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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Opinion: USAID needs an independent accountability office to improve development outcomes



A man inspects USAID-donated ventilators on their way to Indonesia in the fight against COVID-19. Photo by: Nalendro Photoworks / USAID

As always, and during this pandemic in particular, many are looking to the U.S. Agency for International Development for the U.S. response to global needs. Acting USAID Administrator John Barsa recently appeared before Congress to discuss foreign assistance priorities for the next fiscal year. He answered questions related to cuts for USAID in the administration’s proposed budget and USAID’s efforts to support the development of an effective COVID-19 vaccine.

What was not discussed — but should be a top priority — is a key outstanding congressional directive to USAID to strengthen accountability for its development activities. The congressional directive creates an opportunity for USAID, and for those concerned with whether USAID’s programs are meeting their objectives, to take overdue action to ensure that the agency understands whether taxpayer money has met its mark.

In response to reports of human rights abuses tied to USAID’s support of certain conservation projects, including allegations of torture and rape by ecoguards, Congress, in its explanatory statement for the fiscal year 2020 appropriations legislation, directed USAID to work with its implementers to prevent these abuses from reoccurring.

Further, Congress called on USAID to ensure that “effective grievance and redress mechanisms for victims of human rights violations and other misconduct exist.”

Public information on USAID’s response is not currently available, but as USAID sets its course for the fiscal year ahead, it should prioritize addressing this congressional directive. From our experience supporting communities impacted by development projects, we recommend that USAID create an agency-level independent accountability office to do so.

First created by the World Bank, accountability offices are community feedback tools that address complaints from project-impacted people by either conducting a compliance review to see if environmental and social policies were properly followed in the course of a project or convening a bespoke dispute resolution process between the communities, clients, and other parties.

Accountability offices are housed within the very institutions they hold accountable and are given sufficient independence from management to be credible.

The experiences of communities in Haiti forced from their farmland in 2011 to make way for the Caracol Industrial Park, a large industrial facility financed by USAID, the Inter-American Development Bank, and others, demonstrates the importance of accountability offices — and USAID’s current accountability gap. In addition to taking 250 hectares of the most fertile agricultural land in the area, the park has had negative environmental impacts, including significant pollution from the USAID-financed power plant within the park.

After trying to address their issues with the industrial park through various channels, the communities filed a complaint to IDB’s accountability office, also known as MICI, in 2017 to address harm related to IDB’s involvement in the project.

MICI facilitated a dialogue process between the communities, the Haitian government, and IDB, which resulted in a historic agreement to replace farmland and restore livelihoods.

Unfortunately, the affected communities have not had the same opportunity to address grievances with USAID, as it lacks an accountability office, and many of the environmental challenges posed by the industrial park and its associated facilities remain unresolved.

To be truly effective, USAID should ensure that its accountability office applies to all of its projects and not just its conservation work.

Although USAID’s conservation projects sparked congressional action, it is indisputable that negative impacts can result from other projects as well. Data from the Accountability Console, a comprehensive database of accountability office complaints, reveals that grievances can arise in a range of sectors, from infrastructure projects to education programs, and across financial instruments.

It would also be a mistake for USAID to respond to the directive by pushing its obligation down to implementing partners.

Although implementing partners could address certain discrete issues at the project level, the agency needs to know about — and have a hand in addressing — environmental and social non-compliance.

In addition to addressing grievances, institution-wide accountability offices provide lessons from cases to ensure that future projects are more sustainable. Plus, that decision would put USAID out of step with the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, which has an accountability office — as did its predecessor, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — as well as other bilateral aid agencies with accountability offices, like in France and Japan.

An independent accountability office would also be a fundamental component of USAID’s Journey to Self-Reliance strategy, as it would amplify the voice of the very people impacted by USAID’s projects.

Unaddressed grievances can undermine a project’s sustainability and lead to conflict, affecting a country’s ability to transition effectively from international aid. An accountability office would only further USAID’s existing commitment to seeing local solutions through “effectively, inclusively, and with accountability.”

The COVID-19 crisis has been a shock to the global system, with development institutions responding rapidly to address the health and economic impacts. USAID has a role to play in the response and should know whether its money meets its mark.

By creating an accountability office now, USAID can be well-positioned to ensure its projects — including those addressing the pandemic — avoid harm and achieve their intended impact.

Source: Devex

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Breaking; Lands Minister directs police chief to arrest armed mobs involved in forced and illegal land evictions.



By Witness Radio team

Uganda’s Lands Minister Judith Nabakooba has directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Martins Okoth Ochola to arrest all organized and armed mobs involved in forced and illegal land evictions.

The directive is the second one from the same minister to the police chief in three (3) months due to widespread forced and illegal land evictions in Uganda.

On February 28, 2022, President Yoweri Museveni came out and banned all land evictions in the country that are carried out without the consent of the respective District Security Committees (DSC).

The latest directive was triggered by violent scenes that occurred on the 19th of March 2023 when armed groups of men with graders invaded the St peter’s Church of Uganda’s land in Kibiri and started destroying crops planted on the church land. The armed group whose employer is not yet established claims the church is occupying someone’s land illegally.

In an attempt to stop the unlawful eviction, Church leaders, led by Reverend Maxwell Ssebuggwawo and some faithful tried to intervene but in vain.

According to eyewitnesses, the armed group immediately attacked the Clergyman and other Christians causing severe bodily injuries. In the scuffle, Rev. Maxwell Ssebuggwawo’s vestments were torn by the mob, whom the community believes was being targeted.

In response to the violent attack against the church leader and congregation, the minister observed that many land grabbers have resorted to using organized and armed mobs to evict people from their land. She further describes eviction as illegal and unacceptable since the government has capable security agencies that can effect lawful evictions.

