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Masindi high court finally fixes court dates for Kiryandongo land grab victims



In 2017, all hell broke loose when thousands of families in Kiryandongo district, Western Uganda started fleeing their homes for their dear lives. The move was triggered by the unabated brutal and forceful evictions orchestrated by multinational companies who acquired the interests in the said land for large-scale agriculture.

The eviction had far-reaching consequences on the community. It left broken homes and shattered dreams. Rape and defilement were among the underhand tools employed to break the resistance put up by the smallholder farmers. At all times, arrests, detentions and prosecution defined and still define the relationship between the evicted community and the multinational companies. Not even their lawyers were spared; they too were arrested and detained.

On 30th June 2020 in Busaana-Kimogola village, Kakooko parish, Mutunda Sub County, the Uganda Police Force (UPF) arrested seven lawyers and 6 land rights defenders while collecting evidence to support ongoing human rights enforcement cases against the multinationals: Kiryandongo Sugar limited, Agilis Partners Limited, and Great Seasons SMC Limited. The brutal and chilling accounts of the state’s excesses against its own citizens were detailed in a report, “Land Grabs at Gunpoint” by AFSA, GRAIN and Witness Radio – Uganda.

“UPDF Soldiers and police officers under the command of the former Kiryandongo District Police Commander Mr. Joseph Bakaleke and his predecessors. They caught us unaware and nobody expected this. We had never been consulted nor compensated. The area was cut off right from the main road and no car would access the eviction premises. No media or human rights defenders were allowed to access the entire villages. The inhuman actions were devastating”. said Joseph Walekula, one of the victims.

Despite a shocking report by three civil societies that revealed gross human rights abuses and violations in Kiryandongo by multinationals, the companies continue to violate the rights of the evictees unabated.

According to the report, more than 35,000 have been evicted by the companies. However, rights activists and land rights defenders claim the numbers are increasing due to the unending evictions. The 2020 report called for independent investigations into the matter and compensation for the affected families. To date, the demands have not been addressed!

But the shocking revelations persist. On 28th February, three armed Field Force Unit officers guarding Agilis partners plantations, led by Byaruhanga Francis, attacked 20-year old Talemwa Eliot in the wee hours of the morning and ordered him to vacate his land. He says he was questioned why he is still living in the company land.

“They came at around 2:00 am, they banged on my door and threatened to set it on fire if I do not open or come out. I opened it but they were armed with a gun and big sticks. I think they wanted to take my life. It was terrible. I had to fight one who had a stick and then ran. I managed to escape but still, they ran over me and hit me with a big stick,” Talemwa added.

He added that all his belongings including 200,000 Ugandan shillings (USD56.7) were taken, and mattresses, clothes, and other household items were thrown outside.

“They failed to catch me and decided to come back for my property at home. I found all of them out while the money had been taken.” he further said in an interview.

The attack on Talemwa happened barely 10 hours after terrible violence was committed at his parent’s home.

According to eyewitnesses, Mr. William Katusime and Namuganza Esther, both parents to Talemwa were violently evicted from their land by a group of 18 people consisting of 8 armed policemen, 7 security guards, and 3 soldiers. Their cassava plantation of 4 acres was destroyed.

“They came with a tractor registration number UAR 643K at around 4:45 pm on Saturday and destroyed everything. I had over 150 acres of land.” Katusime narrated.

These and other atrocities committed forced Walekula, Katusime, and other residents affected by the three companies’ forced evictions to petition the High Court of Uganda at Masindi to seek, among others, compensation for the violations of their human rights and the destroyed properties, and to halt the forced evictions.

Witness Radio Uganda through M/s Kiiza and Mugisha Advocates, helped the communities to file the applications seeking justice and and the return of their grabbed lands.

“We cannot sit while the companies are grabbing our land. We have been here for decades. Our families are broken. We are broke. People are dying. We have no food to eat because we are restricted from using our land. This is why we ran to court for our rescue in getting justice,” explains Mr. Otyaluk Ben Wilson, one of the affected residents in Nyamutende.

According to the lawyers, all the cases have been fixed for hearing at the High Court. The Masindi High Court fixed 20th April 2022 for hearing of Miscellaneous cause number 11 of 2020 of Joseph Mangfu and 11 others vs. Agilis Partners, 21st April for hearing case Miscellaneous Cause Number 12 of 2020 of Otyaluk Ben Wilson and 8 others vs. Kiryandongo sugar Company and 30th of May 2022 for hearing the application for Ssebisolo Godfrey, Miscellaneous cause Number 007 of 2020 vs. great seasons SMC limited company.

