By Felix & IFJ
Kampala/Brussels – Ugandan army has said they would arrest and punish the soldiers who clobbered experienced Photographer with Reuters, Mr James Akena.
He was covering the demonstrations against the jailed MPs in Uganda. The Army Spokesman, Brig Richard Karemire said in a statement that: “UPDF wishes to express its displeasure over such behaviour by those individuals and as a result, the Chief of Defence Forces has ordered for their (soldiers) arrest and punishment.”
On August 20, James Akena, a Reuters’ journalist, who was covering the Free Bobi Wine protest, was attacked and detained. Three armed officers from UPDF Special Forces Command (SFC) violently attacked Akena while he was working. View a clip of NTV Uganda has shown.
Why Atiak Sugar Project is not firing on all cylinders.
Ms Amina Hershi, the chief executive officer of Horyal Investment Ltd, displays some of the bags of sugar produced at Atyak Sugar Factory in Amuru District recently.
Atiak Sugar Limited is battling an acute shortage of sugarcane to supply the multi-billion sugar factory located in Atiak Sub-county, Amuru District. The vast bulk of its sugarcane plantations in both Amuru and Lamwo districts were ravaged by suspected arson attacks from alleged aggrieved members of two separate outgrowers societies.
The Atiak Sugar Project is still being spoken of in the present tense. It is essentially a public-private-community partnership between the National Agriculture Advisory Services (Naads), participating farmer cooperatives and respective local governments of Amuru, Lamwo and Horyal Investment Holdings Ltd.
The first bags of sugar from Horyal Investment Ltd’s multi-billion investment in the post-conflict north hit the streets of Gulu City once President Museveni commissioned the factory on October 22, 2020. The factory was initially meant to provide a ready market for the sugarcane outgrowers in the region where sugar production has already begun.
Under the partnership, the community under Atiak Outgrowers and Gem-pachilo Cooperative Societies are to plant cane on the land and weed the plantations. Once the cane is ready, the plantation—apportioned to the outgrowers by Naads—would be harvested and sold to the factory.
At its inception, the project targeted to cover 13,841 acres at the main plantation at Atiak in Amuru District. An expansion of 15,000 acres was, however, later made in Ayu-alali, Palabek Kal Sub-county, Lamwo District, in 2020. A further expansion of 31,159 acres is planned and is being established in Palabek-ogili, Lamwo District, bringing the total acreage to 60,000.
In September 2020, before its commissioning, Ms Amina Hershi, the chief executive officer of Horyal Investment Ltd, told a delegation of government officials that 3,000 acres of sugarcane were ready for supply to the factory to begin its maiden production. This section of the plantation belonged to Gem Pachilo and Atiak Outgrowers Cooperative Societies, she revealed, adding, “…we also now produce 6 MWh of electricity to the national grid, which is generated through biogas from the bi-products of the cane.”
At this point, the plant was, according to Ms Hershi, only waiting for calibration by the International Organisation for Standardisation to ensure the quality, safety, and efficiency of products, services, and systems.
Two years later, however, Saturday Monitor has learnt that simultaneous incidents of fire outbreaks that ravaged hundreds of hectares of the plantation appear to cast a dark shadow on the potential of the factory.
Outgrowers and the factory’s management accounts have indicated that since 2017, wildfires have gutted hundreds of hectares of the sugar plantation in the dry season. The burnt portions were usually canes that were nearing harvest or ready for harvest. We also understand that the portions burnt by the fire were always those owned by the outgrowers. These were not insured against fire, damages, or any other risks.
Late last month, the proprietors of the factory said sugar production had been suspended after cane supply to the factory hit rock bottom. According to the company, the suspension comes in the aftermath of wildfires that have in previous months destroyed the sugarcane plantation.
Mr Mahmood Abdi Ahmed, the company’s director for plantation and agriculture, told Saturday Monitor that production had drastically slowed down. He, however, hastened to add that operations haven’t been suspended as a result of the acute shortage of canes.
“The biggest challenge we have had is the gaps in our structural planning relating to the sugarcane production, and this failure is blamed on all of us the stakeholders,” Mr Mahmood said in an interview, adding, “The land (customary) ownership setup in the Acholi area has served a really big disadvantage to sugarcane growing because you don’t see people growing sugarcane on subsistence basis as we see in other regions producing sugar.”
