Jaswant S. Rai (right) and Tejveer Rai during a press conference
The Rai family is in the limelight once again after buying troubled Pan Paper Mills in Webuye for Sh900 million. Pan Paper is worth Sh18 billion, but it was indebted to the tune of Sh10 billion by the time it was placed under receivership in 2009.
The Rai Group has RaiPly, makers of chip boards, ceilings, block boards, parquet and wooden tiles and polythene bags for sugar companies. The group is Kenya’s largest agro-forestry concern. It has spread its plywood wings to Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi – where it’s the biggest wood processor.
Rai Group is also Kenya’s second largest sugar miller through its West Kenya Sugar and Sukari Industries subsidiaries in Homa Bay. It is also Uganda’s second largest miller through Kinyara Sugar Works, besides having interests in edible oils, fats and soaps (Menengai Oil Refineries), saw milling (Timsales), wheat farming, horticulture and real estate (Tulip Properties).
Tarlochan Singh Rai: The patriarch, alongside his siblings, had farming interests through Rai Brothers after buying tea and coffee estates in Zaire (now DR Congo) from Belgians who were leaving in 1963. In Kenya, he owned Rai Agricultural Estates, which was making tea chests for Rai Brothers, which was sold in 1969. The proceeds went into incorporating Rai Timber into RaiPly with his four sons; Jaswant, Jasbir, Sarbjit and Iqbal Rai in 1971.
Sarjit Kaur Rai: The wife of Tarlochan owns 25 per cent in Lukenya Flowers. Together with sons Jasbir, Iqbal and daughter Daljit Kaur Hans, she sued her hubby and sons Jaswant and Sarbjit over fortunes in a family dispute that lasted 14 years to 2013 when the Supreme Court dismissed the case.
Jaswant Rai: The chair of Rai Group, ran Rai Products, which sold stuff for RaiPly on credit. Alongside his father, Jaswant was the largest shareholder of Rai Products and Rai Investments. Her mother, Sarjit sued both for allegedly salting away fortunes from Rai Products and investing them without consulting other members despite a 1977/78 verbal agreement that all Rail fortunes were co-owned by all family members.
Jasbir Rai: Formed Wood Panels Ltd to market RaiPly products in 1993, thus snatching business from Rai Products. With brother Sarbjit, they co-own the Sh250 million Nile Plywoods (Uganda Ltd) and half of the Sh350 million Polypack Ltd in Kenya. Both ventures are bankrolled by their old guy’s RaiPly funds.
Tajveer Rai: Alumnus of City University, London, is a safari rally buff and MD of West Kenya Sugar Ltd.
Onkar Rai: The two-time Division Two local Safari Rally champ is brother to Tajveer and MD, of Menengai Oil Refineries. When he wed his sweetheart, Damneet at Nairobi’s Simba Union Club in December 2015, he drove himself in a Porsche 911 GT3!
Original Post: Standard Media Kenya
Kiryandongo leadership agree to partner with Witness Radio Uganda to end rampant forced land evictions in the district.
By Witness Radio team.
Kiryandongo district leaders have embraced Witness Radio’s collaboration with the Kiryandongo district aimed at ending the rampant violent and illegal land evictions that have significantly harmed the livelihoods of the local communities in the area.
The warm welcome was made at the dialogue organized by Witness Radio Uganda, Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog at the Kiryandongo district headquarters, intended to reflect on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.
Speaking at the high-level dialogue, that was participated in by technical officers, policy implementers, religious leaders, leaders of project affected persons (PAPs), politicians, media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and development partners that support land and environment rights as well as the Land Based Investments (LBIs) Companies in the Kiryandongo district, the leaders led by the District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Ms. Edith Aliguma Adyeri appreciated the efforts taken by Witness Radio organization to organize the dialogue meeting aimed at bringing together stakeholders to safeguard community land and environmental rights in order address the escalating vice of land grabbing in the area.
During the dialogue, participants shared harrowing accounts of the impacts of land evictions and environmental degradation, including tragic deaths, families torn asunder, young girls forced into marriage, a surge in teenage pregnancies, limited access to education, and significant environmental damage which have profoundly affected the lives of the local population in Kiryandongo.
