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Museveni asks landlords to get busuulu at sub-counties

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By DAN WANDERA

KAMPALA. President Museveni yesterday tasked MPs to expedite amendment to land act and demanded that a new clause be introduced to allow bibanja owners to deposit nominal ground rates (busuulu) at the sub-counties.

The President said the new amendment should target absent landlords and those who refuse payment from bibanja owners. The President’s proposal seeks to provide a permanent solution to a spate of illegal evictions and land wrangles in the various parts of the country.
“I want this issue to be resolved by Parliament because these bibanja holders should have somewhere to deposit the money for cases where the landlords stubbornly refuse to receive the money,” the President told Nakasongola residents yesterday.

“We want a clause within the land act where the money will be deposited at the sub-counties. We should not allow people to be enslaved on their own land by selfish individuals. These landlords wanted a bigger busuulu but we refused to bow to their pressure.”
The President visited Nakasongola District to commission a Shs93b Nile Fiber factory in Kinoni Village, Kakooge Sub-county. Some of the residents in the area who talked to Daily Monitor had singled out illegal evictions as one of the major impediments to Mr Museveni’s wealth creation campaign.

Landlords criticised 
The President accused a section of landlords of orchestrating and fuelling land wrangles through illegal acts of eviction and frustrating all efforts by bibanja holders to pay busuulu to the tenants.
Last evening Lands Minister Betty Amongi welcomed the President’s proposal and singled out refusal by landlords to receive busuulu, mortgaging of the land occupied by bibanja holders and eviction orders from courts.

“The President’s proposal is in public interest and it offers a durable solution to illegal evictions in the country,” Ms Amongi said. “Government fixed the annual busuulu at not more than Shs5,000 in villages, Shs20,000 in town Councils, Shs30,000 in municipalities and Shs50,000 in cities but some landlords deliberately refuse the money and evict families. This is what we want to stop and return sanity.”

The President explained: “The busuulu is supposed to be a token fee and not money that can enrich the landlord. It is unfortunate that we are still struggling with the issue. We need to have this law.”
Nakasongola, according to the President, has a vast cultivable land where both fruit growing and livestock keeping should help the residents overcome poverty.

Protection
Underlining the need to protect bibanja holders from evictions, the President added: “It is true that we now have the forests to feed the plywood industry but our people here can engage in fruit farming alongside the livestock keeping. I see no sense in the argument that the landlords want the bibanja holders to buy the land on which they are already settled. This is just a scapegoat and not within the stipulated land laws.”

Industrialisation

Talking about the new factory. The President said investors did a great job to establish a furniture factory in Nakasongola District and cited importation of papers as a challenge.
“The furniture that we have just inspected at the factory is better than the wood furniture we import,” the President said.

“We also have more forest areas of Singo, Kiboga and Kyankwazi to feed the factories. Our challenge is with the paper industry where we still import paper yet we have the trees…we are importing papers worth $130m annually yet we can have these industries established in Uganda. The next step is to persuade these investors to woo more industrialists dealing in paper. You can also expand and have the industries established, Museveni told the investors.”

Mr Sarbjit Singh Rai, the chairman Nile Fiber Company, said the Company is has now invested and planted about 2,010 hectares of forest trees and planted about 1,600 hectares on private land.

Corporate Accountability

Investigate the criminalization of land rights defenders – witnessradio.org asks National Human Rights Body.

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By witnessradio.org Team

Kampala – Uganda – Witnessradio.org has petitioned the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) calling for investigations into the continued aiding of persecution of community land rights defenders and native land-owners.

Witnessradio.org, a land rights advocate is accusing some members of the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) namely; the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Police and Judiciary of fueling land grabbing and protecting the supposed investors, through promoting the use of the criminal offenses under the Penal Code Act against land rights defenders and native land-owners that resist illegal and violent evictions.

The petition is the first of its kind to bring criminalization of land rights defenders and land-owners issues to the attention of UHRC under Business and Human Rights thematic principles. UHRC is a constitutional body with obligations to protect and promote human rights in Uganda

“Witnessradio.org, expresses dismay and disappointment over the increasing violence orchestrated against bonafide land-owners and individual community land defenders by some justice, law and order sector members in order to give individual investors and companies access to people’s land and then dispose native

e communities”. The statement reads in part.

In the petition, the Executive Director, Mr Wokulira Geoffrey Ssebaggala says that the continued harassment of land-owners and community land rights defenders by Uganda police and the office of the director of public prosecution has immensely contributed to case backlog and subsequently overcrowding in prisons.

“According to the World prison’s brief of October 2017, Uganda has 54,059 people in Prisons implying that 129 prisoners for every 100,000 Ugandans”. Mr Ssebaggala says

He also says the rights of people to express themselves, to peacefully assemble and participate in decisions that affect them and to exercise the full panoply of individual and collective human rights has also been curtailed.

