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Govt told to urgently resettle people evicted from national parks

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Cross Culture Foundation of Uganda’s Fredrick Nsibambi addresses the media flanked by Joel Cox Ojuko of Equal Opportunity Commission at Media Centre in Kampala. Photo by Ramadhan Abbey

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and other human rights defenders have called for the urgent resettlement of thousands of people who were displaced from Bwindi National Park and Mt. Elgon by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). 

They are arguing that the rights of these people were greatly violated after they were left homeless upon eviction.

When Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was established in the early 1990s, UWA mainly for the conservation of mountain gorillas, over 6700 of its native inhabitants, the Batwa, were evicted. Some continue to live in forests and mountains.

While delivering the position of the commission on the rights of indigenous people and minority groups on behalf of the commission chairperson, Sylvia Mwebwa Ntambi, Joel Cox Ojuko said: “Indigenous people have a right to recognition of their identities, way of life and right to traditional and ancestral lands, territories and ungazetted natural resources.”

The commission wants government to implement the Benet consent judgment of 2005 between Benet communities, which among others recognised the Benet community as indigenous to area protected as national park.

The government through UWA evicted the Benet from the Mt. Elgon National Park between 1990 and 2004.

The Benet took their case to the High Court. In October 2005, the High Court adopted a consent judgment, between the affected Benet community, the Ugandan Wildlife Authority and the Attorney General and signed and agreed by all parties.

It declared that the Benet were the “historical and indigenous inhabitants” of the national park and should be allowed to “carry out agricultural activities” in the areas to which they have historical claim.

In the push, the EOC is supported by the ministry of gender labour and social development’s equity and rights department, the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda, Minority Rights Group International and Community Development and Resource Network.

Others are Uganda Women’s Network, Human Rights Network-Uganda, Initiative for Social Economic Rights, Defending Defenders, and Foundation for Human Rights Initiative and Global Rights Alert.

In their joint statement, they decried the gross violations of the rights of the minority tribes in the country.

The parties noted that the increased demand for land for exploitation of minerals, oil and gas and investment in commercial farming was another threat to the minority groups. Uganda has over 18 minority tribes.

Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda’s programs manager Fredrick Nsibambi said: “This has posed new threats to indigenous people’s customary lands such as those in Karamoja region, the Bagungu, Alur, Paluo, in Bunyoro sub-region and Amuru district.

He stated that lack of sufficient legal representation and enforcement of existing legal and policy frameworks for the protection of land ownership for indigenous people increases their vulnerability and loss of livelihood derived from their land.

Under the colonial and post-independence governments, large pieces of land were lost by indigenous communities due to conservation of forests, wild animals and for commercial farming in cash crops such as tea and cotton.

This displaced the Batwa in Kanungu, Kisoro, Kabale and Budibugyo, the Basongora and Bakonzo in Kasese, the Batuku and Babwisi in Ntoroko and Budibugyo, the Ik, Napore and Mening in Kabong.

Others are the Ngokutio in Kitgum, the Benet in Kween and other indigenous people in various parts of the country who have lost land to conservation.

While addressing Parliament recently the Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, disclosed that plans were under way to resettle the displaced communities.

On Friday last week, Uganda joined the rest of the world to mark International Day for Indigenous Peoples under the theme, “Indigenous People’s Migration and Movement.”

On December 23, 1994, the United Nations General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People shall be observed annually on August 9 around the world.

Source: New Vision

 

Accountable Development To Communities

A self-claimed landlord who caused the imprisonment of six community land rights defenders on false charges was aligned before the court and charged with 28 counts.

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Naava while entering court cells at  Mubende.

By Witness Radio Team

A magistrate court at Mubende has charged a self-claimed landlord with 28 counts plus murder. Naava Milly Namutebi caused the arrest of six community land rights defenders, falsely accused them of murder, and got imprisoned for three years without trial. 

Naava’s appearance before the court followed shortly after the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) dropped murder charges against six community land rights defenders. These include; Tumusiime Benjamin, Bagirana Innocent, Habana Domoro, Miyingo Gerald, Byangaramani Charles, and Byekwaso Fred.

Naava was charged along with Bulasio Musoke, Richard Mugagga, Henry Kaaya, among others. They were not allowed to answer any charges as the court had no power to make legal decisions and judgments on charges read to them.

The prosecution alleges that Naava and others still at large, committed offenses in areas of Mubende and Kampala districts between 2006 and 2021.

From 2012 to date, Naava got help from the senior army, police, and other public officers in Mubende orchestrated violence and committed human rights violations/abuses while forcefully evicting over 4,000 people off their land. 

