WITNESS RADIO MILESTONES
More African governments are trying to control what’s being said on social media and blogs
First, it was “gossip” that supposedly pushed Uganda’s government to introduce a tax on social media use. Several weeks later, the country’s 72-year-old president Yoweri Museveni changed tack, saying officials were introducing the levy to increase domestic revenues. But the ultimate target of this decision wasn’t lost on Ugandans, who understood it for what it was: an attempt to muzzle their growing freedoms online.
Controlling what’s being said online is hardly the prerogative of Uganda. Increasingly, African governments are looking at the internet as a threat and are using a motley of targeted shutdowns, surveillance, and arbitrary legislation to silence digital users. In the world’s least connected continent, dictators—and some democrats—are realizing they not only need the batons or bullets to stave off criticism but could also power off live feeds to undermine the vibrant conversations taking place online.
And these disruptions are having a costly impact: not just on democracy and social cohesion, but on economic growth, innovation, internet openness, net neutrality, and freedom of expression.
Across Africa, the examples are plenty: In Tanzania, bloggers now have to pay authorities over $900 to license their websites. In Egypt, officials have banned calls made over social media apps, blocked hundreds of local and international websites, and called for the launch of a state-owned, Facebook-like platform. In DR Congo, president Joseph Kabila’s administration has used a decades-old law to monitor and censor the internet. Kenya, bedeviled by fake news during its elections last year, recently passed a sweeping law that critics say could stifle press freedom.
And nations including Ethiopia, Chad, Cameroon, Uganda and Algeria have all shut the internet or blocked apps including WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter during anti-government protests or crucial elections.
These curtailing practices take place even as getting connected becomes a byword for economic and political progress in Africa. With increasing internet speeds, rising smartphone adoption, growing e-commerce platforms, and improving tech ecosystems, Africa’s internet economy is gradually taking hold. And as incongruous as it sounds, nations are increasingly coming online too, with about 83% of all African governments holding a Facebook account according to Twiplomacy, which advises states on digital strategy. African presidents, including Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, and Uganda’s Museveni all use Twitter to engage their followers and promote their accomplishments.
As the crackdown intensifies, activists are pushing back, resorting to “naming and shaming” nations infringing on digital rights, alerting continental and international organizations including the African Union, and pressing telcos to be more accountable to consumers.
“At least you have to show that you know your rights and are ready to defend them,” says Julie Owono, the executive director of advocacy Internet Sans Frontières, which has uncovered cases of internet throttling or blocks.
Others are also working to bridge the digital divide, teaching users not just critical digital skills but educating them about their rights and how to stay online. This is important, especially in a continent where financing for internet accessibility is low, and where “many think about bread and bed first and then broadband,” says Tope Ogundipe, the director of programs at Nigerian social enterprise Paradigm Initiative.
Yet when all fails, digital activists have responded by getting even with authoritarian states. When Togo president Faure Gnassingbé’s administration faced protests last year, it cut off the internet and blocked WhatsApp. But under the “Faure Must Go” umbrella, a decentralized group of 5,000 activists worked from both within Togo and in neighboring Ghana to take down government websites including the presidency, the revenue authority, and the national television.
Giving the government a taste of its own medicine was a way not only to pressure them but also “make them understand that it’s not just them who can attack us. We can also attack them,” says Farida Nabourema, a Togolese activist who helped coordinate the effort. “We have to be online.”
Complaint against unprofessional conduct of the DPC Kiryandongo district for aiding and abetting land grabbing in kiryandongo district.
Professional Standards Unit, Uganda Police-Kampala.
RE: COMPLAINT AGAINST UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT OF THE DPC KIRYANDONGO DISTRICT FOR AIDING AND ABETTING LAND GRABBING IN NYAMUTENDE KITWARA PARISH KIRYANDONGO DISTRICT AND CARRYING OUT ILLEGAL ARRESTS AND DETENTION OF INNOCENT RESIDENTS/ BIBANJA OWNERS FOR PROTESTING AGAINST THE ILLEGAL EVICTION FROM THEIR LAND.
We act for and behalf of the Lawful and bonafide occupants of Land described as LRV MAS 2 FOLIO 8 BLOCK 8 PLOT 22 (FORMERLY KNOWN AS RANCH 22).
Our Clients are residents of Nyamutende Village, Kitwara Parish in Kiryandongo District where they have lived for more than 30 years and sometime in 2017, they applied for a lease of the said Land to Kiryandongo District Land Board through the Directorate of Land Matters State House.
As they were still awaiting their Application to be processed, they were shocked to establish that the said land had been instead leased to and registered in the names of Isingoma Julius, Mwesige Simon, John Musokota William, Tumusiime Gerald, Wabwire Messener Gabriel, Ocema Richard and Wilson Shikhama, some of whom were not known to the Complainants. A copy of the Search is attached hereto
Our clients protested the above action and appealed to relevant offices, but were shocked to discover that the above persons had gone ahead and sold the same to a one Maseruka Robert.
Aggrieved by these actions, the Complainants appealed to the RDC who advised them to institute proceedings against the said persons, and assigned them a one Mbabazi Samuel to assist them to that effect. The said Mbabazi accordingly filed Civil Suit Noa 46 of 2019 against tne said registered proprietors at Masindi High Court challenging the illegal and fraudulent registration, sale and transfer of the subject land to Maseruka Robert.
