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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Kiryandongo land eviction saga takes new twist as District Leadership defy Museveni on resettling victims

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Victims of an unprecedented land fraud that has allegedly seen over 35,000 people evicted from government land in Kiryandongo will have to postpone their celebrations after President’s directive to have them resettled was defied by the district leadership.

Joseph Walekula, the leader of the group that claims to have been rendered homeless as a result of government giving out their land to two investment companies – Agilis, owned by an American agricultural investor and Kiryandongo Sugar, says he had led a group of over 100 people to Kampala to meet the State Minister for Lands Persis Namuganza on Tuesday 25.

“At the time of the meeting, she was scheduled to meet with the President, and we briefed her with all the documentary and pictorial envidance,” explained Walekula with loads of disappointment in his voice. Later on in the day, Walekura says ” The Minister called and informed us that the President had received our concerns and was greatly perturbed by the occurrences. The president thus ordered for an immediate attention to the matter to find solutions to the problem.”

On Wednesday 26th, an impromptu meeting was called to address the matter at the office of the Prime Minister.

The Meeting which was Chaired by General Moses Ali was among others attended by Lands Minister Beti Olive Namisango Kamya, State Minister for Lands, Persis Namuganza,Internal Affairs Minister General Jeje Odongo, some officials from the Ministry of Security, and others from the Ministry of Relief and disaster preparedness among others.

In the meeting, the victims were accorded audience to present their grievances, which were to shocking to the honourable Ministers. Convinced by the Victims about their plight, the meeting resolved that immediate attention should be given the matter and thus ordered among others;

That the Victims be resettled to any other place and be given all due facilitation in form of food and essential goods for their livelihood for one month as government seeks to find a permanent solution.

That further evictions be halted as fresh guidelines are introduced to guide future business following an appropriate mechanism that would guarantee a peaceful well laid resettlement plan.

It was also resolved that the group be given ample Security as they raised fears over their safety on return to Kiryandongo. The officials in attendance from the Security Ministry were tasked to see to it that this recommendation gets implemented.

The Ministry of Relief and Disaster Preparedness offered to accommodate the victims at Center Dip land which is under the refugee commission in Kiryandongo.

The group were given 200 bags of Rice, 200 bags of rice and 100 saucepans to feed on while in the camp that would be set up by the line Ministry. They were given some money to meet their transport costs and asked to return to Kiryandongo and wait for the items to be delivered to them at the agreed camping site.

On their return however, the group were dismayed to see that nothing was happening in line of the Kampala recommendations and upon inquiring from Minister Namuganza, they were told that there had been a change in the program and thus they needed to wait for any further communication.

They have since been blocked  From accessing the land which  had been offered to them to set  their camps pending a permanent solution from the Center Government.

“We have been informed by the Chairmen LC 1 that he has received orders from above to prevent us from accessing the land that we were supposed to occupy as per the directive from Kampala,” Explained Emmanuel Agarubanda, one of the victims.

The group accuses the district leadership of trying to sabotage their efforts of getting back to their normal life.

“The leaders at the district have deliberately told lies to the officials in Kampala because they too are implicated in these illegal evictions. They are the very people who are collaborating with the land grabbers in exchange for monetary gains,” explained Walekula.

The group also vowed to fight untiringly until they will get Justice even when it’s very risky fighting with the big men who have both wealth and influence in their armouries.

“They are accusing us for going to Kampala without involving them yet they have frustrated our efforts for a long time. We are collecting signatures and more evidence so we can go back to Kampala and prove our claim and also expose their lies,” said Walekula.

The RDC of Kiryandongo District, Peter Debele has however informed this website that the leaders of this group are scammers whose only aim is to defraud the government and the investors for money. He said that most of the people claiming to have been evicted are actually the same people that have been compensated undeservedly more than once.

“They are crooks who have been scheming to get money unscrupulously from investors using any possible means available available. We have documentary evidence to attest to the same and we shall not have their way just like that,” vowed the President’s envoy from Kiryandongo.

The RDC also faulted some political leaders for trying to create tension and fear in the area by instigating land rows in the district. He said that some of these people are intentionally mobilised by some politicians as a way of fighting others, adding that there have not been any such evictions in the district as alleged by the media in Kampala.

This comes after the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga coming out to decry the rampant evictions in the District on Tuesday 25th February, doubting reports by some officials at the District which claimed that the victims are people who had settled there after the investors had already taken up the land in question.

“If you say these people occupied the land without the due process, where was government when they were construction 14 schools, churches on the land,” asked the Speaker during a House session on Tuesday.

 

Source: Watchdog Uganda

Defending Land And Environmental Rights

State fails to produce a key witness, prematurely closes its prosecution in the trial of the eight land rights defenders

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By the Witness Radio team,

The state prematurely closed its prosecution in the trial of the eight community land rights defenders after it failed to produce its last witness, the Investigating Officer (IO).

