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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Multinationals use COVID-19 crisis to violently grab land of poor communities with impunity

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Some of the bulldozers used to destroy people’s gardens in Kiryandongo

By witnessradio.org Team

 

Kiryandongo – Uganda – Despite the existence of government’s order stopping land eviction during the COVID-19 lockdown, three multinational companies with backing from state police, army and private security firms have intensified the use of violence to grab more land from poor communities with an unmistakably high level of impunity.

 

On 16th April 2020, the government of Uganda issued a notice to individuals and companies to halt land evictions of communities off their land. This followed a group of Kiryandongo District communities affected by actual or threatened forced evictions petitioning government, accusing multinational companies including Agilis Partners/Joseph Initiatives/Asili Farms; Kiryandongo Sugar Company and Great Seasons over what they called illegal and violent evictions being aided by Kiryandongi Police and Soldiers attached to 4th, Division of Uganda People’s Defense Force.

 

Companies have used the 35 days COVID-19 lock-down ending on May, 5th, 2020, with a possibility of extension with or without modification, to forcefully dispossess more than two dozens of smallholder farmers. They have been demolished houses belonging to affected communities and hundreds of acres of maize, sweet potatoes, cassava grown and owned by poor communities. Under the protection of state police, army and private security companies, the companies’ workers have used tractors to plow and demolish communities’ gardens without compensation. The communities have always depended on subsistence farming to feed families and meet basic needs.

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Multinational companies including Agilis Partners/Asili Farms are dispossessing the poor communities in Kiryandongo to grow the same cash crops, like maize, as those of  the displaced communities. They then convert the initially self sustaining and food secure poor communities into their laborers after depriving them of their means of livelihood and grabbing their most important asset: land. Agilis Partners/Asili Farms has benefited from financial assistance from Department for International Development (DFID), The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Dutch Impact Investor DOB Equity and Dutch Trust Fund through Common Fund for Commodities. It is this money that they are using to disposes, displace and impoverish rural communities in Kiryandongo after compromising state machinery.

 

According to witnessradio.org independent research, individual community members whose properties have been destroyed, have at the same time been blocked by Kiryandongo district police leadership headed by Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Joseph Bakaleke from opening up criminal cases against companies and their agents. While police blocks communities from reporting the criminal cases of torture, malicious damage to property, assault, threatening violence and other crimes, they happily arrest and detain residents on tramped charges by the said companies.

 

Some of the affected families include the family of Isingoma David, 85, lost 2 acres of sweet potato, a house, six acres of mixed fruit trees (mangos, oranges, avocados, guavas, jack fruit e.t.c; Baruma Sipiriano, which lost 3 houses and a toilet, 4 acres of growing maize, 2 acres of sweet potato, 38 stems of avocado trees; Majid Olaro lost 1.5 acres of cassava, 2 acres of growing maize, 1.5 acres of sweet potato; Munyansi Martin lost 11 acres of growing maize and Karegeya Wilson’s family, which lost 6 acres of banana plantation, 3 acres of growing maize, 4 acres of avocado trees and 13 mango trees were uprooted using a tractor among others.

 

According to Agarubanda Emmanuel, another victim whose pigsty was broken into by agents of companies and made off with 29 pigs and more killed at his property, said these attacks are carried out late in the night.

Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Kawaala community land rights defenders will report for police bond for the fourth time on 1st August.

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By Witness Radio – Uganda team

Kampala, the three community land rights defenders from Kawaala Zone II charged with fraud are reporting back at the Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters on Monday 1st of August.

It will be the fourth time for the defenders to report for the bond.

While appearing at the station on 18th July 2022, the two of the three defenders were re-arrested and subjected to another interrogation which lasted for one hour between 11 am to 12 pm local time.

They were quizzed by the head of the investigations at the Old Kampala Police headquarters, Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Patrick Domara. Land rights defenders Kabugo Michael and Kasozi Paul Ssengendo reported.  The third defender Busobolwa Adam did not turn up due to health-related issues.

On the third time, the two defenders who reported before police recorded additional statements on fraud charges that were preferred against them on July 11th, 2022.

Section 342 of the Penal Code states that forgery is the making of a false document with the intent to defraud or deceive. It carries three-year imprisonment on conviction.

The lawyers representing the defenders said their clients were questioned by the police about their land ownership in Kawaala and the documents proving ownership. Police said that the complainant accuses defenders of forging land sales agreements and occupying land illegally.