The land being targeted measures 3.5 square miles covering villages including Kirwanyi central, Kirwanyi East, Kirwanyi West, Nakasagazi, Kituule A, Kituule B, Kibalagazi A, Kibalagazi B, Kakkanembe, Bukyambuzi A, Bukyambuzi B, Kisende, Mulanda, Kituule central, Kirwanyi A, and Butayunja in Kirwanyi and Kituule parishes in Butoloogo Sub County in Mubende district.

Naava and others accused were remanded to Kaweeri prison until 19th/July/2022. 

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Six community land rights defenders from Kawaala have turned up at police for interrogations but, failed to take off

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By Witness Radio Team.

The six community land rights defenders from Kawaala zone II and the local leader that were summoned to appear at the Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters have turned up, however, the interrogations did not take off due to the absence of the head of investigating team.

The six community defenders were required to report back to police for further investigations into alleged crimes that have not yet been officially disclosed to defenders’ lawyers. They were supposed to appear before the police investigation team today the 06th of July 2022 at 10:00 AM.

The defenders include; Kasozi Paul, Busobolwa Adam, Kabugo Micheal, Serugo Charles, Ssemanda David, Sserukwaya David, and the area vice-chairman Patrick Kato Lubwama.

While appearing before police for the first time last week on Wednesday 29th, the Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Domara Patrick who heads the investigations team casually said the defenders and the local leader are being investigated for obtaining money by pretense and forgery, which charges are not mentioned on police summons.

Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced eviction by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) being implemented by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The drainage channel construction is financed by the World Bank.

This project first impacted Kawaala Zone II around 2014, when a channel diversion was constructed. The current planned expansion will widen that channel and require forced evictions across an area at least 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long.

Witness Radio – Uganda has established that the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division, Mr. Anderson Burora is among the complainants. Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.

Witness Radio – Uganda believes that police are being used to harass and intimidate defenders to back off the justice campaign for people negatively impacted by the drainage channel.

The defenders and the local council leader have been booked to report back to the police on Monday, the 11th of July 2022 at 9:00 AM local time.

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

A self-claimed landlord who masterminded the imprisonment of six community land rights defenders for three years has been arrested.

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Naava being arrested by police.

By Witness Radio team.

A joint team of investigators from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) from Kampala and the Mubende police arrested a self-claimed landlord who falsely accused six community land rights defenders of murder and led to a three years imprisonment without trial.

Naava Milly Namutebi was arrested at her farm in Kirwanyi in Mubende district with other alleged land dealers namely Bulasio Musoke, Richard Mugagga, and Henry Kaaya.

Naava’s arrest occurred a few days after the DPP dropped charges of murder against six community land rights defenders who had spent three years without trial. These include Tumusiime Benjamin, Bagirana Innocent, Habana Domoro, Miyingo Gerald, Byangaramani Charles, and Byekwaso Fred.

Since 2012, Naava with the help of senior army, police, and other public officers in Mubende have orchestrated violence and committed human rights violations/abuses against over 4,000 people to evict them off their land. The land is measuring 3.5 square miles covering villages namely Kirwanyi central, Kirwanyi East, Kirwanyi West, Nakasagazi, Kituule A, Kituule B, Kibalagazi A, Kibalagazi B, Kakkanembe, Bukyambuzi A, Bukyambuzi B, Kisende, Mulanda, Kituule central, Kirwanyi A, and Butayunja in Kirwanyi and Kituule parishes in Butoloogo Sub County in Mubende district.

According to locals, Mubende police acting on Naava’s orders arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained dozens and dozens of land owners at different police stations in the district. Several victims allege they had to pay colossal sums of money to be released.

For many years, Mubende district has been one of the forced eviction hotspots where families are forced off their land with compensation or being offered settlement. Witness Radio’s one-year research report released in 2017 revealed that over 60% of the total grabbed land in the district was stollen by local investors.

Witness Radio – Uganda research indicates that Naava is involved in multiple land grabs with the help of government security apparatus. In 2017, residents namely Ruhobana Dombo, Samuel Ndekezi, and Chleopus Zariwa from the Butoloogo sub-county in Mubende district were arbitrarily arrested and detained on Naava’s orders by Mubende police.

The victims and other residents lawfully occupied and cultivated their land for decades but got shocked to hear that Naava was claiming ownership of their land.

The trio had gone to their gardens to plant maize on August 17, 2017, when Naava’s stick-wielding laborers attacked and severely beat them.

Naava is currently held at Mubende Central Police Station, with 28 charges including murder, attempted murder, forgery, and others preferred against her.

 

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