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Joint statement: AfDB should open spaces for civil society and communities, during the Annual Meetings and beyond.




Over 45 African and international organizations call on the AfDB to open spaces for civil society and communities during the Annual Meetings and beyond.

From May 22 to the 26, the Board of Directors and other key management staff of the African Development Bank (AfDB) will be gathering for the 58th Annual Meetings in Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt). Once again , though, civil society and communities directly affected by AfDB-funded activities will not have a chance to participate.

The AfDB, despite its mission to spur sustainable development and help the most marginalized across the African continent, remains an institution where decision-making processes tend to happen behind closed doors and with a top-down approach.

During the Annual Meetings, Bank Directors will be speaking among themselves and with some stakeholders from other institutions and the private sector. Those who should be the primary beneficiaries of AfDB projects – and who are most directly affected – will not have a seat at the table. Community members and civil society activists will not have the opportunity to have their say, to express their needs, and to raise their concerns around the negative impacts of some of the Bank’s activities.

While the recently updated AfDB’s Integrated Safeguards System (ISS) includes a commitment not to tolerate reprisals, the fact that the Bank decided to hold its Annual Meetings in Egypt sends a contradicting and worrisome message. Egypt is currently infamous for its closed civic space. Thousands of people – including human rights defenders and journalists – are still arbitrarily detained, simply for peacefully defending human rights or speaking truth to power. Because of the regime crackdown on any critical voice, citizens exercise self-censorship for fear of retaliation. Foreign activists are also a target: just recently, the Egyptian regime denied entry, without providing a reason, for an Italian human rights activist who had a valid visa and accreditation to participate in the COP27.

The Annual Meetings can be a crucial advocacy and lobbying platform for civil society organizations. Similarly to other development banks, the AfDB should reintegrate the Civil Society Forum as part of the programme of the Annual Meetings. It should also reform its design, to make the forum more inclusive, accessible, transparent, and open to a diverse range of civil society groups, without limiting the number and types of topics addressed in the agenda.

Unfortunately, the lack of opportunities for participation during the Annual Meetings is only the tip of the iceberg. Civil society organizations have long been advocating with the AfDB to open up spaces for participation.

Civil society groups have also repeatedly raised concerns about the shortcomings of the policy review processes , which tend to lack transparency and have limited opportunities for civil society participation, and about the actual implementation of the Bank’s safeguards.

For instance, the inclusion of language on reprisals in the new ISS – where the bank commits to ensure people can safely speak out in the context of its projects – is a welcome and long-awaited step. But it will remain nothing more than a piece of paper that can easily be ignored, if the AfDB doesn’t take concrete actions to change processes, incentives, and culture to adopt a human rights-based approach, to prevent reprisals before it is too late, and to react quickly when cases of reprisals are raised.

As we write this letter, there are dozens of human rights defenders facing threats and attacks simply for speaking out against the negative impacts of AfDB-funded projects and peacefully defending the rights of their communities. Their voices are crucial: the Bank should stand up to ensure they are not silenced.

This week, as the AfDB is holding its Annual Meetings, it must keep African communities at the forefront. Sustainable development is impossible without the voices of those most affected by development. The AfDB should be for the African People and not African Governments.

The signatories are calling on the AfDB to do the following:

  1. Ensure meaningful participatory processes in policies, programmes, and projects, including through reprisal-sensitive consultations and engagement;
  2. Open spaces for civil society and community engagement, including at the Annual Meetings, and consider the implications of holding AfDB events in contexts where civil society cannot freely operate;
  3. Engage with clients to emphasize the importance of independent civil society and open civic space in achieving sustainable and inclusive development;
  4. Prioritize community-led development and human rights-based approaches;
  5. Raise the bar on access to information, transparency and accountability;
  6. Take steps to assess reprisal risks, prevent reprisals, and adequately respond to them when they occur.


