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Over 2500 persons affected by Aswa hydroelectricity project face eviction

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Residents of Angagura Sub County in a recent meeting on the contested land at Aswa Ranch – Photo by Simon Wokorach

Pader, Uganda |  At least 2,500 people occupying six villages in Angagura Sub County in Pader District are facing eviction to pave way from the Aswa Hydroelectricity Project. 

The affected villages include among others Burlobo with 716 people, Biira 380, Lubala 556, Koyo 360, Pungole 450 and Pabit with 325 residents.  

Nicolas Amone, a father of 14 children in Pungole Parish, says the project has encroached on his 250 hectors of land which includes two hectors of pine trees. Amone claims that he has been blocked from using the land without compensation.   

Sunday Okeny, a resident of Burlobo parish told URN during an interview that he has been ordered to vacate his land measuring 80 hectors to pave way for the power project without compensation.  

Lazarus Kidegasays, the Anga-gura Sub County LC III Chairperson, says they are seeking legal redress to repossess the land for the hydroelectricity power project, which he says was fraudulently acquired.  

Julius Nyeko, the Pader District Lands Officer, says they have written to Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development seeking guidance on the ownership of the contested land since several government entities are claiming ownership.

Godfrey Largo Oringa, the Pader District LC V Chairperson, says they are struggling to establish the true ownership of Aswa Ranch land. He says the land was erroneously leased out by Uganda Livestock Industries through the District Land Board.   

Largo further observes that the issue of Aswa Ranch is still very controversial as the District is struggling to regain its ownership.   

Denis Obbo, the Lands Ministry Spokesperson, says the contested land legally belongs to the government with a title issued in 2015. He wonders why the settlers are raising complaints now. 

In January this year, Acholi leaders led by retired Supreme Court Judge, Galdino Okello Moro petitioned court challenging the 2017 Presidential directive to lease out Aswa Ranch to private entities and persons as free public land. 

Government is jointly sued with land boards from Agago, Kitgum, Amuru, Gulu, Lamwo, Nwoya, Omoro and Pader Districts. The disputed Aswa Ranch measures about 105,400 hectares.

It is currently occupied by the National Animal Genetic Resources Centre – NAGRC, Banuti and Aswa Power Project with the aim of transforming the lives of the people in Northern Uganda.

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Accountable Development To Communities

A self-claimed landlord who caused the imprisonment of six community land rights defenders on false charges was aligned before the court and charged with 28 counts.

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Naava while entering court cells at  Mubende.

By Witness Radio Team

A magistrate court at Mubende has charged a self-claimed landlord with 28 counts plus murder. Naava Milly Namutebi caused the arrest of six community land rights defenders, falsely accused them of murder, and got imprisoned for three years without trial. 

Naava’s appearance before the court followed shortly after the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) dropped murder charges against six community land rights defenders. These include; Tumusiime Benjamin, Bagirana Innocent, Habana Domoro, Miyingo Gerald, Byangaramani Charles, and Byekwaso Fred.

Naava was charged along with Bulasio Musoke, Richard Mugagga, Henry Kaaya, among others. They were not allowed to answer any charges as the court had no power to make legal decisions and judgments on charges read to them.

The prosecution alleges that Naava and others still at large, committed offenses in areas of Mubende and Kampala districts between 2006 and 2021.

From 2012 to date, Naava got help from the senior army, police, and other public officers in Mubende orchestrated violence and committed human rights violations/abuses while forcefully evicting over 4,000 people off their land. 

The land being targeted measures 3.5 square miles covering villages including Kirwanyi central, Kirwanyi East, Kirwanyi West, Nakasagazi, Kituule A, Kituule B, Kibalagazi A, Kibalagazi B, Kakkanembe, Bukyambuzi A, Bukyambuzi B, Kisende, Mulanda, Kituule central, Kirwanyi A, and Butayunja in Kirwanyi and Kituule parishes in Butoloogo Sub County in Mubende district.

Naava and others accused were remanded to Kaweeri prison until 19th/July/2022. 

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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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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

A self-claimed landlord who masterminded the imprisonment of six community land rights defenders for three years has been arrested.

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Naava being arrested by police.

By Witness Radio team.

A joint team of investigators from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) from Kampala and the Mubende police arrested a self-claimed landlord who falsely accused six community land rights defenders of murder and led to a three years imprisonment without trial.

Naava Milly Namutebi was arrested at her farm in Kirwanyi in Mubende district with other alleged land dealers namely Bulasio Musoke, Richard Mugagga, and Henry Kaaya.

Naava’s arrest occurred a few days after the DPP dropped charges of murder against six community land rights defenders who had spent three years without trial. These include Tumusiime Benjamin, Bagirana Innocent, Habana Domoro, Miyingo Gerald, Byangaramani Charles, and Byekwaso Fred.

Since 2012, Naava with the help of senior army, police, and other public officers in Mubende have orchestrated violence and committed human rights violations/abuses against over 4,000 people to evict them off their land. The land is measuring 3.5 square miles covering villages namely Kirwanyi central, Kirwanyi East, Kirwanyi West, Nakasagazi, Kituule A, Kituule B, Kibalagazi A, Kibalagazi B, Kakkanembe, Bukyambuzi A, Bukyambuzi B, Kisende, Mulanda, Kituule central, Kirwanyi A, and Butayunja in Kirwanyi and Kituule parishes in Butoloogo Sub County in Mubende district.

According to locals, Mubende police acting on Naava’s orders arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained dozens and dozens of land owners at different police stations in the district. Several victims allege they had to pay colossal sums of money to be released.

For many years, Mubende district has been one of the forced eviction hotspots where families are forced off their land with compensation or being offered settlement. Witness Radio’s one-year research report released in 2017 revealed that over 60% of the total grabbed land in the district was stollen by local investors.

Witness Radio – Uganda research indicates that Naava is involved in multiple land grabs with the help of government security apparatus. In 2017, residents namely Ruhobana Dombo, Samuel Ndekezi, and Chleopus Zariwa from the Butoloogo sub-county in Mubende district were arbitrarily arrested and detained on Naava’s orders by Mubende police.

The victims and other residents lawfully occupied and cultivated their land for decades but got shocked to hear that Naava was claiming ownership of their land.

The trio had gone to their gardens to plant maize on August 17, 2017, when Naava’s stick-wielding laborers attacked and severely beat them.

Naava is currently held at Mubende Central Police Station, with 28 charges including murder, attempted murder, forgery, and others preferred against her.

 

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