According to him, in areas such as Busoga and Bunyoro sub-regions, “you find people growing sugarcane everywhere because the land is not communally owned and individuals decide on their own whether to grow sugarcane. But the communal ownership disfavours this, and this is one challenge we did not foresee.”
He also said the lack of associated amenities such as roads and urban trading centres where interested labour (workers) can reside has exacerbated things.
“The road infrastructure in communities here is still poor to boost sugarcane production,” he said, adding, “Even if communities grew these canes, the road networks are still underdeveloped to ease transportation of the canes.”
The company also lacks the infrastructure and human resources to deploy in sugarcane production. For example, Atiak Town Council or Elegu Town Council— the nearest trading centre—is 25km away from the factory, making transportation of the labour force over the distance a huge daily burden.
A fortnight ago, Ms Hersi told the media that the factory was temporarily suspending operations. According to her, the factory’s biggest problem was the lack of canes to supply the plant to produce sugar. She was, however, quick to add that the plantation would resume production once canes in Ayu-alali plantation in Palabek-kal Sub-county, Lamwo District, mature between July and August.
Ms Joyce Laker, the chairperson of Atiak Outgrowers Cooperative Society, however recently revealed that they were disappointed that Naads refused to pay their members.
During a public gathering at the factory, Ms Laker described the wildfires that swept across the plantations as deliberate sabotage. She also called for the government’s intervention after revealing that discontented cooperative members have openly threatened to continue burning down the sugar plantation until their grievances are settled.
“I will say it without shame…,” she stated. “…there are issues which the government has to come in and settle because at one point, in a meeting, some people said if these issues are not resolved, the sugarcane will continue getting burnt down.”
The longstanding dispute between the sugarcane outgrowers and the management of the sugar factory did not only delay the commencement of sugar production. Saturday Monitor also understands that the dispute has reportedly caused persistent and deliberate burning of the canes.
Ms Laker said the finger of blame can also be pointed elsewhere.
She referred specifically to the 2017 incident when Naads cut down more than 160 acres of sugarcane plantations belonging to Atiak Outgrowers and Gem-pachilo cooperative societies.
Saturday Monitor has established that the outgrowers are yet to be paid. We have also established that there are several instances of tension between the outgrowers, Horyal Investment Ltd and Naads over royalties and accumulated payments for canes cut and served to the factory.
Before President Museveni launched the factory in October 2020, the farm could not initialise sugar production for nearly eight months. This was due to the failure of the government to compensate two cooperatives for the sugarcane supplied to the factory.
Ms Grace Kwiyocwiny, the State Minister for Northern Uganda, told Saturday Monitor that roundtable talks between the leadership of the factory and the cooperative members are in the offing.
“We should protect all the little developments that are coming up in our region because all developments are supported by communities,” she said, adding, “I want to … come and meet with the leaders of the community because of the sugar [cane] that is continuously burning down.”
Earlier in March, when this newspaper visited the facility, the factory remained closed to production due to supply chain issues (shortage of cane). A perfect storm—including the pandemic, suspected arson attacks and insufficient production of canes by plantations in both Amuru and Lamwo districts—has contrived to create supply chain problems.
No respite from the east
In January 2021, Horyal Investment Ltd started sourcing its cane from the Busoga Sub-region. Sugarcane farmers in Busoga Sub-region, under the Greater Busoga Sugarcane Farmers’ Union (GBSGU), last month signed a memorandum of understanding with Atiak Sugar Factory to supply cane for six months. Under the arrangement, the government shall intervene by subsidising the transport costs and also avail fueled trucks to ferry the cane.
Inside sources have, however, told Saturday Monitor that the arrangement looks to have fallen flat on its face. The cost the investor incurred in transporting a truckload of canes is six times higher than what it paid for canes alone. A source who did not want to be named said while a truckload of canes fetched approximately Shs200,000, it costs between Shs800,000 to Shs1m to transport the consignment.
“They failed to sustain that arrangement because it was very expensive and the company realised it was sinking in losses to that effect; although the costs were being shared between the investor and Naads,” our source revealed.
