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Land Grabbing: Police Abetting the Big Steal, Minister Tells Land Inquiry Terrifying Tales Peasantry Live With




Have you ever imagined a situation where a would-be defender siding with your tormentor to finish you off? Well that is what Idah Nantaba, the former State Minster in charge of lands, told members of the Commission of Inquiry into Land matters in Uganda.

When she appeared before the commission being chaired by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire on May 27th, Nantaba, now the State Minister in charge of ICT and National Guidance pinned police on abetting land disputes that often turn into forceful evictions carried out by land-grabbers.

By law, the police have a cardinal mandate of protecting law and order. To starters, article 212 of the constitution of Uganda stipulates the functions of the police as; protecting life and property, preserve law and order, prevent and detect crime, among others.


According to Nantaba, land evictions being carried out by moneyed individuals and agribusiness companies, are being fuelled by among other government institutions, police officers, who are always deployed surrounding the disputed land so as to intimidate peasants.

“During our operations, we had to work with institutions like police, attorney General, office of RDCs, Administrator General’s office, District Land Boards, and many other offices, but we realized that one of the drivers of land disputes is the involvement of the institutions that are supposed to be helping in executing the mandates that are enshrined in the land-related laws.” Nantaba said.

She added that “Police for instance, we realized that it abets and aids the evictions… I will give a scenario where in Kayunga, one landlord who acquired land in 2008, was registered on a title through fraudulent means.”


Nantaba said that one day, hundreds of people and most importantly, bona fide occupants of the land in Kayunga District woke up on astonishing situation whereby one powerful man, whose identity she didn’t reveal, wanted them off the land that they had occupied for the last couple of decades.

The community members were distraught. But with scores of armed police officials, surrounding the disputed land, even stiff resistance to the eviction by the community, could not help the situation.

“This land was occupied by more than 1,000 people and he swings in with police escorted by the army, started assaulting these tenants who are lawful occupants,” Nantaba explained, “those who were resisting the eviction were arrested, dragged to courts of law, criminal cases were preferred against them instead of civil cases.”

In detailing her testimony, Nantaba explained that people were imprisoned on trumped up charges saying that “someone is accused of stealing goats, hitting cows that had been brought to eat people’s crops, demolished and burned people’s houses and up to now, some are even still in prison after more than seven years and I would want to escort this commission to these prisons and see them.”

But intriguingly, the peasants’ cases would dramatically change to be “aggravated robbery!”

But this kind of charges against peasants in Kayunga, worries Nantaba because to her knowledge, all the victims have never got to know how to touch a gun.

“We tried to rescue these people, but many of them are still in prison because they were charged with aggravated robbery,” Nantaba said, “A man who has never touched a gun, is charged with aggravated robbery?”

They had been imprisoned even before Nantaba became a state Minister for lands for five years, meaning that they have been behind the bars for more than seven years now.

Aggravated robbery means, the robber was armed with a deadly weapon such as a gun, had an accomplice, or actually inflicted serious bodily harm on the victim.

MINISTER NANTABATo worsen the situation, Nantaba said that even if this particular forceful eviction was successful, the claimant’s title on the contested land was still in a process of being awarded.

“But the man was saying that he is the owner of the disputed land yet the true landlord with a genuine title was there. The masquerader took the case to court but evictions were taking place at the same time,” Nantaba narrated.


With armed police surrounding the disputed land, on top of ongoing trumped-up charges in courts, there was nothing that hundreds of peasants who lost their land could do, except stand by and watch helplessly as their property was claimed for development and desperately fleeing it for nowhere thereafter.

“So, when others are thrown in courts and imprisoned, the rest on the ground are intimidated and they end up packing bags and leave. So, the aggressiveness and involvement of police in aiding these land grabbers fuels land disputes.” Nantaba said.

Such cases of imprisoning victims of land grabbing by grabbers are not limited to Kayunga, but they are also common in Mubende district with many of the victims languishing for no genuine crimes.


