Connect with us

Defending Land And Environmental Rights

COVID-19 LOCKDOWN LAND GRAB VIOLENCE: Multinational company, security firm sued for torture

Published

on

By witnessradio.org Team

 

Masindi – Uganda – In an effort to hold investors and their agents accountable and curb COVID-19 lockdown violence and human rights abuse, communities in Kiryandongo district have ran to Masindi High Court and sued Agilis Ranch 20 and 21 limited and Saracen, a private security firm hired to guard the company. Agilis Ranch 20 and 21 is a subsidiary of Agilis Partners, which also owns many other food dealer companies including Joseph Initiatives and Asili Farms.

 

Agilis Partners through its companies is financially supported by DOB Equity (dob Foundation) of the Netherlands, via the UK-based Dutck Oak Tree Foundation, owned by the De Rijcke family of the Netherlands; the United Nation’s Common Fund for Commodities, via the Dutch Trust Fund arrangement set up by the Netherlands Ministry for Development Cooperation; and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) via its Food Trade programme among other Development Finance Institutions.

 

Since lockdown measures were announced in Uganda on March 18th, 2020, multinational companies that are grabbing community land with the help of district security apparatus, have intensified violence ranging from house demolition, illegal arrest and detention, torture, attempted defilement,  water sources have been filled with soil to plowing food crops (cassava, maize, sweet potatoes, and banana e.t.c) covering hundreds and hundreds of acres of land without a court action.

 

Byaruhanga John, one of the land owners who was tortured with intention to force him off  his land by Agilis Ranch 20 and 21 limited workers and security guards from Saracen security firm, said state institutions in Kiryandongo district have abandoned them while siding with their tormentor-investors.

 

He added that the compromised area police has made it difficult for affected locals in Kiryandongo district, to report and open up a case against companies or their workers during the current COVID-19 lockdown. “all police officers have informed us that they have instructions from Kiryandongo district police head one Bakaleke Joseph not to attend to our concerns, instead they refer us to his office” said Byaruhanda.

 

He further explained that when he went and met Bakaleke Joseph in his office, Bakaleke offered to mediate between him and his tormentors to get treatment, which he refused.

 

Byaruhanga narrates that on the 22nd day of March 2020, at around midnight, he heard a knocking noise reverberating from the door to his house.  He said that followed with voices of some unknown people who were demanding him to open the door.  He added that they threatened to break in or burn down the house if he did not open for them, which he begrudgingly complied with their demands.  He revealed that they were armed with clubs, pangas and the other was armed with a gun.

 

He further narrates that when he opened the door and stepped out they ordered him to sit down, which he complied. He added that a group of men grabbed him, got beaten and kicked, which.  lasted about 30 minutes. He said, it reached a point where by he could not endure any further beatings from his captors prompting him to make an alarm. He explained that his wife, who watched my beating in disbelief, could not contain it anymore and therefore joined him in wailing and making an alarm in anticipation of being rescued from my captors.

 

“The wailing and alarms from both my wife and I forced my captors to bundle me into the trunk of an awaiting Tata lorry truck, and drove off to the Agilis Ranch 20 and 21 Limited camp which is about 30 miles from my home. To the best of my recollection, Odongo and Ondema, employees working with the company, were part of the six members who beat me” narrates Byaruhanga.

 

Byaruhanga who’s among the many victims of torture and violence orchestrated by Agilis Ranch 20 and 21 Limited especially during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown said, the attack left him stressed, psychological tortured, helpless and hapless and stripped of his dignity, with other effects spread to his children who are traumatized after learning of his ordeal during his arrest, and detention by company workers.

 

He said, he wants court to order companies to compensate him and other victims for torture suffered and properties destroyed as well as direct re-instatement back on their land.

 

Defending Land And Environmental Rights

State fails to produce a key witness, prematurely closes its prosecution in the trial of the eight land rights defenders

Published

on

By the Witness Radio team,

The state prematurely closed its prosecution in the trial of the eight community land rights defenders after it failed to produce its last witness, the Investigating Officer (IO).

Mwawula Fred, Ramu Ndahimana, Samuel Kusiima, Martin Munyansia, Martin Haweka, Amos Wafula, Eliot Talemwa, and George Rwakabisha are facing a charge of threatening violence, which attracts a four-year sentence upon conviction.

Upon closure of the prosecution, the defense lawyers applied for the dismissal of the case for want of prosecution, adding the evidence before the court too weak to sustain a conviction

The court has directed the defense to file its written submission and serve the prosecution by 10th February 2022.

