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U.K. Lawmaker calls on British Foreign Secretary to Intervene in Uganda’s Apaa/UN Crisis



Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Photo–Flickr.

A Ugandan Member of Parliament has called on the country’s dictator of 32 years to order his army to halt deadly illegal evictions of rural farmers, while also praising a call by a British lawmaker for action by the U.K.’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Britain provides Uganda with more than $100 million in annual foreign aid assistance.

Since July 11 more than 340 villagers — including 34 children– from a lush fertile area known as Apaa, in the northern part of Uganda, have been holed up in the compound of the field offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the city of Gulu.

They were granted temporary sanctuary after they fled violent attacks from Uganda’s military, the police, and armed Wildlife Authority agents. An estimated 800 homes have been torched, properties stolen, and crops destroyed in the concerted human rights abuses amounting to ethnic cleansing.

The ongoing attacks by the regime, in defiance of a 2012 High Court order staying all evictions, have already killed at least a dozen people. Scores are missing and many others have been injured.

The area in Apaa is about 25 square miles and the regime has been trying to oust 15,000 people, literally turning them homeless and destitute.

Land-grabbing by the political and military elite, who forcefully evict powerless people from their land and then lease them off to rich foreign individuals or corporations is a widespread if underreported crises in Africa. Critics have described the onslaught as the “new Scramble for Africa” where corrupt regimes in league with foreign interests, act like some of the African leaders who did not defend their sovereignty during the 19th century imperial conquest.

Uganda under Gen. Yoweri Museveni, is a prime example today.

According to an aide to Paul Williams, a U.K. MP, the lawmaker wrote to the British Foreign Secretary to inquire on “what representations he has made to the Government of Uganda on behalf of the thousands of people of Apaa village in Amuru/Adjumani District who have been, and are still being, forcibly evicted from their land by the Ugandan Army, Police and Wildlife Authority, who claim that they are inhabiting a game reserve?”

MP Williams also wanted to know whether the Foreign Secretary had “been in contact with the UN Human Rights Offices in Gulu, Northern Uganda, where 250 internally displaced people are currently camped, and will he make representations to the Ugandan Government on behalf of these displaced people?”

“I do appreciate Dr. Paul William so much for asking specific and meaningful questions to the minister. It will open the eyes of many people who may not be aware about what is happening in Uganda. I thank him for that,” Gilbert Olanya, a Ugandan MP whose constituency, Kilak South, includes the area of the violent land-grab, said.

Olanya said the country’s ruler, Museveni, “should stop pretending, he should order the soldiers to stop terrorizing the civilians, since he is aware fully of what is going on.”

“The soldiers should be withdrawn from Apaa and people go back to their homes,” he added.

Locals believe the Ugandan regime wants to lease the land to foreign commercial farmers and to a South African who wants to build hunting preserves. “Let the government stop the idea of giving people’s land to the South African investor called Bruce Martin,” Olanya said, referring to the South African allegedly trying to acquire the land.

Since last week the crises gained more global coverage and the Office of the outgoing High Commissioner finally broke its silence and commented amid emerging reports of fears of the cholera outbreak as a result of overflowing outside latrines, and shortage of food and medication.

The Geneva offices of the OHCHR in a statement said officials were working with representatives of the Apaa refugees and the regime to resolve the matter.

The refugees have said the fear being killed by the military should they return to Apaa.

The Member of Parliament, Olanya, described conditions on the U.N. compound: “The conditions at the UN premises is not good, sanitation not very OK, people are contributing food items like posho beans among others. Yesterday a team from Soroti brought some food and youth from Amuru town council. The major problem now is the firewood for cooking.”

Critics accuse the Museveni regime of arming civilians in adjoining areas inhabited by ethnic Madis and promoting violence between them and Acholis who live on the land in Apaa eyed by the regime. A Ugandan deputy prime minister, Gen. Moses Ali — who was once as senior official under Gen. Idi Amin– has taken the lead in promoting the conflict, according to local media reports.

“The problem in Apaa is the issue between Acholi and the government of Uganda not between Madi and Acholi as some people are saying,” Olanya added, calling for action against those behind the violence.

“Moses Ali and the team must be brought to book and those who killed Apaa community be arrested…”

Olanya said another disaster was looming since the people who fled to safety in the U.N.’s premises aren’t able to now tend to their farms.

