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Oxfam report 2011: Court orders were too weak to stop an investor in Mubende and Kiboga



By Team, a Third Series

The story of neighbouring Mubende just months later echoes the events of the 2008– 2010 Kiboga evictions. In both cases, the local people believed they had legal claims to the land and attempted to get their case heard in court. In both instances, the High Court issued an interim order restraining the company from evicting the residents. Promises of compensation, made to community leaders in both Mubende and Kiboga, seem to have come to nought. Thousands of people have been left landless, living a hand-to-mouth existence, unable to afford to educate their children or to access adequate healthcare.

Many evictees describe feeling dehumanized by the experience. ‘I lost land. I’m landless. Land was my life. I have no rights. It’s like I’m not a human being,’ said Fred Bahemuka, a father of eight from Mubende.

Augustin Allen, 52, is vice-chair of Kyamukasa council. He has nine children aged between four and 23. ‘My father fought in Egypt for the British during the war,’ he told Oxfam. ‘I heard that in Mubende there was land allocated for Second World War veterans and their families.’ In 1997, he met the leaders of the veterans. ‘I submitted my dad’s service papers and was allocated 31 acres’. He grew bananas, coffee, beans, and maize, selling most of it to traders. He was able to pay for schooling for all of his children.

Attempts to clear the land of its inhabitants began in early 2009 with press reports of armed groups beating people in Namwasa forest, leading over 10,000 residents to petition Lands Minister, Omara Atubo, in July 2009, to stop the evictions. Mr Atubo said, ‘As a ministry in charge of land, we are saddened by what has happened to you. It is important to respect your rights irrespective of whether you occupy the land legally or not. There is no need for your colleagues to disappear, your property to be stolen or crops to be destroyed.’

‘There were no consultations before the evictions,’ Mr Allen said. Despite the ongoing legal claims, on 11 December 2009 three government ministers and the Resident District Commissioner visited the area and told people to leave by February. Police, backed by army troops, were deployed in December. Oxfam heard how the police dismantled the local primary school – named Bright Future – and set fire to the school chairs and desks.

Villagers told Oxfam that, in January 2010, the police arrested 18 community leaders. When people met to organize themselves, police broke up the meeting with teargas, according to villagers. ‘They told us we were illegally encroaching,’ Mr Allen said. During the evictions in February, ‘they cut down our crops, burnt and demolished our houses,’ Mr Allen added.

‘We were beaten by soldiers. They beat my husband and put him in jail,’ said Naiki Apanabang, who claims that her land was given in recognition of her grandfather having fought in the British army in Burma in the Second World War. ‘The eviction was very violent. The people behind it were the Resident District Commissioner, the police, casual labourers of the New Forests Company, the army, and a private security company called Askar.’

Ms Apanabang has eight children. She now lives in a rented house for 15,000 shillings ($5.50) a month and says even finding this money is now a problem. She earns some money from casual work when she can find it. She cannot afford school fees. Before being evicted, she said her family ate well from a variety of crops they grew. ‘Now we rely on posho [a maize porridge staple] and the days I fail to get posho, we sleep on empty stomachs,’ she said. ‘One of the things that most touches my life now is that I have forgotten the feeling of eating well.’

‘I remember I wrote the details in my notebook,’ she said. ‘The officials gave us a deadline to leave between the 12th and 28th of February 2010. I chose to leave on the 12th. We saw them burning down people’s houses and cutting down people’s plantations. That convinced me to collect my children and leave. It was too painful. And what I feared is what has happened – we have nothing to eat. My children are not going to school and we don’t know what the future holds.’

Mr Allen says: ‘One of the things that pained me most was that my land was the source of income for school fees for my children. I am not an educated person. It was my plan to raise money to educate my children so that when I’m gone they can take care of other family members. But now I can only afford to send one of my six children to school. Now they are held back, they are nobody. That is the painful thing.’

‘We are no longer interested in going back to the land we had before. We only want to have money to buy some new land somewhere else. Let the past settle,’ Mr Allen said. ‘I only pray to God that a miracle comes now, to get land somewhere else. I think that is when we shall have back the peace and happiness in the family that we have all lost.’

Maria Peimong is a 66-year old grandmother who was evicted from Kyato village in Mubende, where she told Oxfam she had lived for over 15 years. She used to farm maize, bananas, avocado, and jackfruit; she had eight cows and 15 goats. Now she is reduced to a precarious existence: ‘I am an old woman. Now I just work as a casual labourer in this village where I found refuge. At my age how can I live like that? … It is so frightening.’ She is terrified of falling sick as ‘that means going for a day without a meal, because you cannot work.