While awaiting the progress of the case mentioned hereinabove, the Complainants were surprised to find that the said Mbabazi, instead of assisting them, he went into a consent settling the said suit on their behalf without their knowledge or consent. A copy of the Consent is attached hereto.
Among the terms of the said consent Judgment was that the residents would be compensated without specifying how much and would in return vacate the Land.
As if that was not enough, Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel are going ahead to execute the said Consent Judgment by forcefully evicting the occupants without compensation which has prompted the complainants to challenge the said Consent by applying for its review and setting aside at Masindi High Court which is coming up for hearing on the 29th March 2023. A copy of the Application is attached hereto.
Sensing the imminent threat of eviction, we also filed an application for interim stay of execution of the said consent to avoid rendering their application for review nugatory but unfortunately the same could not be heard on the date it was fixed for hearing (6th February 2023). A copy of the Application is attached hereto
On Thursday last week, three tractors being operated by 6 workers of a one Mbabazi Samuel [the very person who had been entrusted to represent our Clients to secure their Land through Civil Suit No.46 of 2019] encroached close to 50 acres of our Clients’ land and started ploughing it but our Client’s protested and chased them away.
We have however been shocked to receive information from our Clients that on Sunday at Mid night, 3 police patrols invaded the community in the night and arrested community members; Mulenje Jack, Steven Kagyenji, Mulekwa David, Ntambala Geoffrey, Tumukunde Isaac 15 years, Kanunu Innocent, Mukombozi Frank, Kuzara, Rwamunyankole Enock, and took them to Kiryandongo Police Station where they are currently detained.
We strongly protest the illegal arrests and detention of our Clients as this is a carefully orchestrated land grabbing scheme by Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel who are receiving support from the DPC Kiryandongo.
The purpose of this Letter therefore is to request your good office to investigate the misconduct, abuse of office and unprofessionalism of the said DPC Kiryandongo District and all his involvement in the land grabbing schemes on land formerly known as Ranch 22.
Looking forward to your urgent intervention,
C.C The Head Police Land Protection Unit Police Head Quarters Naguru
CC The RDC Kiryandongo District
CC The Chairman LCVKityadongo District
CC The Regional Police CommanderAlbertine Region
WITNESS RADIO MILESTONES
The Executive Director of Witness Radio Uganda talks about the role played by Witness Radio in protecting communities affected by large-scale agribusinesses in Kiryandongo district in an interview with the ILC.
WITNESS RADIO MILESTONES
Witness Radio Uganda wins the best CSO land rights defenders award at the National Land Forum Awards.
By Witness Radio Team
Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog, Witness Radio has been awarded the best CSO land rights defender award 2022 in the recently concluded National Land Forum Awards held last week at Mestil hotel in Kampala.
Witness Radio’s executive Director, Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala attributed the award to the community land and environmental rights defenders who stand up against the intimidation and different forms of harassment from land grabbers (economically powerful and politically connected companies and individual investors).
“This is an award for defenders at a community level. They work in very deadly environments filled with harassment, torture, death threats, arrest, trumped-up charges, and kidnaps among others to advocate for community land and environment rights. This is happening at a spate where criminalization and silencing of community land rights defenders are at increase.” Jeff added.
The award has come at a time when hundreds of Ugandans in different parts of the country are accessing services provided by the organization ranging from legal service provisions, non-judicial mechanism engagements, empowerment to help them understand their rights, and using the same knowledge to use the same skills to push back against illegal and forced evictions
The chairman of the organizing committee of the second National Land Forum, Mr. Jimmy Ochom noted some progress on legislation in Uganda’s land Governance. He cited growing inequalities on land where the poor are more vulnerable.
During awards, the state minister for housing, Hon persis Namuganza revealed that the government approved the plan for 2018-2040 that maps the land use in the country.
According to the minister, the government had identified land for settlement, game reserves, wildlife, arable land for farming, and water bodies among others in the plan which she said was passed a few weeks ago.
The event was organized by Oxfam and partners and provided a platform for discussions by the different actors in the land sector on issues around land governance, including land rights, land administration, and land governance for improved collaboration, cooperation between the actors, and improved land service delivery for Ugandans under a theme “Taking stock of the National Land Policy in addressing Land inequality in addressing Land inequality in Uganda.”
Other categories of awards that were won by different organizations and individuals including Mr. Eddie Nsamba-Gayiiya for his contribution to research on land rights, Justice Centers Uganda for Promoting Access to Land Justice, and Mr. Henry Harrison Irumba for Championing Legal Reforms among others.
MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK4 days ago
Six cattlemen opposed to the Tilenga oil project-related forced land eviction have been granted bail but will remain in prison…
MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK1 week ago
Persecution: The prosecutor’s office is turned into a tool to harass locals for opposing land grabs to give way to the oil project in Mid Western Uganda.
NGO WORK2 weeks ago
The Black Sea Grain Initiative: When the United Nations Brokers Profits for Corporations, Bankers, and Oligarchs
NGO WORK1 week ago
A corporate cartel fertilises food inflation
STATEMENTS1 week ago
Joint statement: AfDB should open spaces for civil society and communities, during the Annual Meetings and beyond.