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Five arrested as Maruzi ranch eviction turns violent

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By BILL OKETCH

Five people have been arrested following a violent protest at Maruzi Ranch in Apac District.
Those arrested included Mr Alex Okello, 35, Mr Jackson Omara, 28, Mr Yakobo Okao, 18, Mr Calvin Opeto, 32, and Ocen Odugu, 49. The suspects were reportedly taken to an army detach at Acholi-inn Landing Site in Akokoro Sub-county.

The district speaker, Mr Peter Obong Acuda, told Daily Monitor on Sunday that those arrested were engaged in a fist fight as they attempted to resist the ongoing eviction being spearheaded by security agencies.

This newspaper has learnt that misunderstandings between the locals and district leaders cropped up soon after the latter entered into a memorandum of understanding with an Asian firm to develop the area.

Mr Obong confirmed that the government then started clearing the site to pave way for such an ambitious project. The locals who have been occupying the ranch after they fled the prolonged conflict in northern Uganda were given ample time to harvest their crops and vacate the land.

The government also promised to give each of them Shs400, 000 as transport facilitation to allow relocation, the district speaker added.

However, majority benefited from the money but a few rejected the offer and opted to protest against the eviction.

Alleged attack
On January 10, some people allegedly attacked those who had shown willingness to vacate the ranch. They said those who pocketed the money betrayed them.
The police intervened but they were overpowered by the rowdy locals, Mr Obong explained. This prompted the police to ask for reinforcement, leading to the deployment of Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers. It was at this point that five people suspected of leading the protest against the “peaceful” eviction were apprehended, he added.

Mr Denish Hamson Okello, an eyewitness, told Daily Monitor that soldiers fired teargas and live bullets to disperse more than 200 locals who had staged a protest at the ranch.
“We rejected Shs400, 000 resettlement package the UPDF soldiers were giving out to persuade us to vacate the land and some of our friends were arrested. Most of us were born in this area and we have nowhere to go. So, government should first fully compensate us before any eviction,” Mr Okello said.

Mr Charles Ogang, an elder in the area said the 64 Square miles of land was occupied by the clans of Ongoda, Oyima and Ogora in 1964 before it was given to the government for the establishment of the present Maruzi ranch.

But the district speaker, who is also a representative of Akororo Sub-county in which the government ranch also sits on its part of the land, maintained the ranch belongs to government.

The head of the security in the district, Ms Beatrice Akello, who is also the Resident District Commissioner, claimed she did not know of the arrests made but acknowledged that the eviction kicked off last December.

Capt C.O Wacha, the operation commander at the ranch, declined to comment on the matter.
“You can call our public relations officer, I think he can brief you on the matter,” he said on phone on Monday.
However, when contacted, the UPDF 5 Division spokesperson, Capt Lawrence Draga, said: “I have not got any information and Capt Wacha is the one on ground.”

The north Kyoga regional police spokesperson, Mr David Ongom Mudong, said their officers in Apac had not briefed him about any arrest in Maruzi ranch.

-Daily Monitor

I write Human Rights

Renewing demand for justice; the 28 land rights defenders have applied for bail

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By witnessradio.org Team

Mubende – Uganda – the defense lawyers of the 28 community land rights defenders have filed new applications for bail at Mubende High Court after spending 3 years in prison.

The 28 include two staff members of Witnessradio.org‘s Nantubiro Grace and Mugwabya Ronald.

Others are; Mugisha Focus, Ssekamana Kaloli, Mwikirize Keleti, Ssewanyana Kizza John, Tumwine Moses, Bigirwa Gilbert, Mulindwa Tadeo, Kayesu Patrick, Kyalimpa Tobias, Mugisha Stephen, Mwesigye John, Kiiza John Bosco, Byakatonda Aroon, Manirikiza Elidefunce, Tabalamule William, Kobwemi Christopher,  Kiwanuka Emmanuel, Senkula Charles, Ssemombwe George, Musinguzi Paul, Biryomumisho Fred, Maniriho Forodis,  Habimana Ernest, Byaruhanga Emmanuel, Mwesigye Julius and Kezaala Saul.

They are facing 9 counts including murder, and aggravated robbery among others.

The prosecution alleges that on October 12, 2018, the accused at Kambuye-Kanseera, Mubende district, killed and robbed Yunus Kasajja Tabu of his three mobile phones.

Late Tabu allegedly died during a fight with land grab affected community whose assailants are still unknown. Tabu was a manager of local businessman one Kaweesi George, under the protection of police grabbed 322.5 hectares and violently evicted over 3500 lawful occupants on Block 168; Plot 19, 22 and 23 covering five villages namely; Kambuye, Kikono, Kyabaana, Kanseera and Lwensanga in East Division, Mubende Municipality, Mubende district. The land is adjacent to Kaweeri Coffee Plantation is covering on.

However, police carried out a random arrest and targeted land rights defenders and activists that were mobilizing and empowering the landgrab affected community to resist an illegal and forceful eviction.

In January 2019, the attempt to get bail for witnessradio.org‘s Nantubiro Grace and Mugwabya Ronald was denied High Court in Mubende’s justice Joseph Mulangira.

According to officials at Mubende High Court, bail applications will be heard this afternoon.

 

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land, livelihood and investment

Beijing proposes seven-point plan for upgrading China-Africa cooperation

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African leaders at the FOCA meeting in 2018

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.

****

XINHUA

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Livelihood

A tree planting Chinese Company, Formosa Limited in fresh illegal land eviction…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Mubende – Kampala – More than 14 families in 3 villages of Butoro, Kyedikyo, and Nakasozi, Madudu Sub County in Mubende district are facing fresh evictions by Formasa Tree Planting Company, a Chinese-owned company.

Since 2011, Formasa Limited under the protection of Mubende police has forcefully grabbed 2590 hectares that were a source of livelihood for poor communities.

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

Cecilia Namawejje aged 80 years, resident of Butoro is one of the families under tension after her 2acres banana plantation was cut down by a group of 42 workers of Formasa tree planting company.

In the last days of 2020, a group of 42 workers attached to Formasa Company attacked 3 villages, destroyed houses and plantations of residents forcing them off their land.

Namawejje with over 20 acres in this area said she has occupied this land for more than 50 years and this has been earning a living for her family.

“Wounds caused by Formasa to me can never heal. In 2017 my two sons; Sam Serugo and Yona Sejjombwe were arrested and imprisoned for 34 years over the same wrangles. And again they came threatening to kill us if we do not move off our land. The land we have occupied for decades, where do they want us to go,” she narrated.

Namawejje who had more than 50 acres said over 30 acres have so far been grabbed by formasa. “I cannot access the remaining 20 acres, I have a family of 8 grandchildren, we have nothing to eat and I cannot even afford to educate them,” she added.

Annet Nannyonjo a mother of 11 in the same village whose 5 acres of cassava plantation were also destroyed is in total misery due to a lack of what to feed the family.

“My husband (Salongo Ssemombwe Richard) was arrested by the same company, we used to grow food but the workers usually cut it down. Now we are left with nothing to eat,” she added.

She added that she experiences sexual assaults from the workers. “They threatened to gang-rape me because the would-be keeper (my husband) was first arrested, “she added.

Residents who have never received compensation from Formasa or its agents are being threatened and stopped from cultivating their land by company workers.

The chairperson of Butolo village, Mr. Ngenda Paul said that the case was reported to police but they were not attended to.

According to residents, Formasa land grab has deprived them of the right to food, clean water, shelter, and education for their children among others.

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