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Oxfam Report 2011: How government and investor named bonafide occupants ‘illegal encroachers” to justify the eviction



By Team, as extracted from Oxfam report

Oxfam research indicated that around 7,400 people were living on the Namwasa plantation and at least 15,191 people on the Luwunga plantation.

NFC and government officials have called these people ‘encroachers’ (or ‘illegal encroachers’). Oxfam believes this is a dangerously loaded term because it pre-judges people’s rights and dehumanizes them, making it easier to justify violent tactics. And it is arguably a highly misleading term too, because the people maintain that they did in fact have lawful entitlement to the land and were testing that argument in ongoing legal cases. These claims are resisted by NFC and neither case has been concluded.

In Kiboga, many of the people say they were born on the land, while others say they had lived there since the early 1970s, building up 40 years’ worth of social and communal services and physical infrastructure. Some people say they had bought and sold plots during that time.

In Mubende, the Second World War veterans and their descendants say they were allocated land in recognition of service, while others say they had bought, were gifted, or inherited land in the area since the 1980s. In their legal pleadings, the claimants assert that they are ‘either bona fide, lawful occupants and/or customary tenants and are protected by the constitution of the Republic of Uganda and the land laws of Uganda.’

NFC states that these proceedings, launched against the company, were misdirected since the government, rather than NFC, was responsible for undertaking the evictions. It says that the claims ‘have been taken most seriously and have been the subject of extensive legal counsel and internal inquiry’, and maintains that ‘the cases have failed to appear in court due to the inability of the plaintiffs to assert a legitimate case’.

The Mubende claims, it says, have ‘been confirmed erroneous by the extensive investigation conducted by the third Prime Minister’s office’. NFC base this on an FSC audit, conducted by SGS, which states that the validity of the claims is ‘highly dubious’ and that the company acted responsibly to resolve the issue of encroachment. However, Oxfam has been told by lawyers representing the community members that the cases are still active, and this has been acknowledged by NFC. This means that claims brought by thousands of people remain unresolved.

In both legal cases, the High Court considered that the communities’ concerns were sufficiently urgent and their arguments sufficiently strong to justify granting orders restraining evictions until the full case could be heard in court.

NFC claimed – in its 2011 Project Design Document submitted to the CDM – that people vacated the land in Mubende ‘voluntarily and peacefully’. However, the communities Oxfam spoke to describe the evictions as anything but voluntary or peaceful. People told Oxfam that the army and police were deployed in the area to enforce the evictions and that many people were beaten during the process.

Some villagers also claim that casual labourers whom they believe were employed by NFC joined the police and army in burning homes, destroying crops, and butchering livestock. The pleadings in the claim brought by the Kiboga community allege that NFC ‘purporting to be a licensee of [the NFA], trespassed on the Plaintiffs’ land, destroyed homes, crops, and animals of the Plaintiffs and attempted to evict the Plaintiffs’. They also allege ‘trespass, uncivility, harassment, and abuse’ by NFC and its agents. The Mubende evictees claim that employees of NFC were ‘evicting, harassing, erasing their plantations, demolishing their houses, intimidating, mistreating’ them. News of the evictions, albeit not referring to NFC as the perpetrator, was published in local media and the dispute was described in the communities’ law suits filed in 2009.

NFC firmly denies involvement in any evictions or violence and says ‘there were no incidences of injury, physical violence, or destruction of property during the voluntary vacation process that have been brought to the attention of NFC’. It continues to rely on the FSC audit of the Mubende evictions which states that ‘there were no incidences of injury to the encroachers or forceful eviction reported during this process’. It also states that it received no reports of violence from the District Police Commissioner or the NFA, and that no such incidents were observed by NFC employees. From materials provided by NFC to Oxfam, it does not appear to Oxfam to have conducted its own detailed investigations into any allegations of violence committed during the evictions. It has conceded some concerns about Askar, the private security company it contracted.

In its Project Design Document submitted to the Executive Board of the CDM, NFC noted that ‘surrounding communities sometimes report that the Askar security guards contracted by the company extort money from them’ and that the guards had ‘generated negative perceptions of the company.’ In response, NFC recognised a need to commit to ‘training its own staff internally and will guard against extortion in the future with increased accountability and auditing’. The company says that there were threats to the lives of NFC staff, which prompted a ‘need for protection during the vacation process’.

In the course of its research, Oxfam discovered that in Kiboga – the scene of the first evictions beginning in 2008 – senior NFC representatives met with local officials on 21 August 2008. The meeting agreed that NFC would pay seven million shillings ($2,500) to conduct a ‘population survey’ and, depending on its results, make available at most two square miles (1,280 acres) for five years to the ‘historic occupants’ of the land. In their testimonies, people described to Oxfam that a comprehensive survey did indeed happen. People said they were photographed and the value of their land and assets recorded. They felt that NFC and local officials were making a genuine effort on their behalf.

It seems that the process did not result in resettlement or compensation for the evictees. NFC acknowledges that they commissioned and paid for a survey, carried out by the Kiboga District Planner. Worryingly, they admit that they have not received the final census report, and told Oxfam that they doubted the findings – believing the figure of over 15,000 people to be ‘inflated’. NFC claims it is vital to ‘look behind us to see the imprint our footprints have left behind’, but does not appear to have any data they regard as conclusive about the number of people affected by their operations. IFC Performance Standards, however, require companies to carry out a census with appropriate socio- economic baseline data to identify the persons who will be displaced by the project.

In a letter to Oxfam, NFC describes a series of consultations that took place in the months leading up to the evictions ‘which clearly outlined the conditions under which the vacations should occur, the laws pertaining to land use of central forest reserves, and the timeline to be observed.’ It also claims that the evictions were voluntary. However, Oxfam’s research has revealed consistent testimony from evictees of both districts to the effect that they were not consulted and did not consent to losing their land, homes, and livelihoods. The minutes of the August 2008 meeting between NFC and Kiboga district officials to discuss resettlement of the evictees show that no community representatives were present at that meeting. One community leader explained that the proposal was presented to the community in a public meeting, which was not consultative. The proposal was rejected as unacceptable because too little land was offered and the solution was only temporary.


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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