Mr Michael Lakony, the Amuru District chairperson, fears that the suspension of the sugar production will destroy livelihoods in the sub-region.
“Hundreds of workers, including young men and women from the district here have been rendered jobless,” he told us in an interview, adding, “If the company wants to gain from the factory, it should get serious other than politicking.”
Mr Lakony added that because the government was allegedly not serious about streamlining the impasse and ensuring that Horyal Investments Ltd respects its terms in dealing with the outgrowers, the investor could continue grappling with suspicious fires.
“The plantations keep getting burnt because it is owned by no one and that means nobody cares, and if nobody cares, no one takes interest in taking care of it, including the neighbours because benefits in terms of payments to the out-growers are not being met,” he said.
To address the challenge of labour deficiency and lack of funds to establish low-cost housing facilities in the factory to accommodate workers, Mr Mahmood said they are moving towards mechanising production.
“We don’t have the financing to build accommodation facilities to house thousands of workers who we would need to work on the plantation daily,” he told Saturday Monitor, adding, “Instead, we are strategising to focus on mechanising our production using the limited resources at our disposal now.”
He further revealed that they have procured a new fleet of sugarcane planters, weeders and harvesters due to arrive at the back-end of this year.
“The machines, we believe, are more efficient and can do much more work compared to human labour and that will solve the puzzle,” he noted.
Although Mr Mahmood did not disclose the source of the funding, in a separate interview, Mr Lakony—the Amuru LC5 chairperson—said the company had been granted a Shs108 billion bailout by the government for mechanising production.
“We had a meeting with the management as a district and also shareholders and the latest update is that the government has allocated Shs108 billion to the company through UDC [Uganda Development Corporation],” Mr Lakony said, adding, “The plan is to leave rudimental and turn to mechanised production. Instead of using human labour, they want to use machines.”
A fraction of the same funds will also be used to establish an irrigation system on River Unyama that cuts through the sugar plantation to help in irrigating the canes during the dry season when immature and young canes dry and die out, Mr Lakony added.
Saturday Monitor understands the Shs108 billion is the same funding thrown out by Parliament’s Budget Committee last November. This was after the investor made a supplementary budget request to finance production. The request tabled by junior Trade minister David Bahati, and backed by the UDC’s top brass, failed to convince the lawmakers, who in turn sent them away.
The MPs declined to endorse Ms Hersi’s request to the government, reasoning that there was a need for proof that her investment was making a substantial contribution to the economy. The MPs instead demanded a forensic audit into how she has spent more than Shs120 billion received from the government. Similar financial requests were made by the Atiak Sugar leadership to the 10th Parliament, but most of them were rejected, although it later emerged that they were, nevertheless, granted.
Some of the fire incidents at Atiak Sugar project
In 2016, a fire caused an estimated loss of Shs150m after it gutted 150 acres of sugarcane plantation at the factory.
In December 2018, another mysterious fire destroyed an estimated 250 acres of sugarcane at the facility.
An estimated 600 acres of sugarcane at the plantation was then burnt down in February 2019.
And in January 2021, a fire that lasted for nearly a week destroyed nearly 60 percent of the plantation after the police fire brigade fought it with little success.
Eventually, more than 600 acres of sugarcane estimated at Shs3 billion were reported to have been destroyed in the fire.
In fact, that fire in January of 2021 was the worst to ever hit the plantation. The police attributed the rapid spread of the fire to narrow fire lines that do not allow fire trucks to move in fast.
Enter January of 2022, a similar fire burnt down an estimated 3,500 acres of the sugarcane plantation.
According to Mr David Ongom Mudong, the Aswa River Region police spokesperson, the fire razed down 14 huts belonging to a Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) detachment. The soldiers, who were supposed to stand as sentinels at the plantation, watched helplessly as 250 acres were burnt down.
About the factory
Atiak Sugar Factory, located at Gem Village in Pachilo Parish in Atiak Sub-county in Amuru District, is jointly owned by the Uganda and Horyal Investment Holdings Company Ltd. The latter belongs to Ms Hersi.
The factory—located 17kms north of Atiak off the Gulu-Nimule Road—is the first major investment in the region.
