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DEFENDING LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS

LOCKDOWN LAND EVICTIONS: KCCA is using the World Bank funding to grab my land…

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A joint image of a house marked with X for demolition and a garden that was razed down by KCCA during the eviction.

By witnessradio.org Team

On Thursday at 7 am, December, 3rd  2020 a group of 15 armed policemen cladding anti-riot uniforms together with several staff members of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) raided Kawaala Zone II village, ordered hundreds of residents to vacate their properties after issuing eviction notices without any prior notice or consultations.

KCCA is established by an Act of Parliament, KCCA Act, 2010, which mandates it to provide the governance and administrative framework for Kampala, enhance infrastructure and institutional capacity of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and improve urban mobility for inclusive economic growth.

On a fateful day, KCCA staff under the protection of the anti-riot police moved to Kawaala and earmarked their property for demolition by affixing the letter X.

Ndola Simon, not real name due to fear of retaliation is one of the project affected community member remembers that KCCA raided their village at a time he was at his home preparing to go to the garden.

After receiving the shocking news from one of his neighbors, he rushed to where the KCCA team had reached to witness what was happening, only to find KCCA was issuing eviction notices in English to all village members with an ultimatum of 28 days.

“When I reached there, I asked them (KCCA) why they were doing it but they threatened to arrest me if I interrupted with their plans. I think these people had planned a land grab, they did not know which people to issue the notices to. They would just ask who you are, write the names on the notices and then serve you,” he said.

Witness Radio – Uganda’s findings reveal that the eviction notice was issued “under the section72 (1) of the Public Health Act cap 281 which states that, in the event of contravention of any of the public health rules related to the erection of buildings, the local authority, without prejudice has the right to take proceedings for a fine in respect of the contravention and may by notice require the owner either to pull down or remove the works” according to one of the Witness Radio – Uganda’s legal officers, Ms. Joan Buryelari.

She further explained that the eviction notice stopped community members from carrying out any activity on the land and putting down their structures before the elapsing of 28 days.

Ndola said he’s a bonafide occupant who inherited the property from his parents who lawfully lived and cultivated their land as early as the 1930s.

Barely two days after the issuance of an eviction notice, KCCA, under the protection of armed police proceeded to evict the residents from their land to pave way for the expansion and construction of the Lubigi drainage channel.

And, Ndola is one of those whose pieces of land were taken. The 50-year-old and a father of 8 said, confirmed that none of the residents were aware of the reasons behind the December 3rd eviction until Witness Radio – Uganda lawyers informed them that KCCA is using the World Bank funding to grab their land and construct a drainage channel.

He revealed that he was one of the victims of the Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP) phase 1 when KCCA diverted the channel from its originality into his property, which caused flooding and destroyed his properties.

“When we raised the alarm to KCCA administration during the first phase (KIIDP I) about the damage their project was causing to us, they instead offered to give us inconvenience fees and promised that KCCA will compensate us for other damages upon the resumption of the second phase (KIIDP 2), which they have been waiting to come but, see how they are stealing from the people they are supposed to serve…” said Ndola.

He further said that both projects have worsened his life, grabbed his land, and destroyed food crops including beans, cassava, coffee, maize, potatoes, bananas, and yams without compensation.

Following the interventions from Witness Radio – Uganda and their partners, which took the project affected people’s concerns to the court and before the World Bank, KCCA instead moved to undertake a forceful survey.

“The unidentified surveyors upon coming to my land told me that they were not interested in measuring my entire land. They used uncoordinated methods and moved away. From the onset, I refused to accept the outcome of their exercise and since we do not have a committee to address my grievances, I decided to work with our lawyers to stop such illegalities” narrated Ndola.

He further expressed his happiness about the successful filing of the complaint by Witness Radio – Uganda with help from Accountability Counsel to the World Bank’s Inspection Panel, which he said has put KCCA under the spotlight to account for its wrongdoing.

“We want the World Bank’s Inspection Panel to ensure that we’re fully included in the implementation of the project, fairly compensated and resettled” he stated.

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DEFENDING LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS

Statement: The Energy Sector Strategy 2024–2028 Must Mark the End of the EBRD’s Support to Fossil Fuels

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The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is due to publish a new Energy Sector Strategy before the end of 2023. A total of 130 civil society organizations from over 40 countries have released a statement calling on the EBRD to end finance for all fossil fuels, including gas.

