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Accountable Development To Communities

Kaweri coffee investment shatters the dreams of a budding businessman.

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By Witness Radio Team

Mr. Lawrence Sekirigi, 76 is one of the thousands of smallholder farmers in Mubende whose dreams of blossoming life were fluttered by the infamous Kaweri Coffee Plantation development.  He is a teary one that represents a million Ugandans who have been disposed of or are on the verge of being disposed of.

Acreages of plantations of maize, cassava, potatoes, beans, groundnuts, and bananas that sprouted on his 16 acres of land in the early 2000s painted the right picture of Lawrence’s passion and love for farming.

Ruggedly handsome, fairly aged, and a smooth dark chocolate-colored man with a farming family background adopted the income-generating activity in his youthful stages after dropping out of school for lack of school fees. Armed with an inheritance of 16 acres curved from 40 acres of family land, he ventured into farming earning him Uganda Shillings Five Million, roughly (1,290.47 United States Dollars) in a season.

The past good memories still linger in his mind. With his lifetime inheritance, he grew a variety of crops that he could sell and earn a living and feed his family. To him, growth was the question of “when” but not “whether”. He had a dream of expanding his enterprise and becoming a household name in modern farming.

“My harvests were always in plenty because of good soils and other related factors. My dreams were definitely to grow bigger in business than I was, with many stores supplying both grains and food countrywide. I was one of the richest men here in Kitemba. I achieved this through farming” he narrates with a nostalgic tone.

Those days are now gone but cannot be wished away. As a selfless businessman, he supplied grains and food to hotels in Mubende, Kaweri Prison, restaurants, and Madudu production farm all based in Mubende district before government soldiers and anti-riot police grabbed his land for Kaweri Coffee Investment.

Kaweri coffee plantation farm is owned by Germany-based Neumann Kaffee Gruppe, which according to its website, has 49 companies and with presence in 27 countries. It operates large-scale coffee plantations in Kitemba, Luwunga, Kijunga, and Kiryamakobe villages in Mubende District, Central Uganda.

On a fateful day in 2001, the Ugandan bulldozers under the watch of the army and anti-riot police began moving into the settlements of villagers in Kaweri to clear the area for coffee growing. Property worth millions and cultural sites belonging to residents were razed by the army. This happened with no prior consultations, compensation, or resettlements.

When we visited Lawrence at his new home in Luwunga where he relocated, the toothless, and grey-haired man sat between the muddy kitchen and a house with old iron sheets. Clad in a dirty-pink-like squared shirt and black denim trousers munched away on sweet potatoes and yams mixed with beans.

It was 4:45 pm and now it was coming to dusk.  He murmured something to my ears. He revealed how his family has been forced to ration food to survive. They survive on a meal a day. He looked weary, hopeless, and worried. The land grab has left a huge scar in his life.

Lawrence is not alone. Barely two decades later, many people, are living desperate lives. The so-called Kaweri coffee developments rendered many of them homeless, landless, or even useless in their own country.

Thousands of people are scattered everywhere trying to find ends meet for their families. They leave in temporary settlements of muddy houses, and makeshifts in areas where they settled. Others work at the farms of Kaweri coffee to bring food to the plate for their families. However, their payment is low depending on the work they do. They earn 5100 shillings a day equivalent to 1.33 USD upon the completion of the assigned task. If one does not complete the task in a day, he is not paid till he completes it, the next day.

“Most of my friends are suffering, they don’t have where to live, a cause brought about by Kaweri Coffee. People were well before this meaning less development brought by the government.” Ssekirigi added.

“My dreams were completely brought to an end. I am currently staying on land provided to me by a friend. I have nothing in life, and cannot fulfill my responsibilities as a man. I also wanted my 16 children to get the best education which I did not get but this was also not possible.” He shares with regret.

