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Different Researchers, Same Findings: How Land Grabs Take Place in Uganda?

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By witnessradio.org team

Faking of land titles, invading public and idle land, colluding with public officials, faking court orders, selling one piece of land to several buyers, are the key tricks land grabbers use to fleece the indigenous poor of their land, two reports by different researchers have established.

Both the witnessradio.org report and the Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC) report, reveal that the perpetrators are influential figures or private corporate entities who grab the land being used by the communities for subsistence farming to carryout commercial farming.

How much land has been grabbed?

No one really knows. A lot of reported deals are done secretly.  In its inaugural report, witnessradio.org says that over 2 Million hectares of land have been grabbed in the greater Mubende region in the year 2017 alone, affecting more than 190,000 families.

Who’s doing the grabbing?

According to the two reports, economically-powerful and politically connected individuals and private corporate entities are involved in grabbing land from the natives.

“It is clear that a cartel of economically powerful and politically-connected individuals are assisted by public institutions like police, Uganda People Defense Forces, office of the Mubende District Resident Commissioner (RDC), Mubende District Land Board to grab people’s land,” witnessradio.org report reads in part.

“There is an evident pattern of highly placed individual actors precipitating land conflicts across the regions studied. The shared characteristic amongst such individuals is that they possess both political backing and sufficient funds to pursue their illicit agendas,” HURIPEC observed in its report.

The HURIPEC report that was nationwide, named individuals like Abdallah Kitatta, the NRM chairperson for Rubaga division and leader of Bodaboda 2010 who has close links with police and the state and Moses Karangwa, the NRM chairperson for Kayunga district who was accused of harassing, intimidating and evicting bonafide occupants before evicting them from hundreds of acres of land in Bbaale sub-county in Mubende district.

The same Moses Karangwa was highlighted in witnessradio.org report for grabbing 642.65 hectares of land from Charles Lwanga Masengere whom he kidnapped, tortured, resulting into his arrest on trumped-up charges of aggravated robbery.

Karangwa, is alleged to have burnt Masengere’s properties worth Shs 500M including cars, houses, among others.

Both reports highlighted that Karangwa extensively used the police to intimidate, harass and physically accosted bonafide occupants in his mission to force them to vacate the disputed land.

“It is quite clear that those involved in land-related criminality are not only highly-connected, public officials and significantly-placed non-state actors, their actions of large-scale evictions, land office forgery and various acts of bribery and coercion can only be curtailed through a vigorous process of prosecution,” HURIPEC observed in its report.

Collusion with public offices to commit human rights violations

“Public institutions like police, Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), office of the Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mubende District Land Board, Prosecutors and courts mandated to protect indigenous communities and their properties have been caught red-handed protecting workers of businessmen to commit gross human rights abuses ranging from gang-rape, torture, participating in illegal arrests and detentions, oversee the use of ungazatted detention centers to imprison community leaders ,organizing communities to oppose illegal land evictions and malicious prosecutions, among others,” witnessradio.org report found.

On its part, HURIPEC noted “an intricate involvement of the army and the police in the occurrence and exacerbation of land conflicts in all the studied regions of the country.”

In fact, its findings demonstrated that “armed security agents have been used as ready tools in the forceful eviction of persons from their land. As already mentioned, Moses Karangwa has been consistent in his use of the police to intimidate, assault and arrest bonafide occupants on land whose ownership is highly disputed in Kayunga.”

Recommendations

HURIPEC TO GOVERNMENT:

Ad-hoc and illegal institutions that have assumed a mandate over land governance such as the police, office of the president and state house should be immediately disbanded, or subordinated to the overall supervision of a revamped and reconstituted Uganda Land Commission. Only legitimate institutions fully-mandated by law to govern land matters should have control over land matters.

