafuuko.

Bayati, a mother of six (6) said that she has nowhere to go and left with nothing to feed her family since all her property was destroyed by the armed men.

“What can that money do, it can’t even meet transport costs,” added Bayati.
Several affected persons revealed that before the eviction, there was neither consultation and concession to the project nor valuation and fair compensation of their property.

“Ever since the attack started we live in fear, we cannot sleep because most of our houses were pulled down. All our fish was taken by soldiers, we have nothing to eat,” said a 58-year-old Francis Obiire.

He added that he cannot accept being illegally evicted on land he has lived on since his birth.
“My father has lived on this land since 1950. I was born here in 1962. With this little money, which land do they expect me to buy,” Obiire added.

The chairman of Namabere village Mr. Ochen Peter said his people are being intimidated without due process is followed. He further said that workers of the investors under the protection of police carry out daily patrolling of the area just to intimidate residents.

When witnessradio.org contacted Ssekamatte Musa, one of the GM Sugar company managers, he declined to speak.

“I am busy, I will call you,” he said.

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