He added that “what hurts me most is that my father and mother plus other relatives buried on our grabbed land were destroyed by the bulldozers during the evictions. A total of 48 graveyards were destroyed. They did not allow us to exhume and transfer our beloved ones who had occupied the grabbed land in the 1930s. My crops, animals including 4pigs, 4 cows and 12 birds were looted by officers, and 32 iron sheets house were destroyed during the hurried and forced evictions.”

Roughly, 4000 smallholder farmers were evicted without prior consultation, compensation, and resettlement by the Ugandan government. The government claimed it had bought land from the landlord Emmanuel Bukko Kayiwa.

The government which leased Kaweri 2512 hectares of land forcefully evicted residents and told them that they would be resettled on another piece of land equivalent in size to the land that each had.

However, Kaweri said the government compensated all those residents who were willing to vacate the land. A brief account of events by Kaweri coffee plantation that Witness Radio has had the opportunity to see indicates that some people were compensated by the government and the rest were relocated.

“In addition, Kaweri demanded to see receipts of the compensation payments as a precondition. These receipts were all produced: each compensation is documented and signed by the recipient, the village leader, the Resident District Commissioner, and the lawyers of the buyer and seller. The compensation comprised either allocation of new plots of land and free transport to the new plot of land or monetary compensation. Overall, compensation in the form of land was provided to 102 families. Another 64 families were given monetary compensation because they did not live in the area but did farmland.” it reads in part.

Witness Radio contacted the Managing Director of Kaweeri coffee, Mr. Etienne Jacobsz Steyn to clarify the eviction. He said he had nothing to report on nor did not have time for us since he was busy.

In what the government and Kaweri called compensation or resettlement, Mr. Kayiira Peter Bakaleke the Chairman of the evicted communities said they were lured into signing agreements that read of their relocation to Kambuye village. The agreement further mentioned that they would be given the same acreage of land as what they were evicted from. This, according to Kayiira did not happen.

“This didn’t happen. People were not compensated and neither were we relocated. The government and Kaweeri coffee plantation are telling lies. People are still suffering.” Kayiira elaborated.

Mr. Ssendagire Geoffrey the area Chairperson of Local Council II in Kanseera Ward said people were never compensated and rejected being given 50×100 ft. plots.

“It was a traumatizing experience. It left many of them depressed. Many of them had over 20 acres and big families. They wondered how they could stay on that land.” the chairman added.

The purported land for relocation was eventually grabbed by a businessman in Mubende Kaweesi George, the area chairperson confirmed

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Accountable Development To Communities

A reference filed by CSOs against the planned construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) is set for hearing.

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By Witness Radio Team

Four East African Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have petitioned the regional court of justice, seeking both temporary and permanent injunctions against the planned construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP)

The reference submitted by the Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT), Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Natural Justice-Kenya, and Center for Strategic Litigation in Tanzania highlights significant issues including threatening local livelihoods, food security, public health, biodiversity and the global climate that have failed to be addressed by both the governments of Uganda and Tanzania.

According to the reference filed on the 6th of November 2022, the governments of Uganda, and Tanzania and the Secretary General of the East African Community have violated environmental laws, human rights obligations, and regional agreements, in authorizing French oil giant, Total, to build a massive oil pipeline from Hoima, Uganda to Tanga, Tanzania.

For years, communities and civil societies have echoed concerns over the impacts of the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project which has affected thousands in Uganda and Tanzania. Human rights organizations claim French energy giant Total and its partner China National Offshore Oil Corporation involved in the $3.5 billion EACOP have failed to fully address concerns raised by the project to host communities.

The 1,443km people crude oil export pipeline which is expected to impact over 118000 people will transport Uganda’s crude oil from Hoima in Uganda to Tanga port in Tanzania.

The project will cross through 10 districts in Uganda, a distance of 296 kilometers, and 25 districts in Tanzania, covering eight regions, and 25 districts is estimated to be the longest electrically heated pipeline in the world.

Its impact has largely been witnessed by the PAPs, leaders, and human rights activists opposing the project including land grabbing, harassment, and arrests of community leaders and rights activists.