The defenders were summoned, arrested, and interrogated on the orders of the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division Anderson Buroora who is accusing them of fraud.

The Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.

However, Witness Radio – Uganda believes that charges preferred against the community land rights defenders are a result of their continued mobilization of the local community of Kawaala to resist forced eviction, seek fair compensation, and resettlement before the Lubigi drainage channel is constructed.

“We challenge the RCC to bring evidence pinning the community land rights defenders on the alleged charges. We believe this is intimidation and continued efforts of fighting back to silence the work of the land rights defenders, wastage of their time and resources,” said one of the lawyers.

Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced evictions by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) funded by World Bank. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) is the implementer of the project.

The said project first impacted Kawaala Zone II around 2014, when a channel diversion was constructed. The current planned expansion will widen that channel and require forced evictions across an area at least 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long.

According to Witness Radio-Uganda lawyers, the community which is being forced off of its land without due process started living on that land in the 1940s and did not invite the project on their land.

The defenders will be reporting back on police bond at 10 am local time on the 1st of August 2022.

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Police re-arrest and interrogate Kawaala Community land rights defenders upon reporting back on bond.

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By Witness Radio Team

Kampala, Two of the three community land rights defenders from Kawaala Zone II, Kampala suburb have been re-arrested and re-interrogated on fraud charges at Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters.

The duo had reported back to police on bond on fraud charges for the third time since they were first summoned on June, 29th 2022.

Kasozi Paul and Kabugo Micheal were subjected to another interrogation which lasted for one hour between 11 am to 12 pm local time. They were quizzed by the head of the investigations directorate at the Old Kampala Police headquarters, Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Patrick Domara. The third defender Busobolwa Adam could not make it due to health-related issues.

According to defenders’ lawyers, the duo recorded additional statements on fraud charges that were preferred against by police on July, 11th, 2022.

According to defenders’ lawyers, the victims were questioned by the police about their land ownership in Kawaala and the documents proving ownership. Police are saying that the complainant is accusing defenders of forging land sales agreements and occupying land illegally.

Section 342 of the Penal Code states that forgery is the making of a false document with the intent to defraud or deceive. It carries three-year imprisonment on conviction.

The defenders were summoned, arrested, and interrogated on the orders of the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division Anderson Buroora who’s accusing them of fraud.

Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.

Witness Radio-Uganda says that the community which is being forced off its land without due process started living on that land in the 1940s and did not invite the project on their land.

Witness Radio – Uganda further believes that charges preferred against the community land rights defenders are a result of their continued mobilization of the local community of Kawaala to resist forced eviction, seek fair compensation and resettlement before the Lubigi drainage channel is constructed.

Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced evictions by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) funded by World Bank. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) is the implementer of the project.

This project first impacted Kawaala Zone II around 2014, when a channel diversion was constructed. The current planned expansion will widen that channel and require forced evictions across an area at least 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long.

The defenders were released on a police bond and required to report back on the 1st of August 2022 at 10 am local time.

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Six community land rights defenders from Kawaala have turned up at police for interrogations but, failed to take off

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By Witness Radio Team.

The six community land rights defenders from Kawaala zone II and the local leader that were summoned to appear at the Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters have turned up, however, the interrogations did not take off due to the absence of the head of investigating team.

The six community defenders were required to report back to police for further investigations into alleged crimes that have not yet been officially disclosed to defenders’ lawyers. They were supposed to appear before the police investigation team today the 06th of July 2022 at 10:00 AM.

The defenders include; Kasozi Paul, Busobolwa Adam, Kabugo Micheal, Serugo Charles, Ssemanda David, Sserukwaya David, and the area vice-chairman Patrick Kato Lubwama.

While appearing before police for the first time last week on Wednesday 29th, the Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Domara Patrick who heads the investigations team casually said the defenders and the local leader are being investigated for obtaining money by pretense and forgery, which charges are not mentioned on police summons.

Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced eviction by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) being implemented by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The drainage channel construction is financed by the World Bank.

This project first impacted Kawaala Zone II around 2014, when a channel diversion was constructed. The current planned expansion will widen that channel and require forced evictions across an area at least 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long.

Witness Radio – Uganda has established that the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division, Mr. Anderson Burora is among the complainants. Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.

Witness Radio – Uganda believes that police are being used to harass and intimidate defenders to back off the justice campaign for people negatively impacted by the drainage channel.

The defenders and the local council leader have been booked to report back to the police on Monday, the 11th of July 2022 at 9:00 AM local time.

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