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Kabarole struggling to operate without land board

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Kabarole, Uganda | Kabarole district is unable to process land titles and resolve other land related matters due to the absence of a land board. It follows the expiry of the five year tenure of the substantive land board members in January this year.

In March, Kabarole district leadership sent the name of Cypriano Rwaheeru for reappointment as land board chairperson, Bob Kaganda, the former mayor Fort Portal municipality representative of urban council, Molly Florence Nyangoma, Christine Katwooki and Abel Karwanil as board members to Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development for approval.

However, URN has established that the ministry received a petition from Bishop Jimmy Katuramu, the head of the United Pentecostal Churches of Uganda in Fort Portal opposing the appointment of Kaganda and Nyangoma.  In his March 13th, 2020 petition, a copy of which our reporter has seen, Katuramu argues that both Nyangoma and Kaganda are from Fort Portal municipality which contravenes the Land Act that provides for one representative for the municipality.

“We would like to have more representation from the sub counties of Kabende, Kijura, Hakibale, Kasenda or Ruteete, which are very big but have no representation. These are predominantly Bakiga yet on the new members, there is no mukiga or mukonjo,” reads part of Katuramu’s petition.

Juma Hussein, a resident of Fort Portal also petitioned the Lands Ministry through his lawyers of Sanywa, Wabwire & Co. Advocates challenging the naming of Rwaheeru for appointment to the board. In his March 10th, 2020 petition, Hussein states that on February 6, 2020, he wrote to Kabarole Chief Administrative Officer – CAO, Phiona Sanyu asking her to interdict Rwaheeru after being charged with forgery in the Fort Portal Grade One Magistrate’s court.

“What is equally surprising is that on the 6th day of March 2020, upon receipt of our complaint over the interdiction of Mr. Rwaheeru Cyprian, the district executive committee of Kabarole district sat and decided to renew Mr Rwaheeru Cyprian’s contract as the chairman Kabarole district land board,” reads part of the petition.

He argues that Rwaheeru isn’t suitable to hold the office because of the pending charges against him and shouldn’t be approved until the courts of law clear him. As a result of the petition, Dorcus Okalany, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Lands has written to the CAO informing her that the proposed land board members have been rejected partly because of the petitions.

She also notes that the creation of Fort Portal tourism city means that the names that had been submitted to represent it while it was still a municipality and under Kabarole district have to be dropped and the process started afresh to find new members. She also advised that according to the Land Act, the District Land Board should consist of a minimum of five members including a chairperson, one member representing municipal councils, one member representing urban councils and one member from each county in the district.

“We have perused your file and names of members submitted have been overtaken by events and we request that you submit following the criteria above as we have observed that Kabarole is left with one county and four town councils,” reads part of Okalany’s letter.

It is against this background that the district has to date failed to have a land board leading to a backlog of requests for land titles and other tasks that are supposed to be performed by the board.  Angela Byangwa, the executive director Rwenzori Anti-Corruption Coalition says that she applied for a land tittle about seven months ago and has never got any response.

Byangwa notes that it is so frustrating and time consuming that a person can take so long to get a land title even after getting through a lengthy process simply because the district lacks a land board. The out-going deputy CAO Kabarole, Emmanuel Ssempala says there are dozens of applications for land tittles from the public but they cannot process them without a land board.

He says that as a way forward, they are considering requesting a land board from a neighboring district to handle the applications as they start the process of forming a new board. Kabarole district LCV chairperson, Richard Rwabuhinga blames the lands ministry for the lack of a land board saying there is no reason why they would submit names for approval in March and get a response at the end of July.

Rwabuhinga argues that if they had got a response on time, they would have already submitted new names. According to the 1998 Uganda Land Act, the functions of the district land board include holding and allocating land in the district which is not owned by any person or authority.

The others are to facilitate the registration and transfer of interests in land; take over the role and exercise the powers of the lessor in the case of a lease granted by a former controlling authority; and cause surveys, plans, maps, drawings and estimates to be made by or through its officers or agents.

Original Post: Independent Uganda

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How Kiryandongo land conflict has affected children

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Parents affected by the seven-year-old land conflict in Kiryandongo District have said hundreds of their children are facing hunger and lack of education.

