Witness Radio Milestones
Rights activists task UN on Apaa land evictees’ plight
Protest. Some of the residents of Apaa Village in Mungula Parish, Itirikwa Sub-county, Adjumani District pitch camp at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Gulu Municipality on Monday. ACTIONAID PHOTO
GULU. An alliance of civil society organisations have piled pressure on the United Nations (UN) officials and the government to respond to the plight of the Apaa land evictees, who have camped at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Gulu Municipality.
More than 200 residents of Apaa village in Mungula Parish, Itirikwa Sub-county, Adjumani District, have pitched camp at the UN compound since July 11, protesting ongoing evictions by government security forces.
The residents demand that the UN human rights body intervenes and stop government security agencies from forcefully evicting them from the contentious land.
But for more than two weeks since they camped at the UN compounds, the residents have not got any feedback from the UN officials on their demand.
Mr Francis Odongyoo, the executive director of Human Rights Focus, while addressing journalists in Gulu Town on Tuesday, said the residents had failed to get justice from government and their camping at the UN offices should have been responded to.
“It is now 13 days since the residents of Apaa have been seeking an answer from the UN on their plight but no response has been made. As CSOs, we feel the displaced locals should get fair justice from the UN on the matters they presented,” Mr Odongyoo said.
He noted that despite the residents calling for a halt in the evictions, the government forces comprising of the UPDF and Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers are continuing to torch huts and displace those settled on the disputed land.
According to Mr Odongyoo, investigations carried by CSOs indicate a total of 844 huts were destroyed and more than 2,700 people have since been displaced in the forceful evictions that began early this year.
Mr David Moses Okello, the local rights programme cluster coordinator at Action Aid, noted that government should address the plight of the locals whose lives are being torn apart by the forceful evictions.
According to Mr Okello, CSOs are firmly behind the locals’ occupation of the UN offices until they get justice.
In a joint communiqué read by Mr Geoffrey Okello, the coordinator NGO Forum, the CSOs condemned the abuses being committed in Apaa since 2011, including “mass destruction of property, torture, extrajudicial arrests, murders and attempts to seize land”.
They also called on government to publicly guarantee the security of the Apaa community from further attacks, ensure removal of road blocks and intimidating security forces and invest in durable solutions, including degazetting the Apaa land.
When contacted on the issue yesterday, Gulu Resident District Commissioner, Maj Santos Okot Lapolo, said the locals had chosen to “embarrass” the government by camping at the UN offices even when President Museveni promised to visit them.
“As government, we cannot issue any statement concerning the plight of people who came without our notice and camped at the UN offices. Let them get the help they want from there, President Museveni has promised to meet them from Apaa, not the UN offices,” he said.
When this reporter tried to access the UN offices to get a comment from the officials, he was denied access by the police at the gate, claiming journalists are not allowed in the premises.
Apaa land, measuring approximately 40 square kilometres, is at the centre of dispute between residents and leaders in Amuru and Adjumani districts.
Uganda Wildlife Authority and National Forestry Authority [UWA] claim the land is a protected East Madi Wildlife game reserve and Zoka Central Forest, respectively.
Source: Daily Monitor
Complaint against unprofessional conduct of the DPC Kiryandongo district for aiding and abetting land grabbing in kiryandongo district.
Professional Standards Unit, Uganda Police-Kampala.
RE: COMPLAINT AGAINST UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT OF THE DPC KIRYANDONGO DISTRICT FOR AIDING AND ABETTING LAND GRABBING IN NYAMUTENDE KITWARA PARISH KIRYANDONGO DISTRICT AND CARRYING OUT ILLEGAL ARRESTS AND DETENTION OF INNOCENT RESIDENTS/ BIBANJA OWNERS FOR PROTESTING AGAINST THE ILLEGAL EVICTION FROM THEIR LAND.
We act for and behalf of the Lawful and bonafide occupants of Land described as LRV MAS 2 FOLIO 8 BLOCK 8 PLOT 22 (FORMERLY KNOWN AS RANCH 22).
Our Clients are residents of Nyamutende Village, Kitwara Parish in Kiryandongo District where they have lived for more than 30 years and sometime in 2017, they applied for a lease of the said Land to Kiryandongo District Land Board through the Directorate of Land Matters State House.
As they were still awaiting their Application to be processed, they were shocked to establish that the said land had been instead leased to and registered in the names of Isingoma Julius, Mwesige Simon, John Musokota William, Tumusiime Gerald, Wabwire Messener Gabriel, Ocema Richard and Wilson Shikhama, some of whom were not known to the Complainants. A copy of the Search is attached hereto
Our clients protested the above action and appealed to relevant offices, but were shocked to discover that the above persons had gone ahead and sold the same to a one Maseruka Robert.
