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Livelihood, Land And Investment

How the EU-Mercosur trade deal is worsening the international climate crisis

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After twenty years of negotiations, the European Union is in the process of advancing one of the world’s largest free trade agreements with four states of Mercosur. The planned agreement suggests a political path that veers towards a worsening of the international climate crisis. Kathrin Meyer discusses the questionable contents of the political act, which will solidify inequality amongst the trade partners and enable the expansion of environmentally harmful methods.

 

With disregard to both the current international declarations on the worldwide climate crisis, as well as the exploitation and degradation of ecosystems outside of the European continent, the EU continues to ensure its needed raw material supply in order to encourage the expansion of its industrial sectors.

Such contempt is reflected in the current free trade agreement between the EU and the Mercosur countries, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The process to build one of the largest free trade areas in the world was launched on June 28th, when the EU Commission called on its member states to ratify the detailed agreement.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström defended the initiative despite critical voices from climate activists and farmers, who condemned the ongoing negotiations on the biggest free trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur countries. In an interview with the daily newspaper Die Welt, she rejected possible changes within the agreement and said: “The treaty is ready and on the table. What’s done is done [sic!]”.

Justified criticism

Trade relations between Mercosur countries and the EU are already considered unequal. International NGOs and institutions fear that the ratification of the negotiated treaty could further strengthen structural problems.

A report by the non-profit organisation Misereor shows that the energy and raw materials sector will be one of the areas most affected. In addition to the further development of environmentally harmful processes, such as deforestation of the Amazon and new projects to promote fossil fuels, the abuse of labour will also intensify. A chief example of this includes the poor working conditions in the field of raw materials extraction.

Although the past few months have borne witness to growing environmental movements and demands for environmentally friendly political action, the focus of the free trade plan is certainly not about advancing the international energy transition. The agreement does not provide any incentives for decentralized renewable energies. On the contrary, the focus continues to be on existing production and supply models, which will continue to persist despite environmentally logical – and preferable – alternatives.

Existing production and supply models describe, inter alia, the continuation of the export relationship regarding mining products and further extraction plans.

Abolition of important export taxes

In the past, the Mercosur states regulated the export of products like lithium, copper and iron pre, due to environmental concerns, the security of their own commodity supply, and the protection of the national labour force. This will change with the new EU Trade Agreement, as the main goal of the EU’s negotiations consists of the prevention of such export restrictions to secure the supply of raw materials.

Furthermore, a ban on export taxes should make the purchase of raw materials from Latin American countries cheaper for the EU. This could mean a sharp drop in revenues for trade partner Argentina, which uses export tariffs to promote national social programs.

Liberalization at all costs

To further the development of infrastructure within the fossil fuel and mining sectors, the EU has pushed to expand the liberalization of the local energy and commodity sectors for investment and services, including continued extraction projects like the drilling for deep-sea oil deposits in Brazil or the investments in the exploitation of shale gas deposits in Argentina. The construction and building of new power plans, as well as pipelines, are on the EU’s trading agenda.

So far, not all EU member states have agreed to the fatal agreement. France has declared that it will not ratify the treaty as long as there are no valid guarantees, like the protection of the Amazon and French agriculture, as European agriculture is also at stake.

In response to French demands, political representatives from Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Latvia and Portugal have sent a letter to the European Commission calling for a rapid procedure to ensure enforcement of “one of the most important agreements in the common European commercial history“.

This is partly because of the political situation in Argentina, where President Mauricio Macri could possibly be unseated by the coming election at the end of the year. It is worth considering if the political agenda of the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is known as a despiser of the environment and human rights, could have contributed to the constitution of the letter. Bolsonaro appears poised to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which would make the process of ratifying the treaty more difficult for the EU.

From the European side, one could argue that Angela Merkel and the other co-authors have lost sight of the path of sustainability for which they claim to be fighting.

Perhaps there should be stronger calls for a review of the trading agreement, which appears to have calcified in outdated ideals over the course of the last twenty years of negotiations. The demands of the European Union in this historic agreement, which include further extraction plans, expended claims of ownership, and contempt for the lands and quality of life of non-European people, reflect a neo-colonial approach in which sustainable policies are not to be found. As a result, the international climate crisis seems likely to brew into a climate disaster.