The children have been forced out of school since 2017 and their parents, who derived livelihood mainly from cultivation, are now struggling to put food on the table since their land is now occupied by a ranch.

Currently, the farming families are now trapped in the middle of farms belonging to Agilis Partners, Great Season SMC Limited, and Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, who have set up ranches measuring about 9,300 acres in Mutunda and Kiryandongo sub-counties.

The ranch land had for long been occupied and farmed by more than 35,000 families who came to the area after they fled war and natural calamities from other districts in Uganda, according to Witness Radio, a non- governmental organisation.

Ms Esther Namuganza, a resident of Kimogoro Village, Mutunda Sub-county, lives with her five children in an area known as Ranch 20.

She recalls that on November 23, 2017, agents of Agilis Partners told the people living within Ranch 20 and 21 that it had acquired the land and that they would have to vacate.

“The first eviction took place on November 23, 2017. It was a Thursday. We grew big-headed and refused to vacate the ranches because we are the citizens of Uganda, we have nowhere to go,” she says.

Her family is one of a few that still remain on the land but with nowhere to grow food.

“We eat one meal a day and even at times we just take porridge. We don’t eat during the day to save for tomorrow. If you say I’m going to have lunch and supper, what about tomorrow?” Ms Namuganza wonders.

Annet Muganyizi, a former Senior Four student who dropped out of school in 2017, says all the schools, health facilities and water sources on the land have all been destroyed.

Mr John Byaruhanga of Nyamutende Village in Kiryandongo Sub-county said agriculture used to be their only source of livelihood in the ranches.

“When Agilis Partners came, everything changed for the worse. We were beaten, tortured and evicted at gunpoint. When we ask those armed men where they want us to go with our children and cattle, they just tell us to vacate. When you try to resist, they arrest you. I am one of those who have been arrested twice,” he says.

However, the spokesperson of Agilis Partners, Mr Emmanuel Onyango, earlier dismissed the allegations of unending forceful evictions.

“To be honest, I don’t know why people keep on accusing us of evictions yet we still have people residing on Ranch 20 and 21,” Mr Onyango said . He explained that if indeed they were evicting people, “there wouldn’t be anyone left on the land.”

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the Kiryandongo deputy RDC, said the Bunyoro land question cannot be sorted out without thinking about its history.

“We had 38 ranches here, which, on guidance of these international organisations, told the government to restructure the ranches. The ranches were restructured, people settled there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he said.

Source: Daily Monitor

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Chip in to take Bayer down!

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If the lawsuits keep on coming, it could finish off this brutal corporation – and send its bee-killing, cancer-linked chemicals into history.

But many of Bayer’s victims don’t have enough money to take them to court and get the justice they deserve. That’s where we come in.

If everyone reading this chips in just a small amount, we’d have enough to launch a powerful legal fund for Bayer’s victims – helping more desperate people access legal advice and get their day in court. Every win will get us closer to a future free of poisonous pesticides.

Can you chip in now to help take Bayer down?

Anything extra raised will power Ekō and our campaigns worldwide fighting for people and the planet.

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Oil project-affected persons express disappointment in Uganda judiciary

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The Tilenga and EACOP oil project-affected households have expressed deep disappointment over the failure of key stakeholders in Uganda’s judicial system to grant them audience to discuss their grievances stemming from a lawsuit filed against them by the government in December 2023.

In a press conference organized at Hotel Africana in Kampala, some members of the 42 of the families sued by the government claimed having travelled from Buliisa district to Kampala with the aim of meeting Norbert Mao, the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo and the deputy chief justice.

They also intended to meet the principal judge, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and others. Additionally, the households wanted to meet Total Energies’ managing director. However, they were unable to meet any of them, stating that their refusal indicated lack of responsiveness and dialogue on critical issues affecting the rights and livelihoods of project-affected people in the oil region.

According to a one Bamutuleki, one of the affected members, they had written letters to various stakeholders, including the ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the chief justice, deputy chief justice, principal judge, Judicial Service Commission (JSC), and Total Energies, seeking for a meeting to discuss their grievances. However, they were unable to meet any of them for a crucial discussion.