“This means a lot to us. We are happy for the success we have so far achieved. We thank our representatives for the support,” Joseph said.

Meanwhile, the Kiryandongo women affected by the forced evictions community have written to the US ambassador to Uganda, Ambassador Natalie E Brown, seeking a remedy and redress on the forced, violent, and inhuman evictions orchestrated by the Agilis Company that is funded by the US.

Represented by Akiteng Stella, the affected communities including Kisaranda, Kanani, Gologosa, kololo, Kamison, Kamigora, Techwa, Ndoi, Nyamuntende Sub- Counties: Mutunda and Kitwara claim they have extremely suffered as a result of the company’s excesses.

Residing on Ranch 20/21 in Kiryandongo, the community says their land was forcefully grabbed by the Agilis partners in 2017 and has since evicted them without following the necessary due process.

According to the letter, residents have been greatly disturbed and negatively affected by the projects they established in their community. It reads:

“…First and foremost, the company hires men who come from wherever and these men are busy raping my fellow women and, since most of them are not married, they end up satisfying their sexual [urges] by raping our women thus infecting them with sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS, Gonorrhea and Syphilis among others. Some of our young girls are raped and they end up becoming pregnant thus being forced to drop out of school.

They demolished our schools, hospitals, churches and destroyed our gardens too so we have no land for farming, and yet agriculture was a source of income.

After evicting us from the land, some of our husbands abandoned us with our children so without land for farming it’s really hard for us to be in a position to sustain our families.
Our water sources like wells were destroyed which has caused water shortage and those that are left are far and the path that leads us to the water sources are inaccessible and are risky because they are surrounded by plantations and the rapists usually use that opportunity to rape our women…”
…We are requesting you to give us audience so that we can air out our issues on how Agilis coming to our community has caused us a lot of suffering as a community, infringed on our human rights, greatly affected our lively hood and increased poverty to mention but a few yet we believe these projects are meant to better our lives. We also request you to carry out investigations on the company whose projects you’re funding because it is not exhibiting American values. Is this company whose employees’ rape and defile American?”

Brief background about the multinational companies.

Agilis partners.

Agilis Partners is owned by twin brothers from the US, Phillip Prinz, and Benjamin Prinz. In 2013 the brothers established Joseph Initiative, a maize trading company that sources from a network of out-grower farmers in Masindi District who were previously doing contract production for British American Tobacco.

The Joseph Initiative has received financial support from several sources. In 2013, it received a US$1.5 million equity investment from the Dutch billionaire De Rijcke family, via its registered charity in the UK, Dutch OakTree Foundation, and DOB Equity (DOB Foundation), a private equity vehicle that manages the “charitable” investments of the De Rijcke family.

In 2017, Dutch Oak Tree sold its minority shares in Joseph Initiative to Agilis Partners but remains involved in the company through a loan that is due in 2022.

In 2013, Joseph Initiative also received a $500,000 loan from the United Nation’s Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), via the Dutch Trust Fund arrangement set up by the Netherlands Ministry for Development Cooperation to support CFC projects with co-financing contributions.10 And in 2014, the UK DFID funded Food Trade program granted Joseph Initiative £981,311(US$1280, 59), under a 3-year project.

Kiryandongo Sugar

Kiryandongo Sugar is owned by members of the powerful Rai family, a Kenyan-based business group that owns numerous plantation, food, metals, and timber companies in east and southern Africa. Over the past decade and a half, the Rai Group has become one of the continent’s largest players in the production and import of sugar. Several of its sugar companies are involved in land conflicts, including the displacement of 5,000 people by Hoima Sugar Limited in Kijayo, Uganda.

Great Seasons SMC Limited

Great Seasons SMC Limited, owned by Sudan’s investor based in Dubai. Company records indicate only that it is owned by one Yasir Adam Ahmedai Abdalla.

Original source: Ugandan Land Defenders Via Farm Land Grab


Mityana district police rounded up and arbitrarily arrested over 50 Kikuube PAPs to block them from meeting Uganda’s Prime Minister.