From 2018 to 2021, the EBRD invested EUR 2.9 billion in the fossil energy sector, with the majority of this support going to gas. This makes it the third biggest funder of fossil fuels among all multilateral development banks, behind the World Bank Group and the Islamic Development Bank.

The EBRD has already excluded coal and upstream oil and gas fields from its financing. The draft Energy Sector Strategy further excludes oil transportation and oil-fired electricity generation. However, the draft strategy would continue to allow some investment in new fossil gas pipelines and other transportation infrastructure, as well as gas power generation and heating.

In the statement, the civil society organizations point out that any new support to gas risks locking in outdated energy infrastructure in places that need investments in clean energy the most. At the same time, they highlight, ending support to fossil gas is necessary, not only for climate security, but also for ensuring energy security, since continued investment in gas exposes countries of operation to high and volatile energy prices that can have a severe impact on their ability to reach development targets. Moreover, they underscore that supporting new gas transportation infrastructure is not a solution to the current energy crisis, given that new infrastructure would not come online for several years, well after the crisis has passed.

The signatories of the statement call on the EBRD to amend the Energy Sector Strategy to

  • fully exclude new investments in midstream and downstream gas projects;
  • avoid loopholes involving the use of unproven or uneconomic technologies, as well as aspirational but meaningless mitigation measures such as “CCS-readiness”; and
  • strengthen the requirements for financial intermediaries where the intended nature of the sub-transactions is not known to exclude fossil fuel finance across the entire value chain.

Source: iisd.org

Download the statement: https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2023-09/ngo-statement-on-energy-sector-strategy-2024-2028.pdf

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DEFENDING LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS

Uganda: Judicial harassment of environmental and human rights activist Desire Nkurunziza

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UGA 001 / 0923 / OBS 037
Arbitrary detention /
Release /
Judicial harassment
Uganda
September 5, 2023The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Uganda.

Description of the situation:The Observatory has been informed of the arrest and subsequent release of Desire Nkurunziza, an environmental and human rights activist and the elected leader of Nyairongo village, Kikuube district, mid-western region of Uganda. As a member of the Save the Bugoma Forest Campaign (SBFC) community task force, Mr Nkurunziza has been calling out the local and central government authorities about the deforestation of the Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, which has been leased to the Hoima Sugar Limited company, mainly for sugarcane cultivation, by the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, South-West region of Uganda. This project is not only affecting the biodiversity of the forest but also the local community, which has been subjected to extortion by land grabbers associated to Hoima Sugar Limited and/or its agents.

On July 16, 2023, two cars came to Desire Nkurunziza’s home in Nyairongo trading center, one of them belonging to a supervisor of Hoima Sugar Ltd and the other to an associate of the Kikuube Resident District Commissioner, both known by Mr Nkurunziza. The two men informed him that two of his village members were arrested in the forest, now a sugar cane plantation, and he agreed to go with them to help his constituents. Upon reaching the plantation, he was handed over to armed Hoima Sugar Ltd personnel, who started beating him and then recorded a video accusing him of illegally cutting down sugar cane. He was then taken to the Kikuube police station by the same Hoima Sugar Ltd car, where he was arrested on the grounds of “incitement of violence” and “criminal trespass” under Section 51 and 302 of the Penal Code Act, respectively, and detained there by the police for two days. He requested temporary release from police bond – custody -, but his request was denied.

On July 18, 2023, he applied for Court bail, which was denied even though he fulfilled all the requirements set by the Court and no reason was provided. He was then remanded to Kiryatete prison.

After reporting back to court on July 24, Desire Nkurunziza was released on Court bail. He had to pay a cash bail of 300,000 Ugandan shillings (approximately 74 Euros) in addition to satisfying all the conditions for release, with the obligation to report back on August 31, 2023, to the Chief Magistrates Court of Hoima, which is handling the matter. During his audience, the magistrate informed him that he would need to report back once again to the Court on November 2, 2023, without providing any reasons.

