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renewable energy

Solar power capacity to hit 50MW

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By SADAT MBOGO & MISAIRI THEMBO KAHUNGU

Gomba. Uganda’s solar energy generation capacity connected to the national grid will soon hit the 50MW mark within this year as new plants are being established.
The latest addition of solar generated energy to the national grid is the 20MW Kabulasoke pilot solar power plant in Gomba District that was commissioned yesterday by President Museveni.
Developed and Installed by Dr David Alobo, a Ugandan scientist based in Germany under the auspices of Xsabo Group of Companies in conjunction with Great Lakes Energy Company N.V from the Netherlands, the $24.5 million (Shs91 billion) is becoming the largest plant in the East African region.
It also becomes the third to be installed in Uganda after Soroti Solar plant and Tororo solar power plant, each producing 10MW.
The Chief Executive Officer of Electricity Regulatory Authority, Ms Ziria Tibalwa Waako, revealed that another 10MW solar plant is near commissioning in Mayuge District. These four will contribute 50MW of solar energy to the national grid.
With the country’s electricity power generation capacity currently at 851.53MW, there is hope for a major boast when the Karuma dam’s 600MW and Isimba dam’s 183MW are added to the national grid.

Power prices reduce
Speaking at the commissioning ceremony of the Kabulasoke Pilot Solar Power Plant yesterday, President Museveni said the government has plans to extend both hydro-electric and solar power to all sub-counties countrywide.
“We are planning to extend electricity to all sub-counties. Some sub-county headquarters already have and what is remaining is to extend power to the villages,” Mr Museveni said.
The President urged solar power companies to put down power prices for more rural Ugandans to be connected to the home solar system so that they can enjoy the peace ushered in by the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government.
Mr Museveni, however, warned the people of Kabulasoke against stealing solar panels from the plant saying he has already received reports from the investors.
He congratulated Xsabo group and their partners upon fulfilling the promise to install a solar plant in Kabulasoke.

Patriotism
The initiative to install the Kabulasoke solar power plant was hatched by Dr Alobo after being challenged by the President to use the spirit of patriotism to invest in Uganda.
“I want to congratulate the investors and I thank the people of Kabulasoke for hosting the project,” he said.
Mr Museveni challenged the people of Gomba to use the chance of receiving electricity to create wealth.
He said that the government plan for transformation of the country through commercial agriculture, industrialisation, services and information and Communication Technology (ICT).
He said everyone should work hard to achieve prosperity through any of the four sectors.
According to the Xsabo Group Managing Director, Dr Alobo, his company targets establishment of five solar power parks in the country with a projection of 150MW in a total investment of $200 million (about Shs747 billion).

New plants
He listed other areas as Kasese (20MW), Lira (20MW), Soroti (50MW) and Mubende (50MW) as the new plants to be established.
The plant covers 98 acres in the 128acres of land.
“We hope to provide cheap and affordable power to communities in Gomba and its neighbourhood especially in Greater Masaka and Katonga regions.
We are here to help diversify the national energy pool. We ask for the government to continue supporting us (investors in the energy sector) through putting up right policies and improve infrastructural framework.” Dr Alobo said.
He said throughout the five projects, the company is projected to employ the local people adding that in Gomba alone, 400 people got jobs.
According to ERA, the solar energy resource in Uganda is high throughout the year with mean solar radiation of 5.1 kWh/m2 per day on a horizontal surface, the country has a potential of 11.98 x 108 MWh gross energy resources.
Ms Waako yesterday said the government is planning to install another 10MW solar power plant near Tororo and the wind power generation plant with a capacity of 20MW in Karamoja.

-Daily Monitor

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Corporate Accountability

Signs of harmful projects with financing from development institutions are spotted in Uganda…

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By Witness Radio Team.

The growth of a country is discerned by great leaders and innovators who see opportunities out of darkness and transform their areas from nothing to success. Those are great leaders whose interest is to see the developments in their countries and the well-being of their citizens.

Every single day, countries all over the world receive investors that acquire loans, grants, and donations to implement mega projects that are seemingly expected to develop host countries. countries and investors borrowing the money Often, countries and investors portray how these projects improve the livelihood of the browbeaten, au contraire, they have left many broken families, poor-dirty homesteads, and shattered dreams.