“Construction of the pipeline will destroy farmland, disrupt livelihoods and exacerbate food insecurity. Thousands of people are to be displaced and have already been told not to set up or plant any long-term structures or crops and yet they have not been given any compensation yet. These impacts are set to cause major social disruption and erode social cohesion, leading to increased poverty in areas affected by the EACOP in Uganda and Tanzania.” The reference reveals in part.

The reference further adds that the pipeline will traverse protected forests, such as the Wambabya and Bugoma reserves, and endanger numerous water sources of great importance to millions of people in East Africa, including Lake Victoria. The pipeline passes along the Lake Victoria basin which is a major water source for millions in not only East Africa but the whole of the African region. This risks and exposes Lake Victoria and River Nile to danger through oil spills and pollution. The EACOP will also significantly impact biodiversity and put numerously vulnerable and endangered species native to Uganda and Tanzania at risk, including elephants, lions, and giraffes.

The EACOP has been widely criticized by civil societies and other actors advocating for the rights of affected people expressing the unaddressed concerns the project is likely to expose to the host communities.

On the 14th of September 2022, the European Union Parliament passed an advisory resolution to suspend the oil pipeline for a year citing disastrous human and environmental rights violations associated with the project.

According to the resolutions by the European Parliament legislators, the oil pipeline has caused the displacement of people from their land without fair compensation, caused harassment, criminalization, intimidation, and arrests of human rights defenders, and closure of NGOs, and is likely to endanger the nature reserves and habitats.

The case is scheduled to be heard in Kampala on the 11th of November 2022.

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Accountable Development To Communities

The private sector, civil society organizations, government bodies, and development partners are to meet and discuss how to strengthen responsible business conduct in Uganda.

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By Witness Radio team.

For years, victim communities, and community land and environment defenders in Uganda have been facing negative impacts and reprisals arising from business investments. These investments often require large sizes of land and the government occasionally takes the responsibility to acquire land for these investments. However, the acquisitions or allocations of public or community land tend to leave the communities past retrieval.

Communities are faced with devastating impacts ranging from environmental challenges such as pollution of air and water, forceful evictions, and unfulfilled pledges such as good jobs that not only cause damages to their lives but also to the future generations.

Recently, a government entity the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) wanted to expand the Lubigi drainage project with funds from the World Bank. But, during the initial stages of land acquisitions, the KCCA hid under the public health Act, Cap 281Act, to evict the people and then smoothly expand the drainage channel. This happened without sensitization, compensation, or resettlement of the project-affected persons.

According to documents seen by Witness Radio Uganda and testimonies from the affected communities, they had lived on the land for many years and were surprised to face eviction threats.

Continuously members of this community continue facing retaliation for their resistance to the land grab for the infrastructural project. Ever since the project began, community land defenders have been persecuted for their works and subjected to false charges including fraud, simple robbery and currently continue to report at police and courts over the charges. In contrast, others are on run for their dear lives.

Similarly in the Mubende district, a Chinese company has rendered thousands homeless over since it started its tree planting activities in 2011. Formosa tree planting company is planting eucalyptus and pine trees within the district. Over 12 villages have suffered the worst of this so-called development. These include; Butoro, Kyedikyo, Nakasozi, Namayindi, Kitebe, Kisiigwa, Namagadi, Mukiguluka, Busaabala, Ngabano, and Kicucuulo located both in Maduddu and Butoloogo sub-counties and those that resisted continuing to face violent threats from the company and its workers.

At least seven community land rights defenders since 2018 are languishing in jails for crimes they did not perform. According to the residents, the Formosa Company is responsible for false charges against the defenders. They were arrested for 15- 35 years.

“Wounds caused by Formosa 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 struggles. And again they came threatening to kill us if we did not move off our land. We have lived and occupied this land for decades.” Cecilia Namawejje revealed this to Witness Radio researchers.

Communities still grapple with these related outcomes, sadly those who advocate for their rights are arrested for sabotaging the projects. These and other related issues are expected to be discussed by participants in a two-day 4th symposium on business and human rights on November 9th and 10th 2022.

