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Owori, Tororo locals square off over land.

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Fashion designer and businesswoman Sylvia Owori  at an Operation Wealth Creation  function in 2021. 

The Director of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) and about 200 families are embroiled in dispute over the ownership of about 100 acres of land in Nyangore Sub-county, Tororo District.

Ms Sylvia Owori’s accusers told Sunday Monitor that the OWC top official who also doubles as boss of the Zipa Modelling Agency used her newfound power to grab their land, a charge she vehemently denies.

The land in dispute is located about five miles from Tororo Town, on the Tororo Mbale Road. It is also in close proximity to Mukuju Teacher Training College and both Simba and Hima Cement plants.

Ms Owori says “encroachers” have attempted to take over large swaths of land that “has my father’s grave, my grandmother’s grave and my grandfather’s grave.”

She added: “It is not true [that I am grabbing their land]. This is my ancestral land…these people are trying to claim that land,” Ms Owori told Sunday Monitor.

A September 30, 2020 brief signed by three of her accusers—Emmanuel Otedo, Oburu Silver and Obonyo Robert Ochwo—alleges that Ms Owori forcefully accessed their land on July 31, 2020.

They add that she did this while in the company of armed escorts, who she used to intimidate and harass them.

Ms Owori admits to moving around with armed escorts, but denies using them to intimidate her accusers.

“I am a Director of OWC and I am entitled to a driver and a bodyguard. I have only two security officers. Two security officers cannot go and threaten an entire village. And even if so, there should have been a report at the police that these officers did this or that,” Ms Owori argues.

It is further alleged that Ms Owori had on the same day attempted to forcefully have the land surveyed. This triggered commotion in the village, forcing the surveyor to back down.

The matter, according to the brief, was reported to the Mile 5 police station where the people whose land had been the subject of the alleged trespass recorded statements.

The development compelled the Rubongi Sub-county  chairperson to convene a September 2, 2020 meeting where Ms Owori laid claim to the land in dispute.

“During the meeting Sylvia Owori said that she had come to reclaim her father’s land and was therefore in the company of armed personnel for self-protection. The statement surprised us the bonafide owners of the land because to the best of our knowledge, the land she is claiming is not hers nor her late fathers” the brief reads in part.

Owori insists that the land in question is ancestral land that was acquired by her late grandfather.

“This land was acquired by my grandfather in 1915 during the colonial days. He was a chief. When he died in 1942, he left the land with my father George William Owori,” she told Sunday Monitor.

However, whereas her accusers concede that her grandfather was a chief in the area and was buried there, he was not the only chief that was buried there. They add that amongst all  descendants of late chiefs buried there, it is only Ms Owori who is laying claim to the land.

The Owori’s contestations over the land are said to date back to about 1970 when Mr George William Owori—Sylvia’s late father—filed a suit. It was reportedly dismissed on January 2, 1978.

“We were therefore surprised when this lady (Sylvia Owori) raised a matter which had been successfully handled by the courts of law more than 40 years ago,” they wrote.

Ms Owori, however, disputes that version of events, insisting that the court had ruled in her late father’s favour.

“He got a court ruling in his favour and they were given three months to leave or face eviction. These people continued to grab the land. In March 1980, when he was trying to put up a fight, he was shot [and killed] because of the same land,” she said.

Ms Owori is perplexed by her accusers’ decision to petition Parliament over the land when the matter is still the subject of court proceedings in Tororo.

“If they are sure that this is their land, why don’t they wait for the court process to run its course? Why don’t they wait for the outcome of court? If they are truly the rightful owners then the court will determine in their favour,” she said.

The matter was the subject of a May 6 petition sent to the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Anita Among, through the area MP—Dr Emmanuel Otaala.

It was tabled before Parliament by the Tororo District Woman MP, Ms Sarah Opendi. Ms Among directed the Minister for Lands and Urban Development to investigate the matter.

Ms Opendi told Parliament last week that Ms Owori had blocked people from accessing a school and a church located on the disputed land.

“The petitioners have sought assistance from this land grabber, but to no avail. Her security personnel have beaten up people and now they have come seeking Parliament’s intervention to rescue them from land grabbers,” she told Parliament.

Ms Owori, however, dismissed Ms Opendi’s statement in the House and instead accused the lawmaker of politicking.

“Someone wants to tarnish my name because of politics. She thinks that since I am on the ground meetings with youth and women leaders, I want to contest for woman MP,” Ms Owori said, adding, “I am showing them things to do with Operation Wealth Creation.”