By Witness Radio team

Two (2) community land rights defenders and 68 projects-affected persons from Kikuube district including children have been rounded up and arrested by Mityana district Police, Witness Radio has learned.

The community group led by Fred Mbambali and Ahumuza Busingye, were arrested from City Healing Church in Mityana Municipality, Mityana district. They were arrested on the orders of Mityana District Police Commander, Mr. Hasunira Ahmed, without being informed of the reasons for the arrest.

To seek justice and reclaim their grabbed land, the community decided to journey from the Kikuube district on Saturday, 2nd March 2024. Their objective was to petition Uganda’s Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabanja, to intervene in grievances concerning forced evictions from their land and their unsuccessful attempts to regain ownership of their land that was grabbed by the officials of the Prime minister’s office for Kyangwali resettlement camp.

“On Friday, we departed from Kikuube district to Kakumiro intending to meet the Prime Minister. We aimed to convey the challenges we are facing following the unlawful seizure of our land. We sought her intervention to help us regain ownership, especially since many offices that were approached have not helped end our misery. Unfortunately, upon our arrival, we discovered she was in preparations to leave her residence. Instead, she instructed her private security team to escort us to her party’s offices (National Resistance Movement, NRM) in the Kakumiro district, assuring us that she would meet with us there. But she did not come back.” Mr. Mbambali Fred, one of the group leaders told Witness Radio.

Little did the affected community members know that their stay at the offices would be short-lived. Initially, they were welcomed by the security officers at the party offices, but their situation took a turn when the District security committee of Kakumiro led by the Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr. Matovu David and the District Police Commander (DPC) in the area Mr. Niyonzima Morris visited and questioned them about the reasons for their visit.

Subsequently, PAPs explained that they had been directed to wait at the offices by the Prime Minister. Despite their explanation, the Committee was skeptical and held an emergency meeting to resolve that Kikuube PAPs should leave the premises. The committee stated that the issue raised was not within the mandate of the Kakumiro district and thereafter, were asked to relocate to a different location, not within Kakumiro.

The stern Kakumiro district leaders directed the group to depart and proceed to the Office of the Prime Minister in Kampala for their meeting with her.

Shortly after being chased, they proceeded to Kampala via Mityana road, but PAPs sought to rest at one of the churches in the Mityana district. As soon as they occupied the church, Mityana district raided the premises, arrested all of them, and took them to Mityana Central Police Station, claiming that PAPs were posing a threat to the community.

“We were rounded up and arrested without being given any opportunity to explain ourselves. They didn’t even inform us of the reason for our arrest. We were kept at the police for nearly 12 hours without food. Both children and elders were starving, and the children even reached the point of crying because we were not allowed to move. It’s a double punishment to us because we haven’t committed any offense,” Ahumuza Busingye, another defender, told Witness Radio.

They were cautioned and later released without charges.

The Mityana District Police Commander, Mr. Hasunira Ahmed confirmed the arrest, stating that people neighboring the church had lodged complaints with the police about unknown individuals with a large amount of luggage occupying their premises. This led the police to arrest them.

“We received complaints about these individuals occupying a particular church, which posed a potential threat because they hadn’t obtained permission to stay there and didn’t possess a letter authorizing their movement to their destination. That’s why we intervened with an arrest, as many of them looked like rebels,” stated the Mityana District Police Commander.

PAPs arrested are part of the larger group of over 90,000 people evicted between 2013 and 2019 in 29 villagers by the office of the Prime minister (OPM) to give their land to the refugees in Katikala and Bukinda in Kyangwali district.

The community was evicted by officials led by Charles Bafaki from the Office of the Prime Minister, accompanied by the police and Uganda People Defence Forces (UPDF), from their land measuring 36 square kilometers located in various villages, including Bukinda A and B, Bukinda 2, Kavule, Bwizibwera A and B, Kyeya A and B, Nyaruhanga, Kabirizi, Nyamigisa A and B, and Katoma, all in Kyangwali sub-county for the Kyangwali refugee resettlement camp.

Despite receiving various directives, including two from the President, instructing the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) officials to facilitate the return of the residents to their land, they have chosen to turn a deaf ear and disregard the implementation of these directives.

In 2016 and 2018, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni issued directives to resettle PAPs back to their ancestral land, but unfortunately, these directives remained unimplemented.

In 2021, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja visited the victims and promised action, which, as of the time of writing this article, it’s yet to be realized.