Government should adhere to the laws on compulsory acquisition vis-à-vis the prompt and prior payment of adequate compensation to persons who lose their interests in land due to legitimate exercise of the power of eminent domain

Private firms and investors must be urged and even compelled to adopt and adhere to minimum requirements of corporate responsibility with regard to their interactions with the victims of land problem, particularly evictions

Witnessradio.org TO GOVERNMENT:

Government should review the existing legal frameworks to protect land rights of indigenous communities and also empower the relevant institutions such as the land commission and the office of the Inspectorate of government to enhance the fight against corruption within the respective land divisions that are promoting forgeries of land titles

 

Livelihood

Witness Radio welcomes the World Bank’s intervention into Kawaala drainage channel project affected persons…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Kampala – Uganda – Witness Radio Uganda has welcomed the World Bank’s decision to intervene into its funded project which is dispossessing poor urban dweller at Kawaala Zone II, Lubaga division, Kampala district.

On March 4th, 2021, the World Bank Team held its first ever virtual meeting with other stakeholders including the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) over a forceful implementation Kampala Institution and Infrastructure Development (KIIDP 2) project.

On top of running to court to stop an illegal eviction, the residents through Witness Radio – Uganda lawyers raised a complaint to the World Bank to restrain its grantee (KCCA) from imposing a project they (residents) never participated in from the start.

In 2015, KCCA acquired USD 175 million loan from the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA) for Kampala Institution and Infrastructure Development (KIIDP) project. However, part of the money (USD 17.5 million, which is 63 billion Uganda shillings) was earmarked to construct Lubigi Primary Channel.

Without following business and human rights standards, KCCA started using tricks aimed dispossessing the poor urban community at Kawaala including; hiding under section 72(1) cap 281 of the Public Health Act, and issued a notice to dwellers to pull down what it termed illegal structures erected on their land or otherwise, KCCA would do so at the cost of residents, just to cause a property loss to them.

In a meeting chaired by Martin Onyach-Olaa, a Task Team Leader, Senior Urban Specialist at the World Bank, faulted KCCA for failing to engage community including taking the contractor to the ground without their notice.

“The project affected community have valid grievances, which must be attended to in the interest of Kawaala project” Said Onyach-Olaa

The representatives from the affected community accused KCCA of intimidation, undertaking a forceful survey, sidelining and usurping powers of elected local leaders, extortion and undermining business and human rights standards before and during the implementation of the World Bank project.

“I was threatened and forced to participate in KCCA valuation exercise of my properties and I never understood what was done. I was even lured to sign on certain documents that were in a language they never explained and no copy was left with me. I am opposed to the KCCA’s working and I will not allow them to come back on my property: Said Segue Abbas.

He added that when he sought wise counsel from his lawyers, he just realized that he had been duped.

Among other recommendations, KCCA was advised to embark on an inclusive exercise to identity project affected persons, properties to be affected by the project and ensure that surveys and property valuation exercises are undertaken in accordance within the law.

About the Grievance Redress Committee the KCCA claims they elected, the World Bank saw it important that the Grievance Redress Committee be put in place with a complaint book and functional internal appeal mechanism.

It was further emphasized that no Kawaala resident will be forcefully lose his/her under a project being funded by the World Bank.

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Livelihood

Oil palm growing threatening food security in Buvuma

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Some of the banana plantation gardens abandoned by farmers after they were compansented at Busamuzi sub county.

Buvuma, Uganda | Several people in Buvuma district have taken to oil palm growing at the expense of food growing. Fishing and subsistence farming were the mainstay of Buvuma residents prior to the introduction of oil palm growing.  

However, the residents have surrendered the biggest part of the land they used to plant food crops such as bananas, rice, cassava, maize and sweet potatoes on the main island to National Oil Palm Project-NOPP for the establishment of oil palm gardens. NOPP intends to operate on 10, 000 hectares of land.

The investor Buvuma – Oil Palm Uganda Limited-BOPUL, a subsidiary of Oil Palm Uganda Limited and Bidco Uganda Limited in Kalangala will use 6, 500 hectares of land while the out-growers will use the remaining 3, 500 hectares.

However, since their compensation in 2012, most of the residents have failed to secure alternative land for settlement and food production. Sarasino Namuyimba Ssekajjolo, the Buvuma District Council Speaker, says they have compiled enough information proving that most of the residents have not benefited in the first stages of the project.

He says they are considering tabling a motion halting further land acquisition in areas where NOPP has not concluded the exercise.  Ssekajjolo reveals that over 1000 residents have failed to make good use of the money they received as compensation for their land. 