Lawmakers have, however, continued to question why the government’s stakes in it have remained significantly low compared to that of Horyal Investments despite the huge capital portfolio injected in the past years into the venture.
Last September, Parliament’s Committee on Trade questioned why the government—the lowest shareholder in Atiak Sugar Limited—continues to invest the most money in the factory.
The government’s shareholding in the plant has remained static at 40 percent despite an injection of more than Shs120 billion.
In May 2018, when the government injected Shs20 billion, its shareholding stood at 10 percent. In the same year, it injected another Shs45 billion—raising its shares to 32 percent.
The committee also questioned the circumstances under which Naads contracted the company to clear, plant, and harvest sugar cane valued at Shs54 billion instead of working directly with the outgrowers.
Source: Daily Monitor
Govt resurrects emotive Land Acquisition Bill.
President Museveni and then Lands State Minister Aidah Nantaba in Kayunga in June 2021 where the President had gone to mediate a land dispute. The government is set to reintroduce the compulsory Land Acquisition Bill.
The government is set to reintroduce the controversial Land Acquisition Bill that, among others, seeks to enable compulsory land acquisition for strategic government development projects.
The Bill is among the 62 proposed legislations presented by President Museveni during the State-of-the-Nation Address on Tuesday that are to be introduced by government to the 11th Parliament during its second session that started on June 7.
According to the Ministry of Lands, the object of the draft Bill is to allow the government to acquire land for timely implementation of public works and end years of prolonged acquisition processes that have in the past cost the country billions of shillings and hindered essential projects.
The idea of the government to take over even privately owned land for public works dates back to 2017, and has often raised a raging debate across the political divide that remains unsettled.
READ: Mailo land tenure debate sparks storm
Buganda premier Charles Peter Mayiga vowed to oppose the new proposed land law that seeks to provide for compulsory acquisition of land for government development projects, warning that it is a ploy to grab people’s land.
“As Buganda Kingdom, we shall not allow any law on land that seeks to grab land from Kabaka’s subjects and undermine Kabaka’s authority over land. They [government] should stop provoking us,”Mr Mayiga told the Lukiiko (Buganda parliament).
The property law
Article 26(2) of the Constitution stipulates that: “No person shall be compulsorily deprived of property or any interest in right over property of any description except where taking possession is necessary for public use and, or, is made under the law after prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation.”
However, in 2017, the government tabled the controversial Constitution Amendment Bill, 2017 that sought, among other things, to amend Article 26 of the Constitution to allow government “compulsory acquisition” of private land for national projects and deposit in court the compensation money it deems appropriate regardless of whether the owner consents to it or not.
In the same year, President Museveni, conducted a countrywide radio tour to face the people with the aim of softening the public to embrace the proposed amendments.
Many, however, remained unyielding. At the time, most of the Cabinet ministers as well as NRM legislators remained silent on the matter.
But the attempts to amend Article 26, which safeguards private land until adequate and timely compensation is made, were rejected by the 10th Parliament, and the government retreated to re-strategise.
Mr Dennis Obbo, the spokesperson at the Ministry of Lands, yesterday told Daily Monitor that the draft document is with the Ministry of Justice for drafting of a new Bill, after consultations with stakeholders, across the country.
Without delving into the details of the new amendments to the proposed law, Mr Obbo said some changes have been made to ensure the processes are within the confines of the Supreme Law.
“It is important we do not delay capital investments, which has been the case. Government in the past has lost $27m (Shs101b) per year in servicing debts because of such acquisition delays. We have looked at a win-win situation, listen to the owner of the land but also make sure government does not lose out,” Mr Obbo said.
The new Bill will maintain the deposit of compensation money on an escrow account in case a land owner has reservations about the amount they are offered.
The compensation rates will be determined by government valuer, according to the Valuation Bill, 2022, another attendant legislation that seeks to harmonise the acquisition process.
The Land Acquisition Bill also established a tribunal, headed by a High Court Judge to handle any disputes. Such a complaint must be heard and decided on within 30 days, and an appeal in 45 days.
In case Parliament approves the controversial amendments, Mr Obbo reiterated that land owners will be given a notice, allowed six months to vacate the land in question, and the government will only take over the land after compensation, or settlement in case of disputes.