Nantaba, also accused fellow leaders in various government agencies of conniving with RDCs, top people in government or sometimes, picking bribes.

She confessed that, “Some of us, leaders in connivance with the office of the RDCs [Resident District Commissioners], sometimes, we also side with other big people in government and sometimes, we are bribed.”
“I saw bribes coming to me where I was being told to take a certain amount and shut up. So, you either shut up by bribe, or you fear the person who is evicting people because of his position in the army, police or in government…” Nantaba added.

One of the causes, according to Nantaba is “ignorance” of the land law vis-à-vis their rights, thus giving grabbers leeway to deprive peasants of their land.

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Breaking: Witness Radio and Partners to Launch Human Rights Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy Project Tomorrow.



By Witness Radio Team.

Witness Radio, in collaboration with Dan Church Aid (DCA) and the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD), is set to launch the Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy for Human Rights in Uganda (MDA-HRU) project tomorrow, 22nd February 2024, at Kabalega Resort Hotel in Hoima District.

The project, funded by the European Union, aims to promote the protection and respect for human rights, and enable access to remedy where violations occur especially in the Mid-Western and Karamoja sub-regions where private sector actors are increasingly involved in land-based investments (LBIs) through improved documentation, and evidence-based advocacy.

The three-year project, which commenced in October 2023, focuses its activities in the Mid-Western sub-region, covering Bulisa, Hoima, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Kikuube, Kagadi, Kibale, and Mubende districts, and Karamoja sub-region, covering Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Nabilatuk, Abim, Kaabong, Kotido, and Karenga districts.

The project targets individuals and groups at high risk of human rights violations, including Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs). It also engages government duty bearers such as policymakers and implementers in relevant ministries and local governments, recognizing their crucial role in securing land and environmental rights. Additionally, the project involves officials from institutional duty bearers including the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Equal Opportunities Commission, and courts, among others.

Representatives from the international community, faith leaders, and business actors are also included in the project’s scope, particularly those involved in land-based investments (LBIs) impacting the environment.

The project was initially launched in Moroto for the Karamoja region on the 19th of this month with the leadership of the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD).

According to the project implementors,  the action is organized into four activity packages aimed at; enhancing the capacity and skills of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs) in monitoring, documentation, reporting (MDR), and protection, establishing and reinforcing reporting and documentation mechanisms for advocacy and demand for corporate and government accountability;  providing response and support to HRDs and marginalized communities; and lastly facilitating collaboration and multi-stakeholder engagements that link local and national issues to national and international frameworks and spaces.

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Kiryandongo leadership agree to partner with Witness Radio Uganda to end rampant forced land evictions in the district.



By Witness Radio team.

Kiryandongo district leaders have embraced Witness Radio’s collaboration with the Kiryandongo district aimed at ending the rampant violent and illegal land evictions that have significantly harmed the livelihoods of the local communities in the area.

The warm welcome was made at the dialogue organized by Witness Radio Uganda, Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog at the Kiryandongo district headquarters, intended to reflect on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

Speaking at the high-level dialogue, that was participated in by technical officers, policy implementers, religious leaders, leaders of project affected persons (PAPs), politicians, media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and development partners that support land and environment rights as well as the Land Based Investments (LBIs) Companies in the Kiryandongo district, the leaders led by the District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Ms. Edith Aliguma Adyeri appreciated the efforts taken by Witness Radio organization to organize the dialogue meeting aimed at bringing together stakeholders to safeguard community land and environmental rights in order address the escalating vice of land grabbing in the area.

During the dialogue, participants shared harrowing accounts of the impacts of land evictions and environmental degradation, including tragic deaths, families torn asunder, young girls forced into marriage, a surge in teenage pregnancies, limited access to education, and significant environmental damage which have profoundly affected the lives of the local population in Kiryandongo.

Participants attending the dialogue.

In recent years, Kiryandongo district has been embroiled in violent land evictions orchestrated to accommodate multinational large-scale agriculture plantations and wealthy individuals leaving the poor marginalized.