Uganda is one of those countries, whose citizens have paid a price for reckless or unsupervised and profit-led international investment. In a bid to implement its industrial policy, the country has welcomed both foreign and local investors with interests in the fields of extraction, industrial agriculture, carbon credit tree plantation, mining, infrastructural projects, and many others.

It has received billions of dollars from different financiers including commercial banks, Pension Funds, and International Development Finance Banks or institutions, among others. For instance, the World Bank has invested more than 20 Billion Dollars since 1963 and currently

Every project comes with its own chilling story. More often their stories are unheard by the World. Witness Radio – Uganda surveyed some projects in Uganda. This study revealed agony, illegal evictions, abject poverty, environmental degradation, and loss of life among others, as some of the consequences suffered by the would-be beneficiaries of these international funded projects across the country.

In the capital of Uganda, Kampala, over 1750 families were forcefully evicted from a city suburb, Naguru, for Naguru- Nakawa housing estates.  11 years down the road the project that was highly hyped is to take off on the grabbed land. Pleas from the victims of the eviction to regain their land have all fallen on deaf ears.

About 80km away from Kampala is the island district of Kalangala surrounded by the World’s second-largest lake, Victoria, and known for palm growing. When the palm-oil project was introduced to residents they were given the impression that it would improve their livelihoods and create job opportunities.  Instead, it has dumped thousands into poverty after their land was grabbed by BIDCO, a Wilmer international-funded project. People lost land and now work on plantations as casual laborers. The neighboring communities are accusing BIDCO workers of sexual and gender-based violence.

In the South-Western District of Kiryandongo, multinational companies including Agilis Partners Limited, Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, and Great Seasons SMC Limited with funding from The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom, and Common Fund for Commodities among other financiers are forcefully evicting more than 35,000 people. The eviction has been on since 2017.

Workers that worked on a World Bank Project in Soroti, in the far east of the country, are accused of sexually harassing minors. Several young girls were defiled and left pregnant. Despite the government being aware of this none of the pedophiles have been brought to book, the World Bank-funded project in the Eastern Town of Soroti left several underage girls defiled and impregnated.

In late 2020, residents of Kawaala zone II woke up to the hail of armed men and graders evicting and destroying their properties to implement a multimillion-dollar project funded by the World Bank. The project is being implemented by the Kampala Capital city Authority (KCCA) on behalf of the government of Uganda.

The above-listed and other projects, on the other hand, continue to perpetuate violence and judicial harassment against leaders of Project Affected Persons (PAPs) and community land and environmental rights defenders because of their work that resists illegal evictions and destruction of the environment among others.

Although project implementers such as government entities accuse local communities of occupying land targeted for projects illegally, in most cases victim communities have rights over these pieces of land because their settlement on the same land can be traced to have happened generations ago.

No matter how people are negatively impacted being by these harmful projects, financiers continue to release more money to the government and investors. The banks aim at profit margins other than the livelihoods of the people. In Bulebi village, Mbazi parish, Mpunge Sub County in Mukono district, Akon’s futuristic city is about to lead to the eviction of over 1000 residents whose entire lives have been built on their land.

In April last year, American rapper Aliaune Damala Badara well known for his stage name AKON visited Uganda in search of land for constructing the city. On the same business trip, he met President Museveni Yoweri Kaguta and expressed his interest in building a futuristic city with its currency. The president ordered the Ministry of Lands, housing, and urban development to look out for free land for his city.

However, on 7th Jan 2022, the Uganda Land Commission showed the Minister for Lands, Housing, and Urban Development “Hon Judith Nabakooba” land that was proposed for the Akon city. According to the Uganda land commission, the land is Freehold Volume 53 Folio 9 measuring I square mile.

This has sparked outrage amongst the affected as they were never consulted or consented to allow the project in their community. According to community members that Witness Radio interviewed, they said they heard the distressing news of Akon city through the Media.

The community said no official from the ministry has ever approached them about their land giveaway. “Our country is full of land evictions and evictors begin in that way. There has been no official coming on the ground to officially inform us about the project and neither have we heard any official communication of compensation.” Obori said.

Residing in the attractive village surrounded by freshwaters, the community asserts this has been the source of livelihood and advised the government to get alternative land for the City.