To be continued…


Enemies of the State: Resistance to the EACOP becomes a deadly task



It is no secret: in Uganda it is badly about human rights. With the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, repression against lawyers, but activists and journalists is taking on new proportions. They are staged as enemies of the state. The human rights organisation Witness Radio reports from Uganda.

The morning of the 15th April 2024 in the court of the Ugandan city of Hoima did not go as usual: court officials, police officers and passers-by watched helplessly as a crowd led by the activist Fred Mwesigwa read a petition in the Hoima High Court: “We are deeply concerned about the recent court ruling that orders the expulsion of 42 families in the Buliisa district to make room for the Tilga project.” They protested against a court order of December 2023, which gave the government the green light to the community to expel the community for the oil production project. The community had previously refused to accept the government-intended compensation payments for their country, on which they live and from which they live.

The Buliisa case is just the tip of the iceberg of the many communities affected by oil production projects. In Uganda and Tanzania, the rural population in particular has to give way to a 30-metre-wide pipeline corridor, oil production fields, tank farms, infrastructure and safety zones around the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). According to a study published in 2022 by the organisation Les Amis de la Terre, up to 118,000 people could be affected by resettlement along the pipeline route, including mainly farming communities.

Low discompensation

In a conversation with Witness Radio, those affected reported that they were no longer in a position to meet their basic needs due to insufficient compensation and inadequate resettlement plans. James 1, who was taken to the Kyakaboga resettlement camp, declared that the inhabitants had been provided with infertile land that was unsuitable for the cultivation of crops. In addition, the camps are overcrowded, which means that the residents are exposed to illness. He stressed that access to health services is particularly challenging. Pregnant women in particular are facing difficulties, as the nearest health centre is eight kilometres away. Tragically, James said, three pregnant womans would have lost their babies on their way to there.

As in the case of the 42 households from Buliisa, who refused compensation from the government, many of the EACOP projects say those affected that the government did not adequately assess their land and property. Nevertheless, they were forced to release their land for the project. They criticised the fact that they were not sufficiently sensitised to the negative effects of the project. Instead, the government and the majority shareholders Totalenergies promised large compensation, prosperity growth and employment opportunities that have not yet occurred.

A study by Inclusive Development International also concludes that, in accordance with international standards, the government and TotalEnergies have systematically failed to involve the people affected by the project and civil society in the planning and providing them with low-threshold information. The study also states that when testing the environmental impact of Tilenga, Kingfisher and EACOP, it was found that the project promoters do not use the “best available techniques” to prevent the impact on the impact of ecosystems. The decision to use low-cost technologies for oil drilling and water-leading areas is therefore a predictable risk to the health and safety of local residents.

Opposition underesired

When the first land survey for the Tilenga project took place in 2020, many families expected to benefit from the project. Later, however, TotalEnergies aimed to acquire their country free of charge. In consultation with some real estate agents, local authorities, police and army, the company distributed almost 20,000 people in Kapapi (Hoima) in February 2023. In the course of this, women were also raped. Before the forced expulsion, the local police, in cooperation with the real estate brokers, had arrested those who criticised the land grab in order to intimidate the other members of the community.

Activists are presented as ‘anti-development’

The seven defenders of the plaintive families, Karongo Edward, Mulega Eria, Kataza Samuel, Rangira Stephen, Rubyogo Edward and Mbombo Stephen, were charged with a host of alleged crimes. In June 2023, after three to five months in prison, they were released on bail. However, as part of their bail pads, they must report regularly to the court in Hoima.

The criminalisation of land and environmentalists has become a common tactic by the Ugandan authorities in order to silence opposition and maintain impunity. This tactic does not only exist in Uganda, it is a global problem – especially in the context of large infrastructure projects.

According to the data from Witness Radio, in seven out of ten cases of evictions, defenders are subjected to targeted violence, torture and arbitrary arrests. They are often falsely charged with a large number of crimes ranging from domestic peace and attempted murder. At the end of June 2023, Witness Radio reported that more and more environmental and land-legal defenders who uncover questionable business are targeting state controls. From 2010 to 2023, more than 1,500 people. In connection with the pipeline, Witness Radio has documented 75 cases of arbitrary arrests, detentions and forced disappearances since the first construction work.

Opposition to the EACOP has become a mortal danger. Activists and human rights activists are confronted with hate speech, arrests, torture and death threats and are portrayed as ‘honsensible to development’ – on the grounds that they would promote the interests of Western countries.

The Resistance goes on

Ugandan activist Bob Barigye reports that the state security forces are using “false accusations” to arrest activists. “We are considered enemies of the state,” says Barigye. “The police are now preferting psychological torture because physical torture would create poor publicity for the oil pipeline project, which could deter investors and insurers. The government does not want to be in the international spotlight for the wrong reasons.”