The draft Bill, according to sources in the Attorney General’s chambers, will also provide for resettlement and relocation packages as opposed to compensation.
The government will also table the Land Act Amendment Bill, 2022 that seeks to address land issues including the rampant eviction of bibanja holders and reorganise the current land tenure systems.
A sub-committee of the Cabinet chaired by Deputy Prime minister, Gen Moses Ali, is currently studying the report by the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire Commission to inform major amendments to streamline the land business.
The Gen Ali committee is reported to be under strict instructions to come up with “incontrovertible amendments” that are needed to stop rampant illegal evictions in the country.
Government will also reintroduce the Health Insurance Bill that elapsed with the 10th Parliament. The legislation seeks to provide universal healthcare to all Ugandans.
Bills govt will present for legislation in 2022/2023
1. The Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces Act (Amendment) Bill 2022
2. The Social Impact Assessment and Accountability Bill
3. Uganda National Kiswahili Council Bill
4. The Employment (Amendment) Bill
5. The Occupational Safety and Health (Amendment) Bill
6. The Workers Compensation (Amend) Bill
7. Labour Unions (Amendment) Bill
8. The Culture and Creative Bill
9. The Veterinary Practitioners Bill
10. Animal Diseases Amendment Bill
11. Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
12. The Insolvency (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
13. The Law Revision (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2022.
14. Energy Efficiency and Conservation Bill
15. Amendment of Atomic Energy Act,2008
16. Building Substances Bill,2022
17. The National Health Insurance Scheme Bill,2019
18. The Food and Drug Authority Bill,2017
19. Health Professional Council’s Authority Bill,2016
20. The Museums and Monuments Bill 2022
21. The Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium (Amendment) Bill.
22. Business Technical Vocational Education and Training (Amendment) Bill
23. The National Teachers’ Bill.
24. The Physical Activity and Sports Bill
25. The Local Government (Amend) Bill
26. The Uganda Communication (Amendment) Bill
27. National Information Technology (Amendment)Bill
28. Engineers Registration (Amend) Bill.
29. Uganda Railways Corporation (Amendment) Bill
30. Land Acquisition Bill,2022
31. Valuation Bill,2022
32. Real Estates Bill,2022
33. Land Act (Amendment) Bill,2022
34. Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill
35. Small Arms and Light Weapons Control Bill
36. The Explosives Bill.
37. Transitional Justice Bill
38. Microfinance Deposit Taking Institutions (Amendment) Bill,2020
39. Annual Macroeconomic and Fiscal Performance Report FY 2021/2022
40. National Budget Framework Paper for FY 2023/2024
41. Semi – Annual Budget Performance Report FY 2022/2023.
42. Semi – Annual Macroeconomic and Fiscal Performance Report FY2022/2023
43. Annual Budget Estimates FY 2023/2024
44. The Appropriation Bill FY 2023/2024
45. Treasury Memoranda FY 2023/2024
46. Corrigenda FY 2023/24
47. Income Tax (Amendment)Bill,2023
48. Excise Duty(Amendment)Bill,2023
49. The Value Added Tax (Amend) Bill, 2023
50. The Stamps Duty (Amendment) Bill, 2023
51. Traffic and Road Safety (Amendment)Bill, 2023
52. Lotteries and Gaming(Amendment)Bill,2023
53. The Tax Procedures Code (Amendment) Bill 2023
54. Tax Appeals Tribunal(Amendment)Bill,2023
55. The Finance (Amendment) Bill, 2023
56. Budget Speech for FY 2023/2024.
57.The Supplementary Appropriation Bill FY 2022/2023
58. The Uganda National Council of Science and Technology (Amendment) Bill
59. Competition Bill
60. Consumer Protection Bill
61. Legal Metrology Bill
62. Industrial and Scientific Metrology Bill
Source: Daily Monitor
Owori, Tororo locals square off over land.
Fashion designer and businesswoman Sylvia Owori at an Operation Wealth Creation function in 2021.
The Director of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) and about 200 families are embroiled in dispute over the ownership of about 100 acres of land in Nyangore Sub-county, Tororo District.
