By witnessradio.org Team
Kiryandongo – Uganda – over 30 defenders and community leaders have been arrested, intimidated, detained and made to report on police bonds since 2017 to date, a price being paid by a poor and vulnerable community to make way for three agribusiness investments, witnessradio.org can reveal.
The revelation follows a report on Kiryandongo eviction, which pinned the three multinationals namely, Kiryandongo Sugar Limited owned by a Mauritius-based RAI family, Great Season SMC Limited, owned by a Sudanese businessman based in Dubai and Agilis Partners Limited owned by US businessmen and backed by several foreign development agencies and “social impact” investors, for grabbing poor communities’ land on gun point.
The multinationals are being backed by Uganda Police Force, Soldiers from Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) and Private security firms including Saracen security group to grab about 10,000 Ha being cultivated and lawfully occupied by 35000 people.
The Kiryandongo case is among the many cases of land grab in Uganda, in which local communities have lost livelihoods and efforts to defend their land rights have been criminalized using the Penal Code. Criminal charges against communities are viewed as one of the tools to silence their voices or weaken their struggle for land access or use.
According to police bonds reviewed by witnessradio.org, criminal trespass, inciting violence, aggravated robbery, malicious damage to property, arson and assault are among the commonest charges being used by police against defenders, and community leaders.
The analysis further indicates that Agilis Partners Limited has 20 cases, which is the highest number of victimized land rights defenders and community leaders, Kiryandongo Sugar Limited with 8 cases and Great Season SMC limited with 6 cases.
One of the outrageous cases documented by witnessradio.org involves Agilis Partners Limited’s evictee, Linos Okyepe, a resident of Tecwa, village, Kitwala parish, Kiryandongo sub county, Kiryandongo district. He was arrested in December, 2017, illegally detained at Kiryandongo Police for 10 days without being taken to court, he bought his freedom by paying Kiryandongo police UGX 300,000 equivalent to USD 84.
According to testimonies, upon Okyepe’s release from Kiryandongo police cells, he was re-arrested and taken to unknown destination where he was subjected to torture on fabricated charges of possessing a fire arm.
“Okyepe was kept incommunicado (Artillery division barracks in Masindi district) for one year before he was freed by a visiting Court Martial judge due to lack of exhibits to pin him” Confirms Okyepe’s fellow inmate.
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