“Since this is the time for cultivation, I guess these people shall suffer in the next season, since they are not cultivating. Government should be ready to provide relief assistant to them for a year, starting immediately when they go back home.”

Apaa Petition…



Breaking: Witness Radio and Partners to Launch Human Rights Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy Project Tomorrow.



By Witness Radio Team.

Witness Radio, in collaboration with Dan Church Aid (DCA) and the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD), is set to launch the Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy for Human Rights in Uganda (MDA-HRU) project tomorrow, 22nd February 2024, at Kabalega Resort Hotel in Hoima District.

The project, funded by the European Union, aims to promote the protection and respect for human rights, and enable access to remedy where violations occur especially in the Mid-Western and Karamoja sub-regions where private sector actors are increasingly involved in land-based investments (LBIs) through improved documentation, and evidence-based advocacy.

The three-year project, which commenced in October 2023, focuses its activities in the Mid-Western sub-region, covering Bulisa, Hoima, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Kikuube, Kagadi, Kibale, and Mubende districts, and Karamoja sub-region, covering Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Nabilatuk, Abim, Kaabong, Kotido, and Karenga districts.

The project targets individuals and groups at high risk of human rights violations, including Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs). It also engages government duty bearers such as policymakers and implementers in relevant ministries and local governments, recognizing their crucial role in securing land and environmental rights. Additionally, the project involves officials from institutional duty bearers including the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Equal Opportunities Commission, and courts, among others.

Representatives from the international community, faith leaders, and business actors are also included in the project’s scope, particularly those involved in land-based investments (LBIs) impacting the environment.

The project was initially launched in Moroto for the Karamoja region on the 19th of this month with the leadership of the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD).

According to the project implementors,  the action is organized into four activity packages aimed at; enhancing the capacity and skills of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs) in monitoring, documentation, reporting (MDR), and protection, establishing and reinforcing reporting and documentation mechanisms for advocacy and demand for corporate and government accountability;  providing response and support to HRDs and marginalized communities; and lastly facilitating collaboration and multi-stakeholder engagements that link local and national issues to national and international frameworks and spaces.

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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.

Participants attending the dialogue.

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.

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Kiryandongo authorities decry rising cases of land disputes



The LC5 chairperson of Kiryandongo, Ms Edith Aliguma Adyeri, has saidnland dispute has impacted on people’s lives, dignity and children’s education in the district.

Just like other parts of Uganda, conflicts over land in Kiryandongo arise when individuals – who often are blood relatives – compete for use of the same parcel of land or when members of the community lay claim over ownership of unutilised government land.

Ms Adyeri further said land and environmental rights affect people both directly and indirectly, “and we are not hearing it from afar. It is already together with us [here], it has already affected us!”

She was speaking at a meeting which sought to discuss alternative remedies to salvage the appalling land and environmental rights situation in Kiryandongo at the district headquarters on Thursday.

The one-day dialogue was aimed at reflecting 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.

It was attended by private companies, members of civil society and local government officials and organised by Witness Radio – an advocate for land and environmental rights in Uganda – in partnership with Oxfam, and Kiryandongo District leadership.

“Some people have even died, families are broken up, and brothers are not seeing eye-to-eye because of land rights. Access to justice is equally becoming very difficult because when you hire one lawyer that
lawyer will talk to learned friends, and they agree. They leave you in suspense,” Ms Adyeri said.

According to her, some children have not accessed education because of land and environmental rights.

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the deputy Resident District Commissioner of Kiryandongo, said enlightened people especially should be sensitive to the historical injustice of this area.

“We can never handle the Bonyoro land question without thinking about that history. It will be an injustice to the incomers, to the government and to the leaders who don’t understand,” he said.

“We had 38 ranches here which on the guidance of these international organisations, especially the World Bank, the government restructured them, allowing people to settle there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he added.

Mr Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the executive director of Witness Radio, said that a well-functional land sector supports land users or holders and investors, reduces inefficiencies and provides mechanisms to resolve land disputes.

Mr David Kyategeka, the secretary to the Kiryandongo District Land Board, said the issue of land rights is very clear but the major challenge has been sensitising the locals to know what rights he or she expects to enjoy out of this very important resource.


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