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Oxfam Report Says Thousands Evicted in Uganda Land Grab

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The British charity Oxfam has released a new report detailing the forced eviction of people from forests in Uganda to make way for a British timber company. The Ugandan government denies the allegations, and says the numbers are exaggerated. 

Oxfam says that between 2006 and 2010, more than 22,000 people were evicted in the Kiboga and Mubende districts of central Uganda as part of a “land grab” by the New Forests Company.

One of the co-authors of the report, Matt Grainger, says Oxfam became aware last year of concerns about the company’s operations in Uganda.

“So when we talked to the people and we interviewed those people who had been evicted, their stories were absolutely consistent, and absolutely relentless,” said Grainger. “They had been forced out of their homes, they lost their homes, their crops had been destroyed, they couldn’t take their belongings, their homes were torched and they were left with nothing.”

Who is to blame?

The New Forests Company bills itself as being socially and environmentally responsible. It also claims to be the biggest tree planter in Uganda, where it harvests pine and eucalyptus trees, and plants other indigenous species as part of an environmental conservation effort.

The company says it currently has projects covering more than 20,000 hectares of land in the country.

Grainger says New Forests has denied any involvement in the evictions, saying that was the government’s job.

“Now, for us, a company operating in a developing country like Uganda can’t operate like it’s 1961, it can’t put all the blame on the government,” said Grainger. “New Forests shares responsibility to ensure that people aren’t worse off, that they’re properly compensated.”

Exaggerated numbers 

Uganda’s National Forestry Authority (NFA), which ordered the evictions, says Oxfam’s numbers are exaggerated.

NFA spokesperson Moses Watara says only 8,000 people were moved from the land, and that for the most part they went peacefully after given four months notice by the police.

Watara also says the New Forest Company’s project was important enough to protect.

“We had to act because it was a big investment and these people had really started cutting the trees planted by the company, and yet it is saving the country a lot of money from importing poles, but also creating jobs and even they are building schools and roads for the community in that part of the country,” said Watara.

Encroachment 

Watara says encroachment is one of the biggest problems facing the country, and that illegal foresting has contributed to landslides and other environmental degradation.

Oxfam says land grabbing is a global problem, and reports similar cases in South Sudan, Indonesia and Central America.

The group says the problem is made worse by increasing demand for cheap land to grow crops that can be used to make biofuels.

Extracted from VOA

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The World Bank project affected persons have petitioned the court seeking to halt an illegal eviction by capital authority

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By witnessradio.org Team

 

Kampala – Uganda – more than 300 families at Kawaala Zone II, Lubaga Division in Kampala district have today, the 11th January 2021 petitioned the court seeking to restrain the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) from illegally evicting them off their land, which they have lawfully occupied and cultivated for decades.

 

The affected families through Witness Radio lawyers accuse KCCA of hiding under the Public Health Act to issue a demolition notice targeting all properties on the land to give way for construction of a multi-billion drainage channel, which is funded by the World Bank. KCCA is established by an act of Parliament and it’s responsible for the management and administration of the capital city.

 

Specifically, KCCA is using section 72(1) cap 281 of the Public Health Act, to force them off their land without consultation, sensitization, property valuation, and compensation claiming that they (residents) illegally constructed their houses in a wetland.

 

The court action follows Witness Radio and the affected attempted to engage KCCA over the irrational decision however efforts to hear from them were futile.

 

In 2015, KCCA acquired USD 175 million loan from the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA) for Kampala Institution and Infrastructure Development (KIIDP) project. However, part of the money (USD 17.5 million, which is 63 billion Uganda shillings) was earmarked to construct Lubigi Primary Channel and it’s being used to dispossess poor urban communities without consultation, sensitization, and infringed communities’ right to know and access to information.

 

The 2.58 Kilometers project expected to end later this year, stretches from Bwaise roundabout to Hoima road, southwest of Kampala.

 

The eviction is taking place at the time when the government of Uganda halted all land evictions during the COVID 19 pandemic and the determination of KCCA to forcefully evict the urban poor raises many legal questions.