Witnessradio.org recommends that the Human Rights Commission investigates the continued aiding of persecution of community land rights defenders and land owns by JLOs members institutions to give way for land-related investments, make findings public.

It also recommends that the commission undertakes courtroom observer missions especially where land rights defenders are under trial starting with Mubende’s 2 land rights defenders trial.

The same petition has been copied to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner Human Rights and Democracy and Human Rights Donor, Working group.

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Corporate Accountability

A land grab case against a multi-million agribusiness Agilis Partners is saved from a dismissal

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By witnessradio.org Team

Masindi – Uganda – A case in which over 2300 families are accusing a multi-million agribusiness Agilis Partners limited of illegal eviction has been saved by the intervention of witnessradio.org‘s lawyers. The company had filed an application asking court to dismiss the main case alleging that it had no cause of action, whose hearing was slated to take place on November, 29th, 2019.

The attempt to dismiss the main case followed a loss of two applications seeking to stop Agilis Partners limited from further illegal and forceful eviction of victims off their land. The first application was thrown out earlier this year by the retiring Justice Frank Albert Rugadya Atwoki on grounds that the applicants “failed to produce evidence that the situation is dire warranting an injunction,” while the second application was dismissed by the court’s Assistant Registrar, Kintu Simon Zirintuusa on grounds that many of the occupants had vacated the contested land.

It is now 20 months since the impoverished families first dashed to court challenging their eviction which is superintended by Agilis partners limited, an agricultural development company owned by American twin brothers Philipp Prinz and Benjamin Prinz. Agilis Partners, which owns Joseph Initiative a beneficiary of UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) financial support and CFC based in the Netherlands, supplies food to United Nations’ World Food Program, among others.   

The 2300 victims under the auspices of Nyamalebe Landless Association accuse the company for undermining a free, prior and informed consent standard or principal.

We have suffered all round since our land was targeted by Agilis Partners limited and we shall take long to recover. “our case has suffered sabotage in court premises because we’re poor. On Monday, November 28th, we served Masindi high court about our new legal team that had come on board but while following up on the next day, we found court papers missing from the file and court official had no explanation” Said, Joseph Walekula, one of the community leaders.

Independent investigations by witnessradio.org‘s reveal that the investment of Agilis Partners limited has caused a permanent disability to a school going boy who was shot at by police during an eviction exercise at Kisalanda village, while 1200 pupils have dropped out of school after schools (private) were demolished, fourteen (14) community land defenders have since 2017 been under police harassment and intimidation with endless reporting on police bond after being arrested and charged with inciting violence among others. The victimized community has also lost churches, private hospitals, plantations, homes, subsistence piglets and cattle farms and small and medium businesses including retail shops among others.

 

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Corporate Accountability

Two EU member states, Norway named for aiding land eviction for carbon credit trading

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Green Resources’ pine plantation in Kachung. Credit: Kristen Lyons / The Oakland Institute.

By witnessradio.org Team

Two EU member states and Norway are in the spotlight for financing the eviction of native communities in Uganda to pave way for a Norwegian forestry and carbon credit company.

In the latest briefing paper authored by The Oakland Institute entitled “Evicted for Carbon Credits: Norway, Sweden, and Finland Displace Ugandan Farmers for Carbon Trading”.

The institute brings forward irrefutable evidence that the Norwegian forestry and carbon credit company, Green Resources, forcibly evicted villagers around their plantation in Kachung, Uganda.

“As thousands of Ugandan villagers struggle to survive after the loss of their land and natural resources to the plantation, the institutions and government agencies that enable Green Resources to operate must be held accountable for their wrongdoings and their complicity in this land grab.” The policy director at the institute Frédéric Mousseau says.

The report exposes the complicity of three prominent international certification bodies—the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), The United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA)—that are supposed to verify the company’s compliance with environmental and social standards. 

“Based on flawed audits, the accreditation Green Resources received from the certification agencies calls into question their commitment to social and environmental standards. In the name of fighting climate change, they claim that a large-scale plantation of non-native pine trees, which are to be cut and sold as timber, is preferable to subsistence activities of African farmers,” Reads the report in part.

The institute concludes that beyond the need for accountability that such a flawed project could run with the backing of three European governments, several international bodies, and specialized private auditing firms, raises serious questions around the true motives of these institutions as well as the purpose and the functioning of the whole carbon economy.

The establishment of the plantation on land previously used by subsistence farmers precipitated an on-going food security crisis that has not been addressed by the company, its financiers, nor the Ugandan government.

Green Resources has been the subject of two reports published by the Institute in 2014 and 2017. The exposés documented the plantation’s destructive impact on the local population as well as the misleading audit commissioned in 2017 by the Swedish Energy Agency—Green Resources only carbon credit buyer. Company documents released with the briefing paper—including letters threatening the local villagers, corroborate the Institute’s previous findings.

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