Controversies surrounding the land giveaway and ownership of the area still exist. A section of residents have protested and vowed not to surrender their land for the City. They claim to have acquired freehold titles from the Mukono lands board.

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Corporate Accountability

Breaking: over 350,000 acres of land were grabbed during Witness Radio – Uganda’s seven months ban.

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By Witness Radio Team.

As the onslaught on civil society heightens, its space continues to shrink which has bearing on the services they render to the communities. Witness Radio, was among the 54 organizations suspended by Uganda’s National Bureau for Nongovernmental Organizations on August 20th, 2021. The actions are amongst the recent forms of attack on civil societies in Uganda. Other numerous attacks include arrests of rights activists, harassment, tortures, and office- break-ins at night by security operatives who move away with valuables.

The effects of this suspension were felt by communities facing land grabs across the country. For seven months while the organization was suspended, over 300,000 people were evicted from their land and couldn’t access specialized and prompt legal assistance.

Witness Radio Uganda, globally known for its campaign against community land-grabs couldn’t assist these victims of land grab since it risked facing further sanctions from the Bureau in case it intervened. However, last week, there was some relief, when Uganda’s National Bureau for NGOs lifted suspension and certified its operation.

According to Mrs. Bulyerali Joan, the Head Legal at Witness Radio – Uganda, the organization conducted a review of the evictions that happened during the suspension. With information and assistance from some lawyers, local journalists, and community land and environmental rights defenders across the country, the evictions watchdog was able to document cases of hundreds of thousands of Ugandans that were either forcefully evicted or received threats of evictions while in its limbo.

The ban imposed on Witness Radio coupled with the disruptive impacts of COVID- 19 resulted in the surge of eviction cases, especially in areas where the organization had a presence. Throughout the ban, without access to swift and prompt legal support, the communities resorted to sharing with the world their ordeal.

She further noted that the evictions were conducted in disregard of the law on evictions. “I was shocked to see powerful people and companies take advantage of our suspension to escalate the evictions of vulnerable communities that received our assistance. The evictions did not comply with the land eviction practice directives. None of them was preceded by legal court orders.”  She noted.

According to the Land Eviction directives, issued by the former Chief Justice of Uganda, Bart Katureebe, evictions shall be preceded by valid court order, properly identifying the persons taking part in the eviction, and upon presentation of formal authorizations. The police and local authority of the area shall be notified and shall be present to witness the evictions, among others.

Based on the data gathered by the team, various communities across the country were left dispossessed by land grabbers without any form of assistance. Others have received threatening messages with intentions of dispossessing them off their land.

During the period under review, over 300,000 people across the country are believed to have been threatened with evictions, while 350,000 acres of land were either grabbed or on verge of being grabbed.

“However much, we gathered this information, we expect the cases to be higher because some evictions go unreported either due to the remoteness of the areas or other related factors.” One of the collaborators observed.

The evictions were extremely violent.  They were characterized by kidnaps, arrests and detentions, torture that often-caused unexpected grief to the communities.

Among the most affected districts include Kyankwanzi, Mubende, Kassanda, Hoima, Buikwe, Wakiso, Kikuube, and Bulambuli districts.

In some of the mentioned districts, the Lands, Housing, and Urban Development Minister toured and halted the evictions but the evictors continued unabated.

Mr. Kimazi Experito, a journalist based in Mubende, attributed the rise of evictions to the organization’s suspension which denied the evictions-affected communities access to specialized legal assistance.

He said Witness Radio has offered support to over 20 land-grab-affected communities in Mubende with legal support. “Witness radio is a game-changer that brought back lives of evicted communities to normal,” he lauded.

“Mubende is one of the fastest-growing areas because of gold and other minerals as well as factors related to fertile soils. Currently, it is one of the hotspots of evictions. Opportunists used this chance to grab land from people with full attention. Without the defenders, it’s often hard for people to get justice since local people are not much informed about land laws.” Kimazi explained.

Engineered by powerful people in public offices, multinational companies, and politicians using state machinery including the army and national police, forced evictions to continue to affect food sovereignty and threaten the role of indigenous communities to protect the environment.