 

The victims want the court to issue an interim order and temporary injunction to restrain KCCA from implementing the decisions that are being challenged.

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Renewing demand for justice; the 28 land rights defenders have applied for bail

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By witnessradio.org Team

Mubende – Uganda – the defense lawyers of the 28 community land rights defenders have filed new applications for bail at Mubende High Court after spending 3 years in prison.

The 28 include two staff members of Witnessradio.org‘s Nantubiro Grace and Mugwabya Ronald.

Others are; Mugisha Focus, Ssekamana Kaloli, Mwikirize Keleti, Ssewanyana Kizza John, Tumwine Moses, Bigirwa Gilbert, Mulindwa Tadeo, Kayesu Patrick, Kyalimpa Tobias, Mugisha Stephen, Mwesigye John, Kiiza John Bosco, Byakatonda Aroon, Manirikiza Elidefunce, Tabalamule William, Kobwemi Christopher,  Kiwanuka Emmanuel, Senkula Charles, Ssemombwe George, Musinguzi Paul, Biryomumisho Fred, Maniriho Forodis,  Habimana Ernest, Byaruhanga Emmanuel, Mwesigye Julius and Kezaala Saul.

They are facing 9 counts including murder, and aggravated robbery among others.

The prosecution alleges that on October 12, 2018, the accused at Kambuye-Kanseera, Mubende district, killed and robbed Yunus Kasajja Tabu of his three mobile phones.

Late Tabu allegedly died during a fight with land grab affected community whose assailants are still unknown. Tabu was a manager of local businessman one Kaweesi George, under the protection of police grabbed 322.5 hectares and violently evicted over 3500 lawful occupants on Block 168; Plot 19, 22 and 23 covering five villages namely; Kambuye, Kikono, Kyabaana, Kanseera and Lwensanga in East Division, Mubende Municipality, Mubende district. The land is adjacent to Kaweeri Coffee Plantation is covering on.

However, police carried out a random arrest and targeted land rights defenders and activists that were mobilizing and empowering the landgrab affected community to resist an illegal and forceful eviction.

In January 2019, the attempt to get bail for witnessradio.org‘s Nantubiro Grace and Mugwabya Ronald was denied High Court in Mubende’s justice Joseph Mulangira.

According to officials at Mubende High Court, bail applications will be heard this afternoon.

 

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More than 800 families face eviction, petition district land Board

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By witnessradio.org Team

 

Mubende – Uganda – More than 800 families from Kyamukoona, Kijojolo and Kalagala villages- Mubende District have petitioned the district land board to immediately cancel the land title that was fraudulently issued out to one Samuel Wambi Maamali. They explain that the cancellation will avert the looming eviction.

 

The lease was issued out on August, 1st 2015, a process the community regarded as fraudulent because the title was acquired from the center (Land Commission), which contradicts the legal procedures of acquiring a freehold title.

 

The community members stated that the person who fraudulently acquired a land title never consulted the area, parish and sub-county land boards that should have advised and guided on whether the land was lawfully being occupied and cultivated.

 

The residents revealed that they have occupied the land for more than 40 years, and it houses government-aided schools, hospitals, churches, and several vital infrastructures.

 

It is reported that the residents, local leaders, and Maamali held a meeting in 2019 in which (Maamali) said he was not interested in the land because his initial interest was on a land situated at Kalingo LC1 Mugungulu Parish- Bagezza Sub country –Mubende district not that of Kyamukoona. He later asked the residents to refund the money (UGX 200, 000) which he claims having used to survey and demarcate the 1.5 mile land, which they without hesitation accepted.

 

However, Maamali overturned the meeting resolution as he has since issued the residents with an eviction notice.

 

“I have occupied this land for the last over  40 years, well knowing that this is public land but I was astonished to learn that the District Land Board went ahead and illegally processed a land title for block 240 Plot 12, which is totally wrong” Bwambale reveals.

 

Ahimbisibwe David, a resident of Kijojolo Cell says “I wanted to formalize my land ownership. I was shocked to learn that it was already surveyed by an unknown person in the area”.

 

It is alleged that the district land board has previously leased out people’s land to tycoons without following proper legal procedures.

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