Original Source: Daily Monitor

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Uganda: StopEACOP Campaign Condemns Standard Bank’s Decision to Fund EACOP

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Kampala — The StopEACOP Campaign is appalled by Standard Bank’s decision to help finance the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project and condemns this decision in the strongest possible terms. This decision follows a years-long review process, during which environmental and social concerns raised by numerous stakeholders were evidently ignored.

The $5 billion EACOP project, spearheaded by TotalEnergies, aims to transport crude oil from Uganda’s oil fields to a terminal in Tanga, Tanzania. Despite significant opposition from affected communities and environmental and human rights groups, Standard Bank, Africa’s largest lender, has decided to support this disastrous project.

Standard Bank chair Nonkululeko Nyembezi stated in a recent interview that they had conducted comprehensive environmental and social due diligence. However, the claim contradicts the project’s grave climate, environmental and human rights risks. The decision of Standard Bank is also at odds with the assessment of its peers, who have ruled out support for the EACOP for climate, environmental, and social concerns.

Standard Bank’s decision ignores local opposition and human rights abuses 

In the last month alone, 11 pipeline critics have been arrested in Uganda and Tanzania after expressing their concerns about the project. In addition, one of the community leaders from the Kingfisher region in Uganda was abducted by the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces, bringing condemnation from the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. Standard Bank’s untimely announcement of their decision to finance EACOP, in the midst of a brutal crackdown on human rights, environmental and land defenders in Uganda and Tanzania, illustrates their level of detachment from the realities and experiences of communities on the ground and calls into question their claim to have done thorough due diligence.

Environmental and human rights groups have persistently highlighted the potential hazards of the controversial EACOP, including severe impacts on wildlife habitats, the displacement of communities, and the exacerbation of climate change through increased greenhouse gas emissions. Many field investigation reports, including a recent Human Rights Watch report, have also documented and denounced the inadequate compensation and significant disruption experienced by residents displaced by the pipeline’s construction. Against this backdrop, Standard Bank’s decision to finance EACOP shows blatant disregard for the voices and rights of the communities in Uganda and Tanzania who will bear the brunt of the environmental and social devastation caused by this project.

Standard Bank cannot feign ignorance in relation to the concerns surrounding EACOP. It has faced consistent pressure from communities and climate and social justice organisations and groups in South Africa who have demonstrated outside the bank’s offices in Rosebank, Johannesburg on numerous occasions. These demonstrations, including a large protest with hundreds of participants on the day of the bank’s AGM in 2023, a 3-day-long occupation of the bank’s entrance in September of the same year, and weekly pickets held outside the bank’s parking lot by Extinction Rebellion, sought to bring the demands and experiences of EACOP-affected communities to their attention.

Standard Bank has refused to engage in meaningful and constructive dialogue and instead, its response has been characterized by repression and increased militarisation. The South African Police Service has also intervened to protect the interests of the bank and has arrested peaceful demonstrators on two occasions. It is a stark demonstration of Standard Bank’s prioritization of profit over people and the planet and its lip-service commitment to constructive dialogue and meaningful engagement with frontline communities and other key stakeholders.

Standard Bank is also ignoring clear business risk

The decision to bankroll the project also casts doubt on Standard Bank’s assessment of the business and reputational risks stemming from the risks to local communities, environment and climate posed by the project.

Standard Bank’s decision comes after major financiers and insurers from North America, Europe, and Japan have publicly ruled out support for EACOP due to global outcry over the harmful project. The expected finance from China has also been delayed, while the Chinese state-owned insurers and banks have taken prolonged time to assess the outstanding risks. As a result, the EACOP project is facing significant challenges and  project sponsors are reportedly in a cash crisis to fill the funding gap, which threatens to stall the construction.

These delays come as a result of the immense pressure that potential financiers have come under from communities, civil society, the international community and even shareholders and investor groups who express grave concern over the catastrophic socio-economic, biodiversity and climate change risks of the project.

Standard Bank’s decision to finance the EACOP project starkly contradicts industry trends, as leading banks and insurers have distanced themselves from this controversial initiative. This decision exposes Standard Bank to significant risks, including the potential for stranded assets, especially as the global economy transitions towards clean energy solutions. Furthermore, with Uganda already facing a severe debt crisis, worsened by the country’s oil induced borrowing spree, the environmental and social costs associated with EACOP could precipitate an economic disaster for the people of Uganda as well as financiers and their shareholders who opt to engage with this project.