Source: energytransition.org

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Government orders arrest of notorious land grabber in Mubende district.

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By Witness Radio team

The government of Uganda has ordered the Police in Mubende to oversee the arrest of a  land grabber in the Mubende district whose evictions have caused suffering to residents in Mubende for over a decade.

The Prime minister of Uganda, Rt Hon. Robina Nabbanja while meeting the affected residents at her home in Kakumiro district ordered the arrest of Milly Naava Namutebi and halted all activities carried out by a land grabber on people’s land. She further made it clear that all residents remain on their land till her visit to ascertain the true owner of the land.

For over a decade, Naava has been carrying out forced evictions in the area with the assistance of the area police which has rendered people homeless. People have lost land, lack food, children are not schooling and families have broken as a result of her unending violent evictions. Defenders have been framed and arrested, whereas others have been beaten in evictions.

Over 3.5 square miles belonging to 4000 residents have all been taken by the wealthy investor without consent from the owners.

Over 60 residents of Kirwanyi in Kiruma sub-county led by their Chairman Bangirana Innocent pitched camp at the Prime minister’s home in protest of the increased and violent evictions of Naava and her men and wanted the prime minister’s intervention to save them from being evicted.

According to the residents, Naava with the protection of police officers was harvesting people’s crops including maize claiming she wanted to use the land. The residents informed Witness Radio that they have been on the said land for generations and wonder how Naava came to own it.

One of the victims, Mr. Lubuuka Godfrey who had over 20 acres of maize told the Prime minister that casual laborers attached to Naava and guarded by the police officers slashed all his plantation and ordered him to leave the land immediately.

“I direct the District Police Commander (DPC) of Mubende and the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) to withdraw the four police officers guarding Naava, and thereafter arrest her for causing distress to the people.” The Rt Hon Prime minister said.

At least 30 houses and hundreds of hectares of crops especially maize were destroyed in the recent violent evictions, according to a community land rights defender, Mr. Ssesazi Christopher.

Naava has on several occasions been arrested and charged for violently evicting people without compensating or resettling them. In July 2022, Naava together with his people at large were arrested, arraigned before the magistrate court in Mubende, and charged with 20 counts including forgery, malicious damage, fraud, and criminal trespass among others.

The Rt Hon Prime minister’s order comes after Naava defied directives of not evicting people on land that were given by the Minister of Lands, Hon Judith Nabakooba. Last year, Nabakooba visited the affected communities and directed no further evictions citing investigations into the land ownership.

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Land grabs: Officials in Mubende district are colluding with economically powerful and politically connected people to grab local communities’ land.

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By Witness Radio Team

Justine Nakachwa (not her real name) had never thought of losing land she and her family had happily lived on for decades. Her dream of owning farmland had come true.

The land passed down to generations of descendants from the late 1970s was now being claimed by a renowned businessman. She got staggered.

“I was shocked by this news because I have spent most of my life here. Am wondering how he could acquire the land without the knowledge of the whole village.” She painfully revealed this while speaking to a Witness Radio-Uganda reporter.

The sixty-year-old is one of the community members of over 800 smallholder farmers in the three villages; Biwaalwe, Kabaale, and Kyagaranyi in Kanyogoga parish, Butologo sub-county in Mubende district currently facing eviction by Tubikaku Uganda Limited, a company owned by City businessman Desh Kananura.

The smallholder farmers have been practicing subsistence farming on this land to earn a living since the 1970s.

Intending to secure ownership and legalize it, they conducted a search and due diligence, which revealed that the land had no encumbrances.  In 2012, they applied for a lease. Sadly, the Mubende District Land Board declined to grant their request and instead awarded the lease of 906.4 hectares to a ghost company Tubikaku Uganda Limited.

The economically powerful and politically connected to grabbing the downtrodden land with the assistance of land board officials is rapidly growing in Uganda. With the aid of district land boards, cartels are increasingly disposing of smallholder farmers. This practice is now predominant in many districts in the country, especially Mubende district.

It is alleged that the District Land Board has previously leased people’s land to tycoons without following proper legal land acquisition procedures.

Seven years ago, a community’s land in Lwebigajji village in Mubende district of 226.5 hectares were grabbed by a local investor with the help of district land board officials. The community had lived on their land for over 30 years.