The 4th annual symposium that will be held at Imperial Royale Hotel Kampala will bring together more than 100 stakeholders across Uganda and beyond to advance responsible business and human rights agenda in the region.

The symposium organized by Resource Rights Africa (RRA) and partners will bring together private sector players, government actors, academia, media, civil society, and local community representatives from Karamoja and Tooro regions to explore how accountability and remedy mechanisms for business-related human rights abuses can be enhanced to advance respect for people and the planet in the next decade.

The symposium is based on the theme “Strengthening Responsible Business Conduct in Uganda to advance respect for people and planet in the next decade.”

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Accountable Development To Communities

NFA land giveaway bonanza turns Luweero farmers into destitute.

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By Witness Radio Team

Land evictions in Uganda spiral and are a thorn in the lives of many poor Ugandan communities whose entire livelihood thrives on substance farming.

The government, and its agencies, especially the National Forest Authority (NFA), have been singled out by communities for aiding forced evictions to give way for land-based investments by the untouchable wealthy local and foreign investors.

The insatiable thirst for carbon credit schemes has left many smallholder farmer communities grappling with the life-threatening effects of violent land grabs masterminded by the National Forest Authority and fueled by unpoliced and loitering international funding.

The continuous evictions have left millions of indigenous and local smallholder farmers homeless and landless. Uganda’s National Forestry Authority has been cited in several cases for donating land occupied by communities to investors (both local and foreign) for planting trees in the name of reforestation of depleted forests for carbon credits.

Over 2900 acreages in the Luweero district belonging to residents were donated to investors to grow eucalyptus and pine trees while part of the said land is occupied by a goat farm.

Every time a conversation about NFA crops up, Topi Nalwoga is a taken-back to the 2015 eviction by NFA in Yandwe, Butuntumula Sub-County, Luweero district. It disintegrated her community and deprived her of human interaction. What used to be homes to friends and relatives is now littered with trees. Neither was she spared.  Her home is in the middle of a tree plantation.

Nalwoga said before the evictions would harvest coffee, maize, matooke, and mangoes from six acres of land to educate and provide for her family of 7.

This practice is not different in other parts of the country. On a fateful day of 18th May 2019, in Luweero, Yandwe village woke up under the invasion of armed soldiers and police who burnt houses and razed down their gardens claiming they were illegally occupying Mbale Central Forest Reserve land.

A 49-year-old, former landlord is now a casual laborer on nearby plantations to put food on the table for her family. In a day, Topi earns 5,000 Uganda Shillings (equivalent to 1.31 USD) explaining that it cannot meet all her family’s needs. Before, she was earning about 1,000,000 Million Uganda Shillings (about 262.62 dollars) from her proceeds in a season.

“I spend my daily wages on food.  My children no longer go to school because we have been turned into slaves in our own country,” she revealed.

Her settlement on the land has a lineage bond. Her grandfather Mr. Kosia Katula occupied the grabbed land in 1921 before its gazettement as a forest reserve. Later in 1944, her father was born and inherited the land.

The NFA gazetted the Mbale Central Forest Reserve in 1967 when people had already settled on it. This accordingly meant that the community had to be consulted, compensated, or resettled before the evictions.

Her story is not different from the other 700 community members who lost their source of livelihood in NFA evictions in the same area.

Some of the residents that have resisted the forceful evictions were barred from using the land. About 9 families have their houses trapped in the middle of the tree plantations laboring elsewhere to feed their families.

Mr. Wilson Kabiira who had 20 acres says he was denied access to his land. He said the NFA employed gangs to beat people who had refused to vacate the land.

“My family is starving because I have nowhere to work from, when they find you attempting to do any work on the land, they beat you and raze down your crops,” he added.

He added, “Our young girls have been married because ideally, they dropped out of school, families do not have food and many of them have separated as a result.

During the evictions, people lost property worth millions. The community says the NFA did not consult, or compensate them for their land.

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