According to various reports, including findings from Witness Radio’s 2020 research Land Grabs at a Gun Point, the forceful land acquisitions in Kiryandongo have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 individuals have been displaced from their land to make room for land-based investments in the Kiryandongo district. However, leaders in the district also revealed in the dialogue that women and children are affected most.

The Kiryandongo Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Jonathan Akweteireho, emphasized that all offices within the Kiryandongo district are actively involved in addressing the prevalent land conflicts. He also extended a welcome to Witness Radio, acknowledging their collaborative efforts in tackling and resolving land and environmental issues in the district.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that the land rights together with environmental rights have been violated in our district, but because we don’t know what our rights are, because we have not directly done what we could to safeguard our rights and now this is the time that Witness Radio has brought us together to safeguard our rights. I want to welcome you in Kiryandongo and be rest assured that we shall give you all the necessary support to help us manage these rampant cases,” Ms. Adyeri said in her remarks during the dialogue meeting.

The team leader at Witness Radio Uganda, Mr. Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala expressed gratitude to the participants for their active involvement in the dialogue and revealed that Witness Radio’s objective is to find a holistic solution to the escalating land disputes in Kiryandongo district serving as an example to other districts.

“We are here to assist Kiryandongo district in attaining peace and stability because it stands as a hotspot for land grabbers in Uganda. Mismanagement of land conflicts in Uganda could potentially lead to a significant internal conflict. Everywhere you turn, voices are lamenting the loss of their land and property. Kiryandongo, abundant with ranches, suffers from a lack of a structured framework, which amplifies these land conflicts. The influx of wealthy investors further complicates the situation,” Mr. Ssebaggala disclosed.

Within the dialogue, Mr. Ssebaggala emphasized the need for the Kiryandongo district council to pass a by-law aimed at curbing land evictions as an initial step in addressing the prevalent land injustices.

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Kiryandongo authorities decry rising cases of land disputes



The LC5 chairperson of Kiryandongo, Ms Edith Aliguma Adyeri, has saidnland dispute has impacted on people’s lives, dignity and children’s education in the district.

Just like other parts of Uganda, conflicts over land in Kiryandongo arise when individuals – who often are blood relatives – compete for use of the same parcel of land or when members of the community lay claim over ownership of unutilised government land.

Ms Adyeri further said land and environmental rights affect people both directly and indirectly, “and we are not hearing it from afar. It is already together with us [here], it has already affected us!”

She was speaking at a meeting which sought to discuss alternative remedies to salvage the appalling land and environmental rights situation in Kiryandongo at the district headquarters on Thursday.

The one-day dialogue was aimed at reflecting on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

It was attended by private companies, members of civil society and local government officials and organised by Witness Radio – an advocate for land and environmental rights in Uganda – in partnership with Oxfam, and Kiryandongo District leadership.

“Some people have even died, families are broken up, and brothers are not seeing eye-to-eye because of land rights. Access to justice is equally becoming very difficult because when you hire one lawyer that
lawyer will talk to learned friends, and they agree. They leave you in suspense,” Ms Adyeri said.

According to her, some children have not accessed education because of land and environmental rights.

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the deputy Resident District Commissioner of Kiryandongo, said enlightened people especially should be sensitive to the historical injustice of this area.

“We can never handle the Bonyoro land question without thinking about that history. It will be an injustice to the incomers, to the government and to the leaders who don’t understand,” he said.

“We had 38 ranches here which on the guidance of these international organisations, especially the World Bank, the government restructured them, allowing people to settle there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he added.

Mr Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the executive director of Witness Radio, said that a well-functional land sector supports land users or holders and investors, reduces inefficiencies and provides mechanisms to resolve land disputes.

Mr David Kyategeka, the secretary to the Kiryandongo District Land Board, said the issue of land rights is very clear but the major challenge has been sensitising the locals to know what rights he or she expects to enjoy out of this very important resource.


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