During the same period, President Yoweri Museveni stopped any eviction without the approval of the Resident District Commissioners. However, legal experts warned that the move is to usurp the powers of the Judiciary. In a statement signed by Pheona Nabasa Wall, the Uganda Law Society President noted that the directive undermined the role and independence of courts in handling eviction matters.

That notwithstanding, “Occasionally, the residents are not given any opportunity to negotiate with the landlords. Even when the government obliges to pay landowners, neither does the government nor the evictor compensate for the damaged property. During evictions, properties that were made for their life end up being destroyed in seconds which causes lifetime misery.” Paul Kasoozi, a community land rights defender stated.

With different tactics aimed at alienating the poor from their land, it has been established that the police and the army continued to play a huge role in the largest forms of violent evictions through torture, arbitrary arrests, and detention and instilling fear and pressurizing the local communities to vacate their land on orders of the evictors.

Many of those community members who oppose land evictions end up being kidnapped, tortured, or arrested and detained to silence the community. It takes support from an organization defending communities’ land rights to intervene for such communities to get justice.

Days before the lifting of the suspension imposed on Witness Radio, communities neighboring the Katta Barracks in Bulambuli district, were violently evicted by the Uganda People’s Defense Forces under the alleged command of Lieutenant Colonel Mukiibi Julius without offering alternative resettlement.

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Environment

Forests fall, animals die, desert looms: Uganda’s burning problem – in pictures

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Charcoal is an integral part of everyday life in Uganda, where most people rely on some form of wood fuel to cook or boil water. For many, the sale of trees also provides a valuable income. Yet this levelling of the landscape, which causes loss of habitat for wildlife and leads to climate change, is unsustainable

All photographs by Jennifer Huxta

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Uganda’s charcoal trade is causing rapid destruction of the country’s forests. Each year, about 80,000 hectares (200,000 acres) are cleared for the production of charcoal or timber, according to the National Forestry Authority. Demand for charcoal has increased dramatically over recent years, driven by Uganda’s population growth and urbanisation. Campaigners warn the trade is now unsustainable, and local leaders are trying to crack down on the cutting of trees for charcoal.

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Wood collected for charcoal burning in Koch Lii in Nwoya district, northern Uganda. In the worst years of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency, residents fled northern Uganda and the forests became impenetrable. Now Nwoya loses 20-40 hectares each month, according to Okello Alfred Okot, a local government representative. ‘The rate at which these people are cutting trees is terrible,’ he says. The authorities of Nwoya, Amuru and Gulu districts have all banned the trade. Anyone caught violating the ban is fined 1.5m Ugandan shillings per truckload (£300)

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Swaliki Kakande, 39, a charcoal burner, has been living in this camp in Koch Lii for two years. He works on 32 hectares of land, burning charcoal, cutting trees and hauling logs. It’s extremely taxing work, he says. ‘I’m here because of poverty. Because there are no jobs. We have pain all over [our bodies] and we feel sick. We feel backaches, pains in our chest, and also because we inhale a lot of smoke we feel palpitations, like our hearts beating very fast.’ Kakande is paid a commission on each bag of charcoal he makes, of 15,000 Ugandan shillings.

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Like many other charcoal burners in Koch Lii, Kakande moved to the area from central Uganda. Burners are often in conflict with locals, who view outsiders with suspicion. Last May, a group of local people attacked a charcoal burners’ camp in neighbouring Amuru district. One person was killed and 39 injured. According to a police spokesman, Patrick Jimmy Okema, the attackers claimed the charcoal burners were destroying trees and their motive was to control deforestation. However, land conflict is common in Uganda, which is still recovering after decades of conflict

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Wood in the process of carbonisation under a mound of earth and grass, in Amuru district. In Nwoya, local government officials are developing an incentive plan to encourage landowners to keep their trees, funded by the penalty fines. Landowners who don’t sell their trees for charcoal burning are to be paid 1m Ugandan shillings each year

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A charcoal burner distributes earth on the charcoal mound. Okello believes the incentive scheme will be effective. ‘People’s minds are gonna change because they’ll say, “If I keep this tree for five years, I’m going to get 5 million from the district.”’ Last year, to mark the International Day of Forests, Nwoya district gave 1,000 pine seedlings to 2,000 farmers for each to plant roughly two acres of new trees

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