Mwawula Fred, Ramu Ndahimana, Samuel Kusiima, Martin Munyansia, Martin Haweka, Amos Wafula, Eliot Talemwa, and George Rwakabisha are facing a charge of threatening violence, which attracts a four-year sentence upon conviction.

Upon closure of the prosecution, the defense lawyers applied for the dismissal of the case for want of prosecution, adding the evidence before the court too weak to sustain a conviction

The court has directed the defense to file its written submission and serve the prosecution by 10th February 2022.

Since 2020, the prosecution has only presented two witnesses, which resulted in the trial being marred with unnecessary adjournments and transfers of trial magistrates.

The prosecution alleges that on September 4th, 2020, the eight community rights defenders, while at Kisalanda village, allegedly threatened to harm one of the police officers guarding Great Season SMC Limited’s plantation.

Great seasons SMC Limited is one of the multinationals that have forcefully evicted thousands of local farmers and criminalized activities of community land rights defenders for resisting illegal and forceful evictions of poor communities in the Kiryandongo district. The others include Kiryandongo Sugar Company and Agilis Partners Limited.

The court will rule on the application to dismiss the case on the 20th of March 2022

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Mubende police arrest and charge farmers that workers of a tree-planting company attacked.

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By Witness Radio team

Five smallholder farmers have been arrested and charged with malicious damage by Mubende police, Witness Radio Uganda has learned.

The victim farmers include; Kabuka Levi, Lubwama Robert, Bulegeya Erisa, Byakatonda David, and Byamukama Yuda are among the victims of the company attacks. Upon arrest, they (victims) recorded statements and later were released on police bond.

Before their arrest, the farmers had opened several cases against their tormentors (company workers) for attacking and destroying their properties worth millions of Shillings. Several files were opened including SD.ref/09/07/12/2022 and SD.ref/12/07/12/2022 against company workers. However, to their surprise, the police made a U-turn and got them arrested.

On December 7th, 2022, in the wee hours of that day, a group of over 20 casual workers linked to Formosa limited, a tree planting company based in Mubende district attacked several families, properties like houses and food crop plantations were destroyed, and several farmers were severely beaten with intentions of forcing them off their land.

“When we reached Mubende police, we were all arrested and interrogated for almost an hour before recording statements on malicious damage charges. The company reported that we cut its trees and had photos as evidence which we did not do.” Mr. Kabuka Levi told Witness Radio in an interview.

In the meantime, the same company in 2017 caused the arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of 5 community land rights defenders for 15 years and 35 years on murder and other charges. The five include; Paul Sinamenya, Richard Ssemombwe, Fenehansi Kaberuka, Esau Hategeka, Godfrey Bukenya, Yonnah Ssebanenya, and Sserugo Sam Ssemigo.

Witness Radio appealed against the conviction of 5 defenders for review and is waiting on the appellant court to set the hearing date of the case.

Since 2011, Formasa company under the protection of private security guards and the police has grabbed 2590 hectares that were a source of livelihood for hundreds of poor communities.

The land grabbing has affected over ten (10) villages including Butoro, Kyedikyo, Nakasozi, Namayindi, Kitebe, Kisiigwa, Mukiguluka, Busaabala, and Kicucuulo located both in Maduddu and Butoloogo sub-counties in Mubende district.

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Community land rights defenders that have been on trial since 2020; are set to return to court this January.

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By Witness Radio Team.

The criminal trial of eight (8) Community land rights defenders on charges of threatening violence is to resume on the 23rd of January 2022, with the state producing its final witness.

The defense lawyers are preparing a submission of no case to answer upon closure of the prosecution’s case because of the insufficiency of the case.

So far, the prosecution has presented two witnesses before the court since 2020, whose trial sessions have been marred with unnecessary adjournments and transfers of hearing magistrates.

The eight community land rights defenders include; Mwawula Fred, Ramu Ndahimana, Samuel Kusiima, Martin Munyansia, Martin Haweka, Amos Wafula, Eliot Talemwa, and George Rwakabisha were charged with threatening violence, a charge that attracts a four-year sentence upon conviction.

The prosecution alleges that on September 4th, 2020, the eight and others, while at Kisalanda village, allegedly threatened to harm one of the police officers guarding Great Season SMC Limited’s plantation.

In November 2020, the prosecution disclosed to defense lawyers and informed the court that investigations were closed and the prosecutor’s chambers were ready to proceed to trial.

Great seasons SMC Limited is one of the multinationals that have forcefully evicted thousands of local people and later criminalized activities of smallholder farmers that have resisted illegal evictions in the Kiryandongo district. The others include Kiryandongo Sugar Company and Agilis Partners Limited.

The trial will start at 10 am East African Time.

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