“This lack of interaction leaves us feeling neglected and unheard in our quest for justice and fair treatment in the face of potential evictions related to the oil projects,” Bamutuleki said.

Julius Asiimwe, another oil project-affected person, raised similar concerns about their failure to meet the key stakeholders in the judiciary to address their grievances.

“We are not happy with all these offices. We are aggrieved. We wrote them letters requesting for meetings on specific dates and none of them wrote back to us. Based on the reception we received at the offices we visited, we don’t think that the judiciary understands the implications of its actions on our families, and our children,” Asiimwe said.

The failure to meet any of the officials leaves the future of the affected households in uncertainty after the High court in Hoima gave the government a go-ahead to evict them from their land.

GENESIS

In December 2023, the government filed a lawsuit against the households affected by the Tilenga and East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) projects in Uganda. This was after the affected households had rejected the compensation offered by Total Energies, a French company, which was acquiring the land on behalf of the ministry of Energy, citing it as inadequate, unfair and low.

The affected people said the government valuation did not reflect the value of their land, and the impact of losing their property. They expressed their preference for land in exchange for their property rather than monetary compensation in order to maintain their livelihoods.

Additionally, they claimed it was a violation of Article 26 of the Ugandan Constitution, which protects property rights and ensures fair compensation. However, the rushed court processes led by Justice Jesse Byaruhanga of the High court in Hoima resulted in a judgment against the households within four days of the case being filed, which is arguably one of the fastest court cases to be resolved in Uganda in recent memory.

The court ruling stated that the people’s compensation could be deposited in court and the government could proceed and gain vacant possession of their land.

The affected households did not participate in the court hearing because some of them were even unaware that they had been sued.
According Bamutuleki, other project- affected persons could not travel to the court in Hoima, which was far away from Buliisa, due to the short notice provided for the hearing and their lack of financial resources to cover transportation costs.

“This lack of adequate notice and financial constraints hindered our ability to participate in the legal proceedings and defend our interests,” Bamutuleki pointed out.

Additionally, Bamutuleki stated that they were given a pile of legal documents by the court and no one was there to make the interpretation for them. Most of the project-affected persons are illiterate, a factor that made it harder for them to get a fair hearing.

UNCERTAINTY

Many families say their eviction from land for the Tilenga and East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) projects makes their future unknown given that land is their primary source of income.

While at the press conference, Jelousy Mugisha stated that their daily lives depend on the land for various aspects such as generating income, sending children to school, and accessing medical assistance.

“I have been using my land for many years now to take care of my family because I don’t earn any monthly salary. So, the government giving me money to leave my land and get a smaller one is completely unfair and unconstitutional,” he said.

The families highlighted that they weren’t fighting the government and its projects but only want a fair compensation for their land, which will restore them to their former positions. Mugisha stated that the money the government proposed in compensation for their land is completely low compared to the market prices of the land in the area.

“The size of my land that was acquired is 2.5 acres. The government wants to give me Shs 5 million per acre yet the market price for one acre is Shs 20 million in my area,” Mugisha said.

“If the government really wants the land, let it get us another land equivalent to what we had and we shall agree,” he said.

Dickens Kamugisha, the executive director of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), an organization that has been supporting the affected families for a long time, expressed deep concern over the plight of the poor families from the oil region who are facing injustices.

He emphasized the importance of all Ugandans to take a keen interest in their struggles, highlighting the broader implications of the government’s actions and court precedents that allow for the violation of constitutional rights and unfair treatment of landowners.

“As these poor families from the oil region suffer injustices today, all Ugandans should take a keen interest in their plight. With courts setting bad precedents that allow the government to violate Article 26 and other human rights provisions of the Ugandan Constitution, where affected landowners are forced to accept low, unfair, and inadequate compensation, and courts deny people fair hearings, any Ugandan could suffer the same fate,” he warned.

Despite facing legal battles, evictions, and disruptions to their livelihoods, these individuals remain resolute in their pursuit of a just resolution to their grievances.

Source: The Observer.

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