Not only the project opponents, but also journalists in Uganda find it difficult to report on the EACOP projects: Gerald Tenywa is a Ugandan science journalist who has been reporting intensively on environmental protests for decades. In an interview with Drilled Media, he describes the difficulties in reporting on EACOP activists who criticise the construction of the pipeline. He cites the government’s intolerance to protests as a hurdle for journalistic work and stresses that in developing countries “oil and politics have almost always merged”.

“Oil and politics are almost always fused”

Emmanuel Okello works for the Uganda Radio Network in the Ugandan Albertine region. According to him, reporting is also made more difficult by the fact that the government and the companies involved keep the most important information about the oil projects under wraps. “A lot is claimed to promote these projects, including the development of the communities,” says Okello, “but this is not the case on the ground. People do not benefit from the projects, they only destroy their livelihoods. If you ask the government who exactly the beneficiaries they are talking about, there is no clear answer.”

It remains a difficult task to bring the voices of the affected communities into the public and to cope with the associated repression. It is also connected with obstacles to achieving justice through legal route. Thus, the court in Hoima rejected the application for the cessation of the evictions of the 42 families in Buliisa mentioned above.

The presentation of the plight of these communities, the protection of the environment and support for court cases are crucial, especially at a time when the space for civil society and media freedom in Uganda is becoming ever smaller. This requires cooperation with international groups and support for civil societies and media.


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Statement: The Energy Sector Strategy 2024–2028 Must Mark the End of the EBRD’s Support to Fossil Fuels



The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is due to publish a new Energy Sector Strategy before the end of 2023. A total of 130 civil society organizations from over 40 countries have released a statement calling on the EBRD to end finance for all fossil fuels, including gas.

From 2018 to 2021, the EBRD invested EUR 2.9 billion in the fossil energy sector, with the majority of this support going to gas. This makes it the third biggest funder of fossil fuels among all multilateral development banks, behind the World Bank Group and the Islamic Development Bank.

The EBRD has already excluded coal and upstream oil and gas fields from its financing. The draft Energy Sector Strategy further excludes oil transportation and oil-fired electricity generation. However, the draft strategy would continue to allow some investment in new fossil gas pipelines and other transportation infrastructure, as well as gas power generation and heating.

In the statement, the civil society organizations point out that any new support to gas risks locking in outdated energy infrastructure in places that need investments in clean energy the most. At the same time, they highlight, ending support to fossil gas is necessary, not only for climate security, but also for ensuring energy security, since continued investment in gas exposes countries of operation to high and volatile energy prices that can have a severe impact on their ability to reach development targets. Moreover, they underscore that supporting new gas transportation infrastructure is not a solution to the current energy crisis, given that new infrastructure would not come online for several years, well after the crisis has passed.

The signatories of the statement call on the EBRD to amend the Energy Sector Strategy to

  • fully exclude new investments in midstream and downstream gas projects;
  • avoid loopholes involving the use of unproven or uneconomic technologies, as well as aspirational but meaningless mitigation measures such as “CCS-readiness”; and
  • strengthen the requirements for financial intermediaries where the intended nature of the sub-transactions is not known to exclude fossil fuel finance across the entire value chain.


Download the statement:

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Breaking: Three community land rights defenders from Kawaala have been arrested.



Old kampala police where defenders were arrested from .

Breaking: Three community land rights defenders from Kawaala have been arrested.

By Witness Radio team

Police at Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarter have arrested three of the six community land rights defenders from Kawaala Zone II, Kampala suburb, and preferred a fraud charge before being released on bond.

Kasozi Paul, Busobolwa Adam, and Kabugo Micheal got arrested on their arrival before being taken inside interrogation rooms. They were questioned from 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM local time and later recorded their statements.

Section 342 of the Penal Code states that forgery is the making of a false document with the intent to defraud or deceive. It carries a three year imprisonment on conviction.

According to lawyers representing victims, defenders are arrested on the orders of the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division Anderson Burora and accused them of fraud.

Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.

The charges are a result of continued resistance by Kawaala community seeking fair compensation and resettlement before Lubigi drainage channel is constructed. Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced evictions by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) funded by World Bank. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) is the implementor of the project.

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.

The New Vision, a local daily of June 21st, 2022, quoted Burora accusing Kasozi Paul, one of the community land rights defenders from Kawaala Zone II of being a fraudster.

Witness Radio – Uganda challenges the deputy RCC Burora to produce evidence that pins the defenders on fraud instead of criminalizing the work of defenders.

“We warn Mr. Burora against using police to harass defenders who have openly opposed a project which is causing negative impacts on the community” Adong Sarah, one of the lawyers representing the defenders said.

The defenders got released on police bond as they are expected to report back to the police on Monday, the 18th of July 2022 at 11:00 AM local time.


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