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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

State Power: Army Used Expired Mining license to Forcefully Evict 120,000 Families Off Gold-Rich Land

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By Witnessradio.org Team

“On August 4th 2017, at 8am, police and army surrounded the mines and started demolishing any standing structures including restaurants, shops, among others,” Robert Ssempewo, the chairperson of Mubende gold mining grounds recounted to witnessradio.org during a recent visit to the highly guarded 12-square mile land that hosts gold deposits.

The two-day operation under the command of Colonel Joseph Balikuddembe, the UPDF 1st Division commander, followed an order by Energy ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Stephen Isabalija who reportedly been ordered by president Museveni to kick-out of over 50,000 artisanal miners off gold mining land.

Three companies under the directorship of Gertrude Nanyunja Njuba, a state house director on land matters namely; M/S Gemstone International, A.U.C Mining Company, and Kamalenge Mining Company forcefully evicted people at a time when their mining license had expired.

In a recent interview with local media, Njuba said she has had gold mining interests in the area since 1987. In 1994, Njuba said that she obtained a mining lease for 207 square kilometers in an area which straddles two sub-counties namely; Bukuya and Kitumbi in Mubende district.

But according to available documents, Njuba’s mining license has been expiring, but get renewed under mysterious circumstances whose actions are inconsistent with the mining act, 2003.

An anonymous expert in the mining sector, contends that it’s difficult to know how Njuba’s license has been renewed on several occasions over the last 23 years yet technically, she has never complied with the mining act.

A review of the mining act 2003 by witnessradio.org, discovered that Section 47 (1) of the mining act stipulates that “the holder of a mining lease may apply to the Commissioner for the renewal of his or her lease in respect of all, or of part of the mining area not later than one year before the expiry of such lease.” The same law goes ahead to state that if the mining lease expires, the lease holder “relinquish at least 50 per cent of the land as they apply for a renewal” before submitting a renewal application.

Witnessradio.org findings reveal that by the time Njuba evicted the artisanal miners, her mining lease had expired two years prior to the eviction.

Ssempewo, also confirms that Njuba’s lease had expired. He said that “I have information that investor’s exploration license had expired and it’s in the law that if the license expires, you relinquish half of your exploration area.”

He added; “but for over 30 years now, this investor has been operating in the exploration area without relinquishing any part. According to what I know, this investor single-handedly operates the huge exploration area measuring 288 square kilometers.”

When it comes to making application for the mining license, the procedures are well laid down under article 42 (2) of the mining act, 2003.

“An application for a mining lease shall be advertised in the Gazette and copies of the accompanying plan shall be displayed at the relevant district and sub-county headquarters and such other place as the Commissioner may specify,” article 42 (2) states.

Clause (3) of the same article states that “the applicant shall show written proof that he or she has reached an agreement with the landowner of the area he or she intends to mine.”

To tame unreasonable greed, 43 (3) (a) of the mining act provides that “the area of land over which the lease is sought is not in excess of the area reasonably required to carry out the applicant’s programme of proposed mining operations.”

Recognizing the rules, above, Njuba who stretched her exploration area to evict artisanal miners from the neighboring mines flouted the law.

“We are not totally objectionable to the investor because she has her area, but we want our area to be returned because we are also Ugandans,” Ssempewo said, “we want our portion of just 5-square miles so that we can also restore our source of livelihoods.”

The experts asserted that “it is not clear how these mining leases have been renewed yet there is no clear demonstration of mining activities.”

According to this expert, Njuba’s practice is clear indicator of speculation that has dogged Uganda’s mining sector for decades.

During its July 2017 report titled; Uganda: Undermined, a London-based Global Witness revealed that pervasive corruption in Uganda’s mining sector allows crooked officials and investors they partner with to profit at the expense of country’s “economy and people.”

The report exposed the way how well connected individuals including those with close ties to president Museveni trade political influence for financial economy.

“…rather than fulfilling its mandate to work for the benefit of the Ugandan people, the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines [DGSM] is controlled by a hidden alternative power structure and decision making process or ‘shadow system’ which benefits predatory investors and politically powerful Ugandans,” the report reads in a part.

To achieve her aspiration, Njuba used both police and Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers to violently evict people which led to gross loss of property. To this date, the contested land is still under tight guard of armed security personnel who have vehemently denied the indigenous people an opportunity to rescue any of their belongings from the structures that are being razed down by graders.

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Kawaala community land rights defenders will report for police bond for the fourth time on 1st August.

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By Witness Radio – Uganda team

Kampala, the three community land rights defenders from Kawaala Zone II charged with fraud are reporting back at the Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters on Monday 1st of August.