The Observatory recalls that the Bugoma Forest is the second biggest natural forest reserve in Uganda. In recent years, it has been claimed by the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, Western Uganda, which obtained a land title through irregular ways before it leased it to sugar manufacturer Hoima Sugar Limited for sugarcane cultivation, to establish an urban centre, develop eco-tourism, and restore a portion of the forest reserve. Before leasing the land to Hoima Sugar Limited, an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) certificate was issued by the National Environment Management Authority, in circumstances that have been contested by the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) in courts of Law. The contestation is based on the allegations that the assessment was made without consulting the local community, even though this issue clearly concerns them. A trial which aims to annul the ESIA certificate is ongoing in front of the Court of appeal.

The Observatory further recalls that this is not the first time that defenders of the Bugoma Forest are targetted for their legitimate human rights activities. In September 2020, nine environmental rights defenders were arbitrarily arrested for defending the Bugoma Forest, including Venex Watebawa and Joshua Mutale, respectively team leader and Head of Programmes of Water and Environment Media Network (WEMNET), who were first arrested on their way to a radio talk show to discuss the dangers of sugar cane cultivation in the Bugoma Forest and call on peaceful protests, as well as Sandra Atusinguza, member of AFIEGO who went to the police station to negotiate their release and got arrested herself. These various acts of harassment against environmental and human rights defenders, in addition to the numerous arrests of local residents defending their right to access their own land, show the will of the local and national governments to intimidate and silence them.

The Observatory strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of Desire Nkurunziza, as well as the other above mentioned human rights defenders, which seem to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities.

Source: fidh.org

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DEFENDING LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS

Uganda: Targeting community land and environmental defenders with criminal offenses is rising as two community land rights defenders arrested in a hotspot district of forced land evictions.

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By Witness Radio team

As land and environmental rights defenders strive to better their areas, they continue to bear the brunt of defending communities’ land rights from negative impacts brought by the development projects.

In Kiryandongo District, multinationals have increasingly chosen to adopt a strategy of criminalizing activities of community defenders who are working tirelessly to protect communities’ farming fields.

This criminalization method has captured area police units and use it to cause arbitrary arrest and detention, and prefer various offenses against community land and environmental defenders. Commonly used charges include criminal trespassing on a piece of land communities have cultivated for generations and causing damage to their own property. These actions have weakened the activism charisma of defenders and deter them from continuing with pushing back against illegal and forced land evictions. These tactics do not only undermine the legitimate work of community land and environmental rights defenders but also create an environment of fear and intimidation among those who dare to resist land grabbing and environmental degradation.

On the 22nd of August 2023, two community land rights defenders were rounded up for the seventh time in a period of two (2) years by police officers attached to Kiryandongo district police, and three workers from Great Seasons SMC Limited company Limited arbitrarily arrested and dumped in the Kiryandongo district police cells.

The defenders Barumangabo Sepriano and Ramu Ndahimana rounded -up and arbitrarily arrested from their farming fields preparing for the upcoming planting season, handicapped, and subsequently taken away.

“In the early morning hours, we were suddenly confronted by a group of armed people comprised of Kiryandongo district police personnel and individuals representing the company. Swiftly and forcefully, we were pushed into a white land cruiser bearing the registration number UBF 417C, which was later identified as the property of the evictors. Initially, the captors asserted that one of the grounds for our apprehension was our alleged trespassing on the company’s land.

However, upon arrival at the police station, the officers altered their claims and stated that we had supposedly posed threats to the company’s workers, a charge we vehemently denied. Shortly after a short period of time, another accusation of malicious damage was leveled against us. Astonishingly, we were informed that we were being held accountable for purportedly setting a structure ablaze.” One of the defenders narrated when visited by Witness Radio team at police.

The two defenders are among a group of community land and environmental rights defenders who have been on the forefront advocating for land, social and economic justice of communities in Kiryandongo district whose land is targeted for large-scale farming by multinationals.

Great Seasons SMC Limited, planting coffee on a large scale, is one of the multinational companies in the Kiryandongo district that have violently deprived communities of their rights to own land, and homes, demolished community schools, cut down food crops owned community members/families, destroyed water sources, and privately-owned health centers.

Over 35000 residents have lost their family lands after violent and forceful land evictions to pave the way for industrial agriculture. In addition to the Great Seasons SMC Limited, there are other multinationals implicated in land-grabbing activities, such as Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, Agilis Partners Limited, and Somdiam Limited.

Kiryandongo district police has preferred threatening violence, criminal trespass and malicious damage to property charges against the two (2) defenders.

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