  1. AbibiNsroma Foundation – Ghana
  2. Accountability Lab Liberia – Liberia
  3. Action For The Protection Of Endangered Species (ACES) – Cameroon
  4. African Law Foundation (AFRILAW) – Nigeria
  5. Appui aux Initiatives Communautaires de Conservation de l’Environnement et de Développement Durable (AICED) – Democratic Republic of Congo
  6. Association Burkinabè pour la Survie de l’Enfance (ABSE) – Burkina Faso
  7. Bank Information Center (BIC) – United States
  8. Both ENDS – The Netherlands
  9. Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organization (BIRUDO ) – Uganda
  10. Centre de Défense des Droits de l’Homme et Démocratie (CDHD) – Democratic Republic of Congo
  11. Coalition des OSC sur la transparence à la BAD – Mali (for Africa secretariat)
  12. Committee for Peace and Development Advocacy – Liberia
  13. COMPPART Foundation for Justice and Peacebuilding – Nigeria
  14. Foundation For Environmental Rights,Advocacy & Development (FENRAD) – Nigeria
  15. Gouvernement des Amis de Yadio et Assangbadji (ONG GAYA) – Côte d’Ivoire
  16. Green Advocates International – Liberia
  17. Green Development Advocates (GDA) – Cameroon
  18. Human Rights Movement “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan – Kyrgyzstan
  19. IBON Africa – Kenya
  20. IFI Sinergy Group – Cameroon
  21. International Accountability Project (IAP) – Global
  22. Jamaa Resource Initiatives – Kenya
  23. Le Monde Des Enfants – Guinea
  24. Lumière Synergie pour le Développement (LSD) – Senegal
  25. Network Movement for Justice and Development – Sierra Leone
  26. Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU) – Nigeria
  27. Observatoire d’Etudes et d’Appui à la Responsabilité Sociale et Environnementale (OEARSE) –  Democratic Republic of the Congo
  28. Oil Workers’ Rights Protection Organization Public Union – Azerbaijan
  29. ONG Coeur d’or d’Afrique – Côte d’Ivoire
  30. ONG Environnement et Comportements Sains en Côte d’Ivoire (ECOSCI) – Côte d’Ivoire
  31. ONG-OPV (Ordre pour la Paix et la Vie) – Côte d’Ivoire
  32. Pain aux Indigents et Appui à l’auto Promotion (PIAP) – Democratic Republic of the Congo
  33. Peace Point Development Foundation (PPDF) – Nigeria
  34. Public Interest Law Center (PILC) – Chad
  35. Réseau Accès aux Médicaments Essentiels (RAME) – Burkina Faso
  36. Réseau des Organisations de la Société Civile pour le Développement du Tonkpi (ROSCIDET)pour le Développement – Côte d’Ivoire
  37. Sightsavers – Ghana
  38. SOS Jeunesse et Défis – Burkina Faso
  39. Sustainable Holistic Development Foundation (SUHODE) – Tanzania
  40. Uganda Consortium on Corporate Accountability (UCCA) – Uganda
  41. United Youth for Peace Education Transparency and Development in Liberia – Liberia
  42. Witness Radio – Uganda
  43. Women with Disability Self Reliance Foundation – Nigeria
  44. Women’s Health Development (FESADE) – Cameroon
  45. Youth for Promotion of Development – Cameroon
  46. Youth Transforming Africa Narrative (YOTAN) – Liberia


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Joint Statement on World Bank Accountability Mechanism’s Decision to Limit Application of Operating Procedures



Accountability Counsel, along with other civil society organizations, expresses alarm over a recent announcement by the World Bank Accountability Mechanism that its final operating procedures would not apply to all of its cases. The final operating procedures, published in December 2022, state that they “apply immediately upon issuance” and “supersede the DRS interim operating procedures” and thus we expected them to apply to ongoing cases. However, on March 6th the Accountability Mechanism Secretary, who is responsible for issuing and interpreting mechanism procedures, clarified that the final operating procedures would not apply to two ongoing cases.

The announcement reads: “The Accountability Mechanism Operating Procedures supersede the DRS Interim Operating Procedures, originally issued in October 2021. The DRS Interim Operating Procedures continue to apply in full in cases where the Parties commenced mediation prior to the issuance of the AM Operating Procedures […] Specifically, DRS cases 21/01/DRS and 21/04/DRS.” Those two cases are: Uganda (Second Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) (P133590)) and Nepal (Nepal-India Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (P115767) and its Additional Financing (P132631)).