It will be the fourth time for the defenders to report for the bond.

While appearing at the station on 18th July 2022, the two of the three defenders were re-arrested and subjected to another interrogation which lasted for one hour between 11 am to 12 pm local time.

They were quizzed by the head of the investigations at the Old Kampala Police headquarters, Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Patrick Domara. Land rights defenders Kabugo Michael and Kasozi Paul Ssengendo reported.  The third defender Busobolwa Adam did not turn up due to health-related issues.

On the third time, the two defenders who reported before police recorded additional statements on fraud charges that were preferred against them on July 11th, 2022.

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 three-year imprisonment on conviction.

The lawyers representing the defenders said their clients were questioned by the police about their land ownership in Kawaala and the documents proving ownership. Police said that the complainant accuses defenders of forging land sales agreements and occupying land illegally.

The defenders were summoned, arrested, and interrogated on the orders of the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division Anderson Buroora who is accusing them of fraud.

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

However, Witness Radio – Uganda believes that charges preferred against the community land rights defenders are a result of their continued mobilization of the local community of Kawaala to resist forced eviction, seek fair compensation, and resettlement before the Lubigi drainage channel is constructed.

“We challenge the RCC to bring evidence pinning the community land rights defenders on the alleged charges. We believe this is intimidation and continued efforts of fighting back to silence the work of the land rights defenders, wastage of their time and resources,” said one of the lawyers.

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 implementer of the project.

The said 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.

According to Witness Radio-Uganda lawyers, the community which is being forced off of its land without due process started living on that land in the 1940s and did not invite the project on their land.

The defenders will be reporting back on police bond at 10 am local time on the 1st of August 2022.

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Police re-arrest and interrogate Kawaala Community land rights defenders upon reporting back on bond.

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By Witness Radio Team

Kampala, Two of the three community land rights defenders from Kawaala Zone II, Kampala suburb have been re-arrested and re-interrogated on fraud charges at Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters.

The duo had reported back to police on bond on fraud charges for the third time since they were first summoned on June, 29th 2022.

Kasozi Paul and Kabugo Micheal were subjected to another interrogation which lasted for one hour between 11 am to 12 pm local time. They were quizzed by the head of the investigations directorate at the Old Kampala Police headquarters, Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Patrick Domara. The third defender Busobolwa Adam could not make it due to health-related issues.

According to defenders’ lawyers, the duo recorded additional statements on fraud charges that were preferred against by police on July, 11th, 2022.

According to defenders’ lawyers, the victims were questioned by the police about their land ownership in Kawaala and the documents proving ownership. Police are saying that the complainant is accusing defenders of forging land sales agreements and occupying land illegally.

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 three-year imprisonment on conviction.

The defenders were summoned, arrested, and interrogated on the orders of the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division Anderson Buroora who’s accusing them of fraud.

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

Witness Radio-Uganda says that the community which is being forced off its land without due process started living on that land in the 1940s and did not invite the project on their land.

Witness Radio – Uganda further believes that charges preferred against the community land rights defenders are a result of their continued mobilization of the local community of Kawaala to resist forced eviction, seek fair compensation and resettlement before the 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 implementer 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 defenders were released on a police bond and required to report back on the 1st of August 2022 at 10 am local time.

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Six community land rights defenders from Kawaala have turned up at police for interrogations but, failed to take off

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By Witness Radio Team.

The six community land rights defenders from Kawaala zone II and the local leader that were summoned to appear at the Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters have turned up, however, the interrogations did not take off due to the absence of the head of investigating team.

The six community defenders were required to report back to police for further investigations into alleged crimes that have not yet been officially disclosed to defenders’ lawyers. They were supposed to appear before the police investigation team today the 06th of July 2022 at 10:00 AM.

The defenders include; Kasozi Paul, Busobolwa Adam, Kabugo Micheal, Serugo Charles, Ssemanda David, Sserukwaya David, and the area vice-chairman Patrick Kato Lubwama.

While appearing before police for the first time last week on Wednesday 29th, the Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Domara Patrick who heads the investigations team casually said the defenders and the local leader are being investigated for obtaining money by pretense and forgery, which charges are not mentioned on police summons.

Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced eviction by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) being implemented by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The drainage channel construction is financed by the World Bank.

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.

Witness Radio – Uganda has established that the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division, Mr. Anderson Burora is among the complainants. Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.

Witness Radio – Uganda believes that police are being used to harass and intimidate defenders to back off the justice campaign for people negatively impacted by the drainage channel.

The defenders and the local council leader have been booked to report back to the police on Monday, the 11th of July 2022 at 9:00 AM local time.

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