Since 2020, the prosecution has only presented two witnesses, which resulted in the trial being marred with unnecessary adjournments and transfers of trial magistrates.

The prosecution alleges that on September 4th, 2020, the eight community rights defenders, while at Kisalanda village, allegedly threatened to harm one of the police officers guarding Great Season SMC Limited’s plantation.

Great seasons SMC Limited is one of the multinationals that have forcefully evicted thousands of local farmers and criminalized activities of community land rights defenders for resisting illegal and forceful evictions of poor communities in the Kiryandongo district. The others include Kiryandongo Sugar Company and Agilis Partners Limited.

The court will rule on the application to dismiss the case on the 20th of March 2022

Continue Reading

Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Mubende police arrest and charge farmers that workers of a tree-planting company attacked.

Published

on

By Witness Radio team

Five smallholder farmers have been arrested and charged with malicious damage by Mubende police, Witness Radio Uganda has learned.

The victim farmers include; Kabuka Levi, Lubwama Robert, Bulegeya Erisa, Byakatonda David, and Byamukama Yuda are among the victims of the company attacks. Upon arrest, they (victims) recorded statements and later were released on police bond.

Before their arrest, the farmers had opened several cases against their tormentors (company workers) for attacking and destroying their properties worth millions of Shillings. Several files were opened including SD.ref/09/07/12/2022 and SD.ref/12/07/12/2022 against company workers. However, to their surprise, the police made a U-turn and got them arrested.

On December 7th, 2022, in the wee hours of that day, a group of over 20 casual workers linked to Formosa limited, a tree planting company based in Mubende district attacked several families, properties like houses and food crop plantations were destroyed, and several farmers were severely beaten with intentions of forcing them off their land.

“When we reached Mubende police, we were all arrested and interrogated for almost an hour before recording statements on malicious damage charges. The company reported that we cut its trees and had photos as evidence which we did not do.” Mr. Kabuka Levi told Witness Radio in an interview.

In the meantime, the same company in 2017 caused the arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of 5 community land rights defenders for 15 years and 35 years on murder and other charges. The five include; Paul Sinamenya, Richard Ssemombwe, Fenehansi Kaberuka, Esau Hategeka, Godfrey Bukenya, Yonnah Ssebanenya, and Sserugo Sam Ssemigo.

Witness Radio appealed against the conviction of 5 defenders for review and is waiting on the appellant court to set the hearing date of the case.

Since 2011, Formasa company under the protection of private security guards and the police has grabbed 2590 hectares that were a source of livelihood for hundreds of poor communities.

The land grabbing has affected over ten (10) villages including Butoro, Kyedikyo, Nakasozi, Namayindi, Kitebe, Kisiigwa, Mukiguluka, Busaabala, and Kicucuulo located both in Maduddu and Butoloogo sub-counties in Mubende district.

Continue Reading

Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Community land rights defenders that have been on trial since 2020; are set to return to court this January.

Published

on

By Witness Radio Team.

The criminal trial of eight (8) Community land rights defenders on charges of threatening violence is to resume on the 23rd of January 2022, with the state producing its final witness.

The defense lawyers are preparing a submission of no case to answer upon closure of the prosecution’s case because of the insufficiency of the case.

So far, the prosecution has presented two witnesses before the court since 2020, whose trial sessions have been marred with unnecessary adjournments and transfers of hearing magistrates.

The eight community land rights defenders include; Mwawula Fred, Ramu Ndahimana, Samuel Kusiima, Martin Munyansia, Martin Haweka, Amos Wafula, Eliot Talemwa, and George Rwakabisha were charged with threatening violence, a charge that attracts a four-year sentence upon conviction.

The prosecution alleges that on September 4th, 2020, the eight and others, while at Kisalanda village, allegedly threatened to harm one of the police officers guarding Great Season SMC Limited’s plantation.

In November 2020, the prosecution disclosed to defense lawyers and informed the court that investigations were closed and the prosecutor’s chambers were ready to proceed to trial.

Great seasons SMC Limited is one of the multinationals that have forcefully evicted thousands of local people and later criminalized activities of smallholder farmers that have resisted illegal evictions in the Kiryandongo district. The others include Kiryandongo Sugar Company and Agilis Partners Limited.

The trial will start at 10 am East African Time.

Continue Reading

Resource Center

Legal Framework

READ BY CATEGORY

Facebook

Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter





No spam mail' ever' its a promise

Trending