We disagree with the Accountability Mechanism Secretary’s decision not to apply the final operating procedures to these two cases for the following reasons:

  • Communities in these two cases are given fewer accountability options. The final operating procedures clarify that eligible issues unresolved by dispute resolution can be investigated by the Inspection Panel. While the interim procedures did not prohibit this so-called partial resolution option, they also did not expressly state that the process was available. By restricting the application of the final operating procedures, the Accountability Mechanism Secretary has decided not to permit eligible unresolved issues to be investigated for two cases if an agreement on some issues is reached.
  • This leaves a potential accountability gap for the World Bank regarding two projects. While a dispute resolution process is typically undertaken by affected communities and borrowers, the Inspection Panel investigates the World Bank’s own compliance with its policies and procedures. The Accountability Mechanism’s decision to not permit eligible unresolved issues to go to compliance for two projects means that there could be noncompliance that goes unexamined and unresolved.
  • The decision is inconsistent with good practice. Typically, new operating procedures apply to all cases as soon as they are published. Consistent with that good practice, the World Bank Inspection Panel is applying its December 2022 operating procedures to all cases immediately.

Dispute resolution is voluntary, and parties can determine what conditions they require to come to the table, including whether or not to require full resolution of all issues. Taking that choice from the parties is an overstep. Our expectation of all accountability mechanisms is that they will champion the rights and needs of communities, not borrowers or banks. While we respect the Accountability Mechanism Secretary’s mandate to interpret their own procedures, we believe that this decision was incorrect and will undermine communities’ trust in the mechanism going forward.

This statement is endorsed by:

Accountability Counsel

Bank Information Center

CEE Bankwatch Network

Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)

Centre for Financial Accountability

Friends of the Earth United States

Green Advocates International

Inclusive Development International

Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

International Accountability Project

Just Ground

Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP)

Lumière Synergie pour le Développement

NGO Forum on ADB


Urgewald e.V.

Witness Radio Uganda.

Source: Accountability Counsel

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Signs of harmful projects with financing from development institutions are spotted in Uganda…



By Witness Radio Team.

The growth of a country is discerned by great leaders and innovators who see opportunities out of darkness and transform their areas from nothing to success. Those are great leaders whose interest is to see the developments in their countries and the well-being of their citizens.

Every single day, countries all over the world receive investors that acquire loans, grants, and donations to implement mega projects that are seemingly expected to develop host countries. countries and investors borrowing the money Often, countries and investors portray how these projects improve the livelihood of the browbeaten, au contraire, they have left many broken families, poor-dirty homesteads, and shattered dreams.

Uganda is one of those countries, whose citizens have paid a price for reckless or unsupervised and profit-led international investment. In a bid to implement its industrial policy, the country has welcomed both foreign and local investors with interests in the fields of extraction, industrial agriculture, carbon credit tree plantation, mining, infrastructural projects, and many others.

It has received billions of dollars from different financiers including commercial banks, Pension Funds, and International Development Finance Banks or institutions, among others. For instance, the World Bank has invested more than 20 Billion Dollars since 1963 and currently

Every project comes with its own chilling story. More often their stories are unheard by the World. Witness Radio – Uganda surveyed some projects in Uganda. This study revealed agony, illegal evictions, abject poverty, environmental degradation, and loss of life among others, as some of the consequences suffered by the would-be beneficiaries of these international funded projects across the country.

In the capital of Uganda, Kampala, over 1750 families were forcefully evicted from a city suburb, Naguru, for Naguru- Nakawa housing estates.  11 years down the road the project that was highly hyped is to take off on the grabbed land. Pleas from the victims of the eviction to regain their land have all fallen on deaf ears.

About 80km away from Kampala is the island district of Kalangala surrounded by the World’s second-largest lake, Victoria, and known for palm growing. When the palm-oil project was introduced to residents they were given the impression that it would improve their livelihoods and create job opportunities.  Instead, it has dumped thousands into poverty after their land was grabbed by BIDCO, a Wilmer international-funded project. People lost land and now work on plantations as casual laborers. The neighboring communities are accusing BIDCO workers of sexual and gender-based violence.