In recent years, Kiryandongo district has been embroiled in violent land evictions orchestrated to accommodate multinational large-scale agriculture plantations and wealthy individuals leaving the poor marginalized.
According to various reports, including findings from Witness Radio’s 2020 research Land Grabs at a Gun Point, the forceful land acquisitions in Kiryandongo have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 individuals have been displaced from their land to make room for land-based investments in the Kiryandongo district. However, leaders in the district also revealed in the dialogue that women and children are affected most.
The Kiryandongo Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Jonathan Akweteireho, emphasized that all offices within the Kiryandongo district are actively involved in addressing the prevalent land conflicts. He also extended a welcome to Witness Radio, acknowledging their collaborative efforts in tackling and resolving land and environmental issues in the district.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that the land rights together with environmental rights have been violated in our district, but because we don’t know what our rights are, because we have not directly done what we could to safeguard our rights and now this is the time that Witness Radio has brought us together to safeguard our rights. I want to welcome you in Kiryandongo and be rest assured that we shall give you all the necessary support to help us manage these rampant cases,” Ms. Adyeri said in her remarks during the dialogue meeting.
The team leader at Witness Radio Uganda, Mr. Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala expressed gratitude to the participants for their active involvement in the dialogue and revealed that Witness Radio’s objective is to find a holistic solution to the escalating land disputes in Kiryandongo district serving as an example to other districts.
“We are here to assist Kiryandongo district in attaining peace and stability because it stands as a hotspot for land grabbers in Uganda. Mismanagement of land conflicts in Uganda could potentially lead to a significant internal conflict. Everywhere you turn, voices are lamenting the loss of their land and property. Kiryandongo, abundant with ranches, suffers from a lack of a structured framework, which amplifies these land conflicts. The influx of wealthy investors further complicates the situation,” Mr. Ssebaggala disclosed.
Within the dialogue, Mr. Ssebaggala emphasized the need for the Kiryandongo district council to pass a by-law aimed at curbing land evictions as an initial step in addressing the prevalent land injustices.
A breaking alert! A community land rights defender is kidnapped from his home.
Kassanda, Uganda: a community land rights defender is missing after unidentified men cladding Uganda police uniform raided his home at around 10 PM local time, his wife has revealed.
Julius Ndagize is one of the community land rights defenders in Kassanda district advocating for the compensation of over 10,000 people illegally evicted from their land by the New Forest Company (NFC) in 2008 to plant monoculture trees.
In early 2020, evictees rose again to revive their demands to repossess their land following NFC’s failure to resettle and compensate them for the human rights violations and damages.
Evictees further narrate that ever since NFC grabbed their land, they have experienced increased deaths among children due to malnutrition and hired out land to bury their relatives who have died. All children who were attending school at the time of eviction have dropped out of school, while others have gotten married at a tender age. Furthermore, many families of the evictees have since broken up, and the list of long-standing impacts goes on.
“Our home was raided by unidentified men in police uniform at 10 PM local time. When they reached home, they banged on the house door and demanded that I should open the door. Upon opening, they forcefully entered the house without identifying themselves, with no explanation. Instead, they asked the whereabouts of my husband. They searched while throwing house properties in every direction until they got him and took him to an unknown direction. Said Mrs. Ndagize
She accused Uganda police of stealing Uganda Shillings 350,000, which is equivalent to about USD 90, which they found in their bedroom. She said the money belonged to a local women’s savings association, of which Mrs. Ndagize is the treasurer.
Since 2011 NFC has benefitted financing from international banks and private equity funds, including the European Investment Bank (EIB) with five million Euros (almost US 6 million dollars) to expand one of its plantations in Uganda; The Agri-Vie Agribusiness Fund, a private equity investment fund, had invested US 6.7 million dollars; the World Bank’s private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the UK bank HSBC with around US 10 million has caused unimaginable pain to hundreds of households and continued to suffer gross human rights abuses, mainly in Mubende district.
Lately, NFC has benefited from the carbon offset financing from several financiers, including the Dutch Development Bank (FMO).
Witness Radio has commissioned search for the lost person, but no success had been reached by the time of writing this article.
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: https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2023-09/ngo-statement-on-energy-sector-strategy-2024-2028.pdf
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