A report compiled by Mary Namaganda, the Principal Assistant Curator at Makerere University Collage of Nature Sciences shows that land use change in Bugala [Kalangala] from natural vegetation to monoculture plantation has caused biodiversity loss due to the destruction of the natural habitat, soil degradation and pollution of soil and lake water resulting from the use of nitrate fertilizers, agrochemicals and effluents from the palm oil mill.  

BOPUL also intends to setup a mill. Godfrey Yiga, a resident of Kirongo says that he secured another piece of land in Jinja using the Shillings 59 million he received in compensation for his 5-acre piece of land containing a banana plantation, sweet plantains and mangoes. He, however, says that he couldn’t use the remaining balance to setup a new garden.   

Nasta Nantongo Kwagala, another resident and widow of the late Yosefu Kavamawanga who cares for seven children and three grandchildren, says NOPP compensated the tenants on her late husband’s land without her consent. She explains that by the time she applied for compensation, she was chased and stopped from farming on the land.   

George William Telebajo, another resident says the project took advantage of poverty in Buvuma to trick them into selling their land cheaply. He notes that several residents have ended up in jail for stealing food while others are now sleeping in wooden cubical at landing sites. 

Reports from the District Security Commit-DSC point to increased cases of food theft in different camps on landing sites and settlements in forest reserves. Juma Kigongo, the Buvuma Deputy Resident District Commissioner, says about 10 cases of food theft are reported at police and local councils-LCI every month in the four sub counties on the main island.  

These include Nairambi, Buwooya, Busamuzi and Buvuma town council. He, however, says most of the people involved in criminal activities are residents who accepted compensations but failed to put the money to good use. 

Wilson Sserunjogi, the Buvuma District Oil Palm Project Focal Person, says that many people have failed to put their compensation money to good use much as the project has tried to support them. He notes that for the past years they have been handling complaints and compensated thousands of residents fresh but they keep on coming back for more money after misusing it. 

“Residents and leaders are scared for nothing, Buvuma still has land for growing food and also NOPP is here to support them. We also compensated residents with land over 5 acres and above,” he said.         

Original Post: The Independent

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Livelihood

2,000 Karimojong flee to Teso in search for food

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Many Karimojong children are getting emaciated as a result of lack of enough food.

Kampala, Uganda | Several families in Napak district in the Karamoja sub-region have fled their homes into the Teso region to search for casual jobs. This follows the current food shortage which is hitting the region.

Joseph Lomonyang the Napak LC V chairperson says that over 2,000 people mainly from six sub-counties of Matany, Lopei, Lokopo, Lorengechora, Iriiri and Apeitolim have crossed to the neighbouring  Teso districts of Amuria, Katakwi, Kapelebyong and Soroti looking for food.

According to Lomonyang, the number of people to flee the district is most likely to go higher given the current hunger situation.

“Last year, very many people planted crops but all the crops got destroyed by floods making our people vulnerable,” he said.

Elijah Lobucel, the Lokopo sub-county chairperson said everyday mothers and their children walk while those who can afford the costs pay for transport to Teso.

“What we are advising them is not to go to Kampala streets, but if its going to Teso for work to get food it is not bad since the Itesot are brothers and sisters under Ateker cluster,” he said.

Jimmy Tebenyang, the district councillor for Ngoleriet sub-county in Napak district said many children were getting emaciated as a result of lack of enough food.

“There are families where you find children yawning from morning to evening without eating anything and that is why we are calling the government to come to the rescue of people,” he said.

Robert Okitoi, the LC V chairperson Amuria confirmed the presence of Karamoja families in the district and urged the Itesot families to treat the Karimojong as their brothers and sisters.

He also appealed to other district leaders in the Teso region to receive the people of Karamoja with a good heart and share the little they have.

“This is the situation that requires to share, I call upon the people of Amuria and Teso at large that not all the Karimojong are bad people, those who are bad disturbing to raid people of Teso are few and so we should not victimise every one because the law will deal with those raiding but let’s support the Karimojong families,” he said.

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Source: THE INDEPENDENT 

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