“We have noted incidents where some crooks employ mobs to evict people yet we have security forces that can do this concerning the law. This is wrong. I have therefore directed the IGP to arrest everybody involved in these illegal acts and be brought to book”, the Minister added in an interview with the local media.

Witness Radio in the recent past has documented incidents where organized and armed mobs are participating in violent land evictions.  For instance, a recent eviction of a 99-year-old Hellena Namazzi in Numugongo in Kira Municipality in Wakiso district by Sema Properties boss, Ssemakula Sulait, another ugly case involved a violent eviction of over 2000 people off 328.1 hectares by one Moses Karangwa and Abid Alam in Kassanda district among others.

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Over 500 Kapapi families in Hoima district remain stranded after the district security committee fails to resettle them back on their land as directed by the minister.



By Witness Radio team.

Hundreds of families, violently evicted from their land in Kapapi and Kiganja sub-counties in Hoima district are still pondering their next moves as efforts to return to their grabbed land remain ambiguous.

The directive came after Hoima district police and private guards from Magnum, a private security company raided people’s homes in Waaki North, Kapapi Central, Waaki South, Runga, and Kiryatete villages in Kapapi and Kiganja sub-counties, Hoima district on 10th of February 2023 at 1:00 am.

The violent scenes left hundreds of children with scores of injuries, houses were torched, and property worth billions was destroyed.  The animals such as goats, sheep, and cows were butchered and others were looted.

On 22nd of February 2023, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Honorable Judith Nabakooba while addressing a meeting in Rukola village Kapapi sub-county, Hoima district directed the security committee to return the victim villagers back to their land.

She considered the eviction unlawful since it was conducted at night and without a court order.

In that meeting, area leaders, Hoima district police and Hoima Resident District commissioner, Mr. Rogers Mbabazi, Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Michael Kyakashari were in attendance.

The victim community accuses a group of people including Ndahura Gafayo, Aston Muhwezi, David Mpora, Monica Rwashadika, Agaba, and Wilber Kiiza of being responsible for the land grab.

The grabbed land is situated at the shores of Lake Albert adjacent to the Kabaale parish in Buseruka Sub-county where the greenfield oil refinery is to be established. In April 2018, the government selected the Albertine Graben Refinery Consortium (AGRC) as the private sector investment to finance, develop, construct, and operate the Greenfield oil Refinery estimated to cost $4b.

According to the Witness Radio research team, ever since the directive was made instead, there’s increased human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, detentions and threats, and intimidation against victims of residents encamped at Rwenyana Church to vacate.

The evictees report that after the minister’s directive, three community members include; Mbombo Steven, and Kalongo Steven have been arrested, charged, and remanded to Hoima government prison.

“Our families encamping at church and waiting to be resettled back as directed by the Minister are facing further threats and intimidation to go away. They say they don’t want us at the church. Some of us are currently in hiding for fear of arbitrary arrests or kidnaps.” A community member who preferred to be called Enos due to fear of retaliation told Witness Radio.

He further added that the community is living at the mercy of God, with no food, or shelter, and predicted an uncertain future for their children since they are not attending school.

“Families are scattered in different centers while others continue to live with their relatives. However essential services such as shelter, food, health services, and education for their children remain a challenge. These people found us on land and started claiming ownership of this land. Imagine when we went for a search at a land registry, we found out that they only have a title of 2 acres but everyone knows we have been on this land for over 30 years. We have people who were born on this land.” He added.

Witness Radio contacted Mr. Rogers Mbabazi, Hoima Resident District Commissioner who heads the district security committee, to understand how far the committee had gone with the implementation of the minister’s directive. He instead referred us to his Deputy Mr. Michael Kyakashari.

Mr. Michael Kyakashari, when asked about the status of the directive, told our reporter that he did not have an answer for him before he hung up.

“I don’t have an answer for you” He repeatedly said.

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

State House Anti-Corruption Unit nets a surveyor implicated in Mubende district land-grabs



Mr. Mafumu Paul and his accomplices at police after their arrest.

By Witness Radio Team,

The State House Anti-corruption Unit has arrested an alleged landgrabber in Mubende district whose evictions have rendered masses homeless.

Mr. Mafumu Paul, a Mubende based surveyor is accused of using police and conniving with some officials in the Lands ministry to issue forged titles that have been instrumental in illegal land evictions in the districts of Mubende, Kiboga and Kyankwanzi.

The alleged land grabber has been arrested alongside two of his farm workers who include Ssenyondo Ronald and Sseruyange Ben.

The arrest follows complaints of grave human rights abuses to the State House Anti-Corruption Unit and the minister for lands housing and urban development. In response, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, the Hon. Judith Nabakooba Nalule, visited the families whose crops were sprayed with chemicals by Mafumu’s workers. She later requested the State House Anti-Corruption Unit to intervene and investigate circumstances under which forged certificate of land titles are issued and used to forcefully evict local communities off their land. She further directed the Mubende Police to oversee the arrest of the Mufumu.

He has been implicated in instigating unlawful arrests, beating people, denying communities to access clean water sources, razing-down people’s houses and gardens, fly-grazing, and spraying their crops with chemicals in order to evict them from their land.

In one of the recent cases, on the 14th of January 2023, violence was meted out on the residents in Nalyankanja village, Kyenda Town Council in Mubende district. Mafumu is said to have ordered his workers to spray their crops, an act they believe has escalated hunger in their area. The crops sprayed with chemicals included: sweet potatoes, pineapples, coffee, bananas, and Cassava.

According to Witness Radio research, Mafumu has been accused of violently evicting over 17 families since 2018 from their land measuring approximately 248 acres.

The alleged land grabber and his accomplices are currently being detained at Mubende Police.

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