When the community showed interest in acquiring a leasehold on the land, the district land board of Mubende hurriedly offered the title to one Deo Semwogerere Mutyaba, a local businessman, who does not even own a decimal on the land.

Consequently, over 2000 families were affected. “In 2014, we requested the Mubende district lands board for a lease on this land, got surveyed using our efforts and resources, however upon returning the leasehold title in 2015, it had Semwogerere’s names as the owner of the land.” Grace Nantubiro, one of the community leaders said.

Samuel Wambi Mamali, a local businessman was also helped by the Mubende district land board officials to allegedly steal local community’s land covering three villages. These include Kyamukoona, Kijojolo, and Kalagala in Mubende District that have been occupied by locals for decades. The villages accommodate over 800 families.

The villagers indicated that Maamali fraudulently acquired a lease title he never applied for, did not consult community members on the land, nor at parish, or sub-county land committees that should have advised and guided on whether the land was lawfully being occupied and cultivated.

The few listed cases above are among several cases of grabbed land by wealthy and politically connected people in the Mubende district.  The trend of district land boards facilitating land grabs has left many local and indigenous communities landless.

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

A community of over 300 smallholder farmers conned as their land is sold to a local investor without their consent.

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By Witness Radio Team

As foreign agribusinesses take over Kiryandongo communities’ fertile land, other local investors are also eyeing the remaining land occupied by the poor families in the southwestern district of Uganda to grab their land.

A community of over 300 smallholder farmers in Ranch 22, Nyamuntende village in Kiryandongo district is being evicted by a local businessman Maseruka Robert who claims ownership of the land some have lived on for decades. Mr. Maseruka connived with some leaders in the community to grab land from the poor.

The evictions that started in August this year have caused the displacement of over 50 households so far on land measuring over 2000 acres without consultations or being fairly compensated. Crops belonging to residents, and houses were razed.

When evictions by multinationals soared in Uganda, the community acted swiftly to protect the interest on the land and avert a land grab. And in 2015, they applied for a lease of 49 years on the land from the Kiryandongo district land board which was granted to them.

However, unbeknownst to them, schemers would take advantage of this opportunity to grab their land. Earlier, the residents whose land is located on Ranch 22 Block 8 Bunyoro Ranching Scheme entrusted Wilson Sikhama, Ochema Richard, and a few other community members as their leaders in 2016 during the requisition of the land.

According to the residents, initially, the application processes unfolded as they had planned, however, Sikhama and Ochema allegedly connived with other people not known to the community to drop the names of some of the community members whom they had entrusted and replaced them with Julius Isingoma, Gerald Tumusiime, Messanger Gabriel Wabwire, Musokota William John and Simon Mwesige.

Residents further added that the land was titled in the names of the seven people who excluded the villagers. In 2019, when the community expected the location forms of the land per person, they understood that the land they had acquired was sold to one Maseruka Robert without their notification by Sikhama and the group.

In the same year 2019, the community ran to court seeking its intervention to regain the ownership of their land. The community was led by one of their own Mbabazi Samuel. In a blink of an eye, Mbabazi allegedly reached an agreement with the aforementioned group. On the 22nd of October 2020, he allegedly sold the said land to a group of people (Mr. Sikhama’s group) at One Hundred Million Shillings (100,000,000 equivalent to USD 26,483.79) without the approval of the community he represented.

After completion of the sale, the group of schemers sold the land to Maseruka who is now evicting the community.

In our interview with Maseruka, he failed to explain how he acquired the land but, insisted that he wanted the community to leave his land. “These people should leave my land because I want to use it, this is my land.” He maintained.

Some of the evictees whose houses were destroyed had relocated to their neighbors’ homes for fear of what would befall them. A 42-year-old widow and a mother of 10 said Maseruka’s accomplices destroyed her house leaving her destitute.

“These people wanted to give me 700,000/= (185.39) for the 15 acres of my land. When I resisted, they began destroying what they found including my house. They told me the money they were giving me was enough for me to vacate.” She explained.

The chairperson of the affected community, Mushija Caleb said his people are being forcefully evicted because they refused the peanuts given to them as compensation. He reiterated that his people don’t want to leave their land.

“They should not think of compensation irrespective of the amounts they are willing to offer because people are not interested in surrendering their land,” he added.

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