In the South-Western District of Kiryandongo, multinational companies including Agilis Partners Limited, Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, and Great Seasons SMC Limited with funding from The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom, and Common Fund for Commodities among other financiers are forcefully evicting more than 35,000 people. The eviction has been on since 2017.

Workers that worked on a World Bank Project in Soroti, in the far east of the country, are accused of sexually harassing minors. Several young girls were defiled and left pregnant. Despite the government being aware of this none of the pedophiles have been brought to book, the World Bank-funded project in the Eastern Town of Soroti left several underage girls defiled and impregnated.

In late 2020, residents of Kawaala zone II woke up to the hail of armed men and graders evicting and destroying their properties to implement a multimillion-dollar project funded by the World Bank. The project is being implemented by the Kampala Capital city Authority (KCCA) on behalf of the government of Uganda.

The above-listed and other projects, on the other hand, continue to perpetuate violence and judicial harassment against leaders of Project Affected Persons (PAPs) and community land and environmental rights defenders because of their work that resists illegal evictions and destruction of the environment among others.

Although project implementers such as government entities accuse local communities of occupying land targeted for projects illegally, in most cases victim communities have rights over these pieces of land because their settlement on the same land can be traced to have happened generations ago.

No matter how people are negatively impacted being by these harmful projects, financiers continue to release more money to the government and investors. The banks aim at profit margins other than the livelihoods of the people. In Bulebi village, Mbazi parish, Mpunge Sub County in Mukono district, Akon’s futuristic city is about to lead to the eviction of over 1000 residents whose entire lives have been built on their land.

In April last year, American rapper Aliaune Damala Badara well known for his stage name AKON visited Uganda in search of land for constructing the city. On the same business trip, he met President Museveni Yoweri Kaguta and expressed his interest in building a futuristic city with its currency. The president ordered the Ministry of Lands, housing, and urban development to look out for free land for his city.

However, on 7th Jan 2022, the Uganda Land Commission showed the Minister for Lands, Housing, and Urban Development “Hon Judith Nabakooba” land that was proposed for the Akon city. According to the Uganda land commission, the land is Freehold Volume 53 Folio 9 measuring I square mile.

This has sparked outrage amongst the affected as they were never consulted or consented to allow the project in their community. According to community members that Witness Radio interviewed, they said they heard the distressing news of Akon city through the Media.

The community said no official from the ministry has ever approached them about their land giveaway. “Our country is full of land evictions and evictors begin in that way. There has been no official coming on the ground to officially inform us about the project and neither have we heard any official communication of compensation.” Obori said.

Residing in the attractive village surrounded by freshwaters, the community asserts this has been the source of livelihood and advised the government to get alternative land for the City.

Controversies surrounding the land giveaway and ownership of the area still exist. A section of residents have protested and vowed not to surrender their land for the City. They claim to have acquired freehold titles from the Mukono lands board.

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Breaking: over 350,000 acres of land were grabbed during Witness Radio – Uganda’s seven months ban.



By Witness Radio Team.

As the onslaught on civil society heightens, its space continues to shrink which has bearing on the services they render to the communities. Witness Radio, was among the 54 organizations suspended by Uganda’s National Bureau for Nongovernmental Organizations on August 20th, 2021. The actions are amongst the recent forms of attack on civil societies in Uganda. Other numerous attacks include arrests of rights activists, harassment, tortures, and office- break-ins at night by security operatives who move away with valuables.

The effects of this suspension were felt by communities facing land grabs across the country. For seven months while the organization was suspended, over 300,000 people were evicted from their land and couldn’t access specialized and prompt legal assistance.

Witness Radio Uganda, globally known for its campaign against community land-grabs couldn’t assist these victims of land grab since it risked facing further sanctions from the Bureau in case it intervened. However, last week, there was some relief, when Uganda’s National Bureau for NGOs lifted suspension and certified its operation.