It is clear that investing in EACOP threatens the stability of vulnerable communities and jeopardizes the financial health and reputational integrity of those who support it. A 2022 report assessing the EACOP and associated oil fields against internationally recognized environmental and human rights standards for financial institutions found numerous violations, putting banks at risk if they sign on to support the project. The assessment, undertaken by the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Inclusive Development International (IDI) and BankTrack, suggests that the project is not in compliance with many of the criteria set forth in the Equator Principles and the Environmental and Social Performance Standards of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), two internationally recognized standards for responsible finance.

We demand that Standard Bank review and rescind its decision to finance the EACOP project immediately. While it may be too late for Standard Bank to redeem its supposed commitment to people and the planet, there is still time for other potential lenders, particularly Chinese state-owned banks, to demonstrate their dedication to human rights and sustainability by refusing to support EACOP. We call upon the global community to continue its unwavering support for the StopEACOP campaign and the communities on the frontlines. It is not too late to halt this disastrous project and prevent the extensive environmental, social, and economic damage it promises to inflict.

Quotes

“For years, we have campaigned tirelessly against Standard Bank, bringing the grievances and aspirations of impacted communities directly to their doorstep time and time again. Each time, we are met either with deafening silence or with outright violence from an institution that has shown itself to be truly heartless and utterly indifferent to the well-being of ordinary people. Let it be known that this announcement will not deter us. We will continue to stand in solidarity with the communities affected by EACOP and will escalate our actions against Standard Bank in the coming months.”  – Zaki Mamdoo, StopEACOP Campaign Coordinator

“Standard Bank prides itself on financing Africa’s development. However, the bank’s decision to finance the EACOP, not to mention its financing of other fossil fuel projects across Africa, earns the institution the title of an anti-people and an anti-development bank. Fossil fuel projects like EACOP that cause livelihood losses, enslave Ugandans by worsening indebtedness and drive all of us deeper into the climate crisis should not be financed by any bank.”  – Diana Nabiruma, Senior Communications Officer, AFIEGO

“Standard Bank is contributing to the devastation of our communities including through the immense loss of land and livelihood. They have chosen to ignore the plight of our people and to support our exploitation and suffering at the hands of greedy multinational corporations. This is a decision that places them squarely on the wrong side of history and which marks them as an institution with no regard for human rights and justice.” –  Richard Senkondo, Executive Director at the Organization for Community Engagement, Tanzania.

Original Source:350Africa.org  Via allafrica.com

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Pushing Back: World Bank project affected community petitions President Museveni over looming evictions by NEMA.

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By Witness Radio team.

A Kawaala community whose livelihoods were first disrupted by the Lubigi drainage Channel expansion, a project funded by the World Bank, has petitioned the Office of the President, calling for protection against National Environment and Management Authority (NEMA) threats of evictions.

The victim community calls for halting the illegal evictions and carrying out an independent investigation into their lawful occupancy and legitimate ownership of the land, which is being treated as a wetland.

According to victims, flooding in the area has been created by several infrastructural projects such as the Northern By-pass road construction, a Sewerage plant by the National Water and Sewerage Corporation, and the Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP2) among others.

In their petition dated June 14th and signed by over 70 residents of Kawaala Zone II, the victim community revealed that all the above-mentioned projects have compensated them, and others are yet to compensate for their pieces of land taken, crops plus other properties such as a year ago mediation facilitated by the World Bank’s Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) closed by a remedy agreement.

“We were shocked and distressed to receive sudden verbal eviction notices giving us only three days to vacate our land and homes without following due processes. The eviction threats are informal and caused unnecessary panic and confusion within our community,” the petition reads, adding that they have lived on their land for decades, having documents proving ownership of the land.

The community argues that the illegal eviction is a coordinated effort between NEMA and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) to avoid compensations agreed upon in the remedy agreement. KCCA is an implementer of the ongoing Second Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP2) funded by the World Bank.

A June 17 press statement released by NEMA confirms that the Lubigi restoration exercise is a collaborative effort among several government agencies, including the Ministry of Water and Environment, KCCA, NEMA, Uganda Police Force, and Uganda People’s Defense Forces.

Speaking to Witness Radio on 18th June 2024, community members confirmed that NEMA and other government agencies are continuing illegal evictions despite a copy of the petition being delivered to their offices.