Aggrieved by these actions, the Complainants appealed to the RDC who advised them to institute proceedings against the said persons, and assigned them a one Mbabazi Samuel to assist them to that effect. The said Mbabazi accordingly filed Civil Suit Noa 46 of 2019 against tne said registered proprietors at Masindi High Court challenging the illegal and fraudulent registration, sale and transfer of the subject land to Maseruka Robert.
While awaiting the progress of the case mentioned hereinabove, the Complainants were surprised to find that the said Mbabazi, instead of assisting them, he went into a consent settling the said suit on their behalf without their knowledge or consent. A copy of the Consent is attached hereto.
Among the terms of the said consent Judgment was that the residents would be compensated without specifying how much and would in return vacate the Land.
As if that was not enough, Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel are going ahead to execute the said Consent Judgment by forcefully evicting the occupants without compensation which has prompted the complainants to challenge the said Consent by applying for its review and setting aside at Masindi High Court which is coming up for hearing on the 29th March 2023. A copy of the Application is attached hereto.
Sensing the imminent threat of eviction, we also filed an application for interim stay of execution of the said consent to avoid rendering their application for review nugatory but unfortunately the same could not be heard on the date it was fixed for hearing (6th February 2023). A copy of the Application is attached hereto
On Thursday last week, three tractors being operated by 6 workers of a one Mbabazi Samuel [the very person who had been entrusted to represent our Clients to secure their Land through Civil Suit No.46 of 2019] encroached close to 50 acres of our Clients’ land and started ploughing it but our Client’s protested and chased them away.
We have however been shocked to receive information from our Clients that on Sunday at Mid night, 3 police patrols invaded the community in the night and arrested community members; Mulenje Jack, Steven Kagyenji, Mulekwa David, Ntambala Geoffrey, Tumukunde Isaac 15 years, Kanunu Innocent, Mukombozi Frank, Kuzara, Rwamunyankole Enock, and took them to Kiryandongo Police Station where they are currently detained.
We strongly protest the illegal arrests and detention of our Clients as this is a carefully orchestrated land grabbing scheme by Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel who are receiving support from the DPC Kiryandongo.
The purpose of this Letter therefore is to request your good office to investigate the misconduct, abuse of office and unprofessionalism of the said DPC Kiryandongo District and all his involvement in the land grabbing schemes on land formerly known as Ranch 22.
Looking forward to your urgent intervention,
C.C The Head Police Land Protection Unit Police Head Quarters Naguru
CC The RDC Kiryandongo District
CC The Chairman LCVKityadongo District
CC The Regional Police CommanderAlbertine Region
Witness Radio Milestones
The Executive Director of Witness Radio Uganda talks about the role played by Witness Radio in protecting communities affected by large-scale agribusinesses in Kiryandongo district in an interview with the ILC.
Witness Radio Milestones
Witness Radio Uganda wins the best CSO land rights defenders award at the National Land Forum Awards.
By Witness Radio Team
Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog, Witness Radio has been awarded the best CSO land rights defender award 2022 in the recently concluded National Land Forum Awards held last week at Mestil hotel in Kampala.
Witness Radio’s executive Director, Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala attributed the award to the community land and environmental rights defenders who stand up against the intimidation and different forms of harassment from land grabbers (economically powerful and politically connected companies and individual investors).
“This is an award for defenders at a community level. They work in very deadly environments filled with harassment, torture, death threats, arrest, trumped-up charges, and kidnaps among others to advocate for community land and environment rights. This is happening at a spate where criminalization and silencing of community land rights defenders are at increase.” Jeff added.
The award has come at a time when hundreds of Ugandans in different parts of the country are accessing services provided by the organization ranging from legal service provisions, non-judicial mechanism engagements, empowerment to help them understand their rights, and using the same knowledge to use the same skills to push back against illegal and forced evictions
The chairman of the organizing committee of the second National Land Forum, Mr. Jimmy Ochom noted some progress on legislation in Uganda’s land Governance. He cited growing inequalities on land where the poor are more vulnerable.
During awards, the state minister for housing, Hon persis Namuganza revealed that the government approved the plan for 2018-2040 that maps the land use in the country.
According to the minister, the government had identified land for settlement, game reserves, wildlife, arable land for farming, and water bodies among others in the plan which she said was passed a few weeks ago.
The event was organized by Oxfam and partners and provided a platform for discussions by the different actors in the land sector on issues around land governance, including land rights, land administration, and land governance for improved collaboration, cooperation between the actors, and improved land service delivery for Ugandans under a theme “Taking stock of the National Land Policy in addressing Land inequality in addressing Land inequality in Uganda.”
Other categories of awards that were won by different organizations and individuals including Mr. Eddie Nsamba-Gayiiya for his contribution to research on land rights, Justice Centers Uganda for Promoting Access to Land Justice, and Mr. Henry Harrison Irumba for Championing Legal Reforms among others.
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