According to Mrs. Bulyerali Joan, the Head Legal at Witness Radio – Uganda, the organization conducted a review of the evictions that happened during the suspension. With information and assistance from some lawyers, local journalists, and community land and environmental rights defenders across the country, the evictions watchdog was able to document cases of hundreds of thousands of Ugandans that were either forcefully evicted or received threats of evictions while in its limbo.

The ban imposed on Witness Radio coupled with the disruptive impacts of COVID- 19 resulted in the surge of eviction cases, especially in areas where the organization had a presence. Throughout the ban, without access to swift and prompt legal support, the communities resorted to sharing with the world their ordeal.

She further noted that the evictions were conducted in disregard of the law on evictions. “I was shocked to see powerful people and companies take advantage of our suspension to escalate the evictions of vulnerable communities that received our assistance. The evictions did not comply with the land eviction practice directives. None of them was preceded by legal court orders.”  She noted.

According to the Land Eviction directives, issued by the former Chief Justice of Uganda, Bart Katureebe, evictions shall be preceded by valid court order, properly identifying the persons taking part in the eviction, and upon presentation of formal authorizations. The police and local authority of the area shall be notified and shall be present to witness the evictions, among others.

Based on the data gathered by the team, various communities across the country were left dispossessed by land grabbers without any form of assistance. Others have received threatening messages with intentions of dispossessing them off their land.

During the period under review, over 300,000 people across the country are believed to have been threatened with evictions, while 350,000 acres of land were either grabbed or on verge of being grabbed.

“However much, we gathered this information, we expect the cases to be higher because some evictions go unreported either due to the remoteness of the areas or other related factors.” One of the collaborators observed.

The evictions were extremely violent.  They were characterized by kidnaps, arrests and detentions, torture that often-caused unexpected grief to the communities.

Among the most affected districts include Kyankwanzi, Mubende, Kassanda, Hoima, Buikwe, Wakiso, Kikuube, and Bulambuli districts.

In some of the mentioned districts, the Lands, Housing, and Urban Development Minister toured and halted the evictions but the evictors continued unabated.

Mr. Kimazi Experito, a journalist based in Mubende, attributed the rise of evictions to the organization’s suspension which denied the evictions-affected communities access to specialized legal assistance.

He said Witness Radio has offered support to over 20 land-grab-affected communities in Mubende with legal support. “Witness radio is a game-changer that brought back lives of evicted communities to normal,” he lauded.

“Mubende is one of the fastest-growing areas because of gold and other minerals as well as factors related to fertile soils. Currently, it is one of the hotspots of evictions. Opportunists used this chance to grab land from people with full attention. Without the defenders, it’s often hard for people to get justice since local people are not much informed about land laws.” Kimazi explained.

Engineered by powerful people in public offices, multinational companies, and politicians using state machinery including the army and national police, forced evictions to continue to affect food sovereignty and threaten the role of indigenous communities to protect the environment.

During the same period, President Yoweri Museveni stopped any eviction without the approval of the Resident District Commissioners. However, legal experts warned that the move is to usurp the powers of the Judiciary. In a statement signed by Pheona Nabasa Wall, the Uganda Law Society President noted that the directive undermined the role and independence of courts in handling eviction matters.

That notwithstanding, “Occasionally, the residents are not given any opportunity to negotiate with the landlords. Even when the government obliges to pay landowners, neither does the government nor the evictor compensate for the damaged property. During evictions, properties that were made for their life end up being destroyed in seconds which causes lifetime misery.” Paul Kasoozi, a community land rights defender stated.

With different tactics aimed at alienating the poor from their land, it has been established that the police and the army continued to play a huge role in the largest forms of violent evictions through torture, arbitrary arrests, and detention and instilling fear and pressurizing the local communities to vacate their land on orders of the evictors.

Many of those community members who oppose land evictions end up being kidnapped, tortured, or arrested and detained to silence the community. It takes support from an organization defending communities’ land rights to intervene for such communities to get justice.

Days before the lifting of the suspension imposed on Witness Radio, communities neighboring the Katta Barracks in Bulambuli district, were violently evicted by the Uganda People’s Defense Forces under the alleged command of Lieutenant Colonel Mukiibi Julius without offering alternative resettlement.

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