“NEMA is not ceasing its illegal actions and continues to demolish everything they find. We have written to authorities, including the president, to intervene and save us, but we have not succeeded. We are adamantly opposing these evictions because we have what it takes to prove that we are the rightful owners,” one of the affected residents told Witness Radio.

The President’s office is yet to respond to the communities’ petition.

 

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Breaking Alert: Barely a year after signing the remedy agreement, World Bank Project-Affected Persons (PAPs) receive fresh land eviction threats

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By Witness Radio team.

Kawaala community, which signed a dispute resolution agreement between the Kawaala community and the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), facilitated by the World Bank Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) a year ago, has received a fresh land eviction threat. PAPs say they have received a three-day notice to vacate the land or face an eviction by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

This community first faced a forced eviction in December 2020, shortly after Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) acquired a loan from the World Bank on behalf of the government of Uganda to construct the Second Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2).

A USD 175 million project was started before consultations with the project-affected community, with no compensation or alternative settlement.

The remedy agreement signed on May 31st, 2023, aimed to mitigate the negative impacts of the drainage channel development on the livelihoods of the affected community and agreed to compensate all PAPs.

On June 3rd, 2024,  PAPs and their advisors  (Witness Radio and Accountability Counsel) issued a statement titled One Year Later, Justice is Delayed expressing disappointment in the way the post-agreement phase was being managed. In the agreement, KCCA, on behalf of the Government, offered to compensate all victims, resettle, and restore livelihoods, which have not been met since.

However, as the victim community is still waiting for the full implementation of the agreement by the KCCA, NEMA is forcing the urban poor community to vacate their land without any due process.

On June 13, 2024, NEMA’s representatives, under the protection of over 30 heavily armed soldiers and police officers, descended on the Kawaala Zone II community and issued an ultimatum of three days to vacate their land. Community members’ houses and other structures were marked with a big “X,” indicating they would be demolished.

“NEMA deployed at our homes soldiers and policemen to intimidate us, warning us that if we fail to remove all our belongings in three days, they will be brought down. Yet this is the land that we have held for decades. We are surprised that this is happening.” Kawaala community members revealed to Witness Radio.

According to Project-Affected Persons (PAPs), this is a collusion between KCCA and NEMA to evict them without receiving additional and fair compensation and their livelihood support under the Second Kampala Institution and Infrastructure Development (KIIDP2) project as terms of the May 31st, 2023 agreement.

Witness Radio investigations show that this is the third eviction attempt by the government to run away from its responsibility of providing fair and timely compensation to victims.

The first attempt occurred in December 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Kawaala Zone II community received an eviction notice with a 28-day deadline and no explanation from the government. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) officials heavily guarded by armed soldiers marked the houses with letter “X,” indicating they were to be demolished under the guise of the Public Health Act Cap 281.

KCCA had hidden intentions of taking the community land for the project without compensation. Upon learning that the project is funded by the World Bank, the Project Affected Persons filed a complaint to the World Bank’s inspection Panel demanding to be fairly compensated among others. The parties (KCCA and the Affected community) opted for the dispute resolution supported by the World Bank’s Dispute Resolution Service (DRS).

Still later on, on 23rd August 2022, when the community was still under the dispute resolution, NEMA emerged under the protection of the military, and anti-riot police descended on gardens for the same families in Kawaala Zone II, cut down food crops and demolished houses belonging to over 100 families.

The grieved PAP revealed that this tactic between the two government entities is intended to deny justice to them.

Mbabali Hamis, a 47-year-old father of 15, is cursing the World Bank-funded project. According to Mbabali, ever since they learned about the project’s implementation in their area, they have faced evictions by government agencies, including KCCA and NEMA, which they believe is a tactic aimed at grabbing their land. Mbabaali’s sentiments were re-echoed by many other project-affected persons.

“We have lived here happily for many years, but everything changed when this project began. Since then, we have witnessed numerous attempts to evict us from our land under the pretense that we have been living in the Lubigi Wetland. This is not true,” He revealed.

Like other residents, Mbabali has lived on his land since 1999, farming yams, sugarcane, and trees to provide for his family. When we spoke to him, his words were coming from far away, “he said, this is my land, and I have been living on it for two decades. I have all the documents proving ownership. Where do they want me to take my family when I bought this land with my hard-earned money?” he asked.

Currently, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is disguising itself as ‘evicting wetland encroachers’ a move targeting the urban-poor families’ land well aware that these individuals are the rightful owners of the land.

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