On March 1, 2022, Minister of Relief, Disaster Preparedness, and Refugees, Mr. Hilary Onek, accused the victims of encroaching on government land. He also criticized local leaders and officials for potential involvement in stage-managed evictions.

In 2022, approximately 1,000 of the evictees camped at the office of the Kikuube Resident District Commissioner, Amlan Tumusiime, demanding his intervention to help them return to their land. Unfortunately, this intervention did not materialize. Some of the evictees sought shelter in temporary shelters provided by Florence Natumanya, the Kikuube Woman MP, and Francis Kazini, the Buhaguzi Member of Parliament, while others continued to search for livelihoods in other parts of the country.

“People are suffering immensely, and we are witnessing deaths without having a proper place to bury our loved ones. No one is coming to our rescue, and it’s heartbreaking to see our children deprived of education, as they are the future of tomorrow,” expressed the community members in an interview with Witness Radio.

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Breaking: A community land rights defender in the Kiryandongo district is charged with assault and released on a cash bail.



By Witness Radio team.

Magistrate Court sitting in Kiryandongo district has released a community land rights defender on a cash bail. He was arbitrarily arrested, and detained Thursday, February 29th, 2024, for attempting to open a criminal case against Great Seasons SMC Limited workers for erasing his 3 acres of land with ready-to-harvest cash crops.

Mwawula Fred’s release came after spending five (5) days in detention. Mr. Mwawula is a community land rights defender based in Kisalanda village, Mutunda parish, Kiryandongo district help to mobilize communities to resist forced land grabbing by multinational companies in Kiryandongo district.

The prosecution alleges that Mwawula assaulted workers of the Great Seasons SMC Company Limited who were in his garden.

The Penal Code Act, Cap 120, states that any person who commits an assault occasioning actual bodily harm commits a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for five years on conviction.

On February 22nd, 2024, Witness Radio ran an article about four Great Seasons SMC Limited Company workers with a numberless tractor who had invaded and erased Mwawula’s garden with crops ready for harvest such as maize, green pepper, and tomatoes in Kisalanda village.

When he (Mwawula) went to Kiryandongo Central Police Station to open up criminal cases against the company, he was instead arbitrarily arrested, detained by local police, and preferred an assault charge before appearing before the court.

While granting the defender bail, Her Worship Amweno Hellen released Mr. Mwawula on a cash bail of 700,000 Ugx (Equivalent to 178.47 USD) while the sureties conditioned a non-cash bail.

The defender will report back to Court on the 13th/March/ 2024.

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Breaking: A community land rights defender in Kiryandongo, who was arrested for attempting to open a case against company workers at Kiryandongo Central police for erasing his garden, is facing assault charges.



By Witness Radio team.

Kiryandongo Central police have preferred an assault charge against a community land rights defender who was arbitrarily arrested and detained Thursday, February 29th, 2024, for attempting to open a criminal charge against workers of Great Seasons SMC Limited.

On February 22nd, 2024, four Great Seasons SMC Limited Company workers with a tractor invaded and erased Mr. Mwawula Fred’s garden with crops ready for harvest such as maize, green pepper, and tomatoes. The workers used a numberless company tractor to destroy the defender’s 3 acres of crops.

According to the police charge sheet, Mwawula allegedly assaulted workers of the Great Seasons SMC Company Limited who were in his garden.

Defender’s lawyers said Mwawula bravely tried to intervene to stop the destruction of his crops by company workers, but they (workers) callously persisted with their destructive actions, disregarding the defender’s pleas.

The lawyers also stated that company workers made off with sacks full of maize belonging to their client.

The Penal Code Act, Cap 120, states that any person who commits an assault occasioning actual bodily harm commits a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for five years on conviction.

Mwawula, on several occasions, has been in and out of prison on several charges over eight times for mobilizing local communities to resist land grabbing and forceful evictions by multinational companies in the Kiryandongo district. However, the court has dismissed all of them for want of prosecution.

Frequently, the gardens belonging to smallholder farmers, activists, and defenders have been targeted and vandalized by Great Seasons SMC Company Limited, demanding that the local community should vacate what the company asserts as its land. In a distressing incident last December 2023, many defenders’ gardens were set ablaze by workers of the company, resulting in a prolonged famine within projected affected families.

The defender is yet to be produced in court to answer to assault charges.

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