Ms Sylvia Owori’s accusers told Sunday Monitor that the OWC top official who also doubles as boss of the Zipa Modelling Agency used her newfound power to grab their land, a charge she vehemently denies.
The land in dispute is located about five miles from Tororo Town, on the Tororo Mbale Road. It is also in close proximity to Mukuju Teacher Training College and both Simba and Hima Cement plants.
Ms Owori says “encroachers” have attempted to take over large swaths of land that “has my father’s grave, my grandmother’s grave and my grandfather’s grave.”
She added: “It is not true [that I am grabbing their land]. This is my ancestral land…these people are trying to claim that land,” Ms Owori told Sunday Monitor.
A September 30, 2020 brief signed by three of her accusers—Emmanuel Otedo, Oburu Silver and Obonyo Robert Ochwo—alleges that Ms Owori forcefully accessed their land on July 31, 2020.
They add that she did this while in the company of armed escorts, who she used to intimidate and harass them.
Ms Owori admits to moving around with armed escorts, but denies using them to intimidate her accusers.
“I am a Director of OWC and I am entitled to a driver and a bodyguard. I have only two security officers. Two security officers cannot go and threaten an entire village. And even if so, there should have been a report at the police that these officers did this or that,” Ms Owori argues.
It is further alleged that Ms Owori had on the same day attempted to forcefully have the land surveyed. This triggered commotion in the village, forcing the surveyor to back down.
The matter, according to the brief, was reported to the Mile 5 police station where the people whose land had been the subject of the alleged trespass recorded statements.
The development compelled the Rubongi Sub-county chairperson to convene a September 2, 2020 meeting where Ms Owori laid claim to the land in dispute.
“During the meeting Sylvia Owori said that she had come to reclaim her father’s land and was therefore in the company of armed personnel for self-protection. The statement surprised us the bonafide owners of the land because to the best of our knowledge, the land she is claiming is not hers nor her late fathers” the brief reads in part.
Owori insists that the land in question is ancestral land that was acquired by her late grandfather.
“This land was acquired by my grandfather in 1915 during the colonial days. He was a chief. When he died in 1942, he left the land with my father George William Owori,” she told Sunday Monitor.
However, whereas her accusers concede that her grandfather was a chief in the area and was buried there, he was not the only chief that was buried there. They add that amongst all descendants of late chiefs buried there, it is only Ms Owori who is laying claim to the land.
The Owori’s contestations over the land are said to date back to about 1970 when Mr George William Owori—Sylvia’s late father—filed a suit. It was reportedly dismissed on January 2, 1978.
“We were therefore surprised when this lady (Sylvia Owori) raised a matter which had been successfully handled by the courts of law more than 40 years ago,” they wrote.
Ms Owori, however, disputes that version of events, insisting that the court had ruled in her late father’s favour.
“He got a court ruling in his favour and they were given three months to leave or face eviction. These people continued to grab the land. In March 1980, when he was trying to put up a fight, he was shot [and killed] because of the same land,” she said.
Ms Owori is perplexed by her accusers’ decision to petition Parliament over the land when the matter is still the subject of court proceedings in Tororo.
“If they are sure that this is their land, why don’t they wait for the court process to run its course? Why don’t they wait for the outcome of court? If they are truly the rightful owners then the court will determine in their favour,” she said.
The matter was the subject of a May 6 petition sent to the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Anita Among, through the area MP—Dr Emmanuel Otaala.
It was tabled before Parliament by the Tororo District Woman MP, Ms Sarah Opendi. Ms Among directed the Minister for Lands and Urban Development to investigate the matter.
Ms Opendi told Parliament last week that Ms Owori had blocked people from accessing a school and a church located on the disputed land.
“The petitioners have sought assistance from this land grabber, but to no avail. Her security personnel have beaten up people and now they have come seeking Parliament’s intervention to rescue them from land grabbers,” she told Parliament.
Ms Owori, however, dismissed Ms Opendi’s statement in the House and instead accused the lawmaker of politicking.
“Someone wants to tarnish my name because of politics. She thinks that since I am on the ground meetings with youth and women leaders, I want to contest for woman MP,” Ms Owori said, adding, “I am showing them things to do with Operation Wealth Creation.”
Original Source: Daily Monitor
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