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Ugandan community files complaint to World Bank amid forced evictions



A community kickboxing academy marked for demolition by the Kampala Capital City Authority.

In 1998, Patrick Mwenza moved to the Kawaala settlement in Kampala, Uganda, where he built his family home and a few rental properties for additional income. But Mwenza — whose name has been changed to protect his identity — said that in 2013 the Kampala Capital City Authority tried to take his land to make way for a development project.

Though Mwenza, now 49, managed to keep his land after rejecting the compensation offered by the authority, he says some of his properties were destroyed during the diversion of the local Lubigi drainage channel, and he did not receive any financial assistance to rebuild them.

Seven years later, on Dec. 3, 2020, Mwenza and his neighbors woke up to find KCCA representatives accompanied by armed guards, distributing eviction notices around their village and placing a red “X” on many structures, which they said were intended for demolition to accommodate the expansion of the Lubigi drainage channel.

Though Mwenza’s property wasn’t marked with the dreaded “X,” he said he did find a pole in the middle of his compound, which marked where the next phase of the channel’s construction will begin — indicating that he should soon expect another eviction notice.

The expansion of the Lubigi drainage channel is part of the second phase of the World Bank’s Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project, KIIDP-2, a project with $175 million committed in the pipeline to enhance urban mobility.

During the first phase, in 2014, authorities constructed a channel diversion which Accountability Counsel — an international civil society organization that advocates for communities harmed by projects like this — said ran through the land of many local residents in Kawaala, as well as cut others off from easy access to schools and basic services.

 “This is a very stark example of failure to meet the World Bank’s own safeguard policies.”

— Caitlin Daniel, senior communities associate, Accountability Counsel

KIIDP-2 will expand on this channel diversion, widening it significantly. It is expected to lead to the eviction of more than 100 families across an area that is more than 1.5 miles long and 230 feet wide.

Accountability Counsel says neither KCCA nor the World Bank provided community members in Kawaala Zone II with adequate information on compensation and resettlement last year — as required by World Bank policies before issuing eviction notices.

In response to this, the community filed a complaint about the project to the World Bank’s Inspection Panel with the support of local NGOs, Witness Radio, and Accountability Counsel. The panel registered the case last month.

Caitlin Daniel, senior communities associate at Accountability Counsel, said many of the issues plaguing the first phase of the project haven’t been dealt with, and that — despite KCCA having had years to organize a resettlement process — the Kawaala Zone II community has been largely excluded from the process.

The organization believes that KCCA has been taking advantage of the community’s lack of awareness, driving affected community members through a rushed resettlement process — prioritizing project timelines over the livelihoods and the well-being of affected people and its equitable implementation.

Robi Mosenda, communities associate at Accountability Counsel in Kenya, alleged that KCCA has also used unscrupulous tactics such as threats, misinformation, and enforced surveys “to drive out this community.”

“There have been allegations of extortion and people asking for bribes to get higher values or figures for compensation,” he said, adding that, although many community members are illiterate, they’ve been asked to sign documents only to be never given copies. “Most of them just figured that this is a government agency and they will do whatever they want to do and we don’t have recourse against them.”

In the midst of all this, community members and civil society groups say that the World Bank has been largely absent, leaving KCCA frequently unsupervised. Community members aren’t clear about their rights in relation to a World Bank-funded project, Mosenda said, because nobody gave them that information.

“This is a very stark example of failure to meet the World Bank’s own safeguard policies,” Daniel explained. “These commitments that they have made to ensure that community members are not resettled without first receiving compensation and resettlement assistance — enough to make sure they are not any worse off than they were before the project began, and that just really clearly didn’t happen.”

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She added that COVID-19 further complicated the process, with World Bank personnel reluctant to travel to project sites. “But community members really strongly feel if the World Bank were there in person then the KCCA’s actions would be improved,” she said.

A representative from the World Bank’s country office in Uganda said that the bank cannot comment on an ongoing deliberation by their inspection panel.

Meanwhile, KCCA insists that the allegations leveled against the authority are false.

“It’s supposed to be a better place after we have finished the channel but because some people want a little money and their recognition, they hype it,” said KCCA spokesperson Daniel NuweAbine. “It is politics and the selfishness of individuals that want to keep our cities and our people … behind.”

NuweAbine claimed that the authority has “engaged and reengaged with the community,” and provided adequate compensation to those affected.

Those that have not been compensated, he said, illegally settled on the land after the first phase of the project — when the aforementioned compensations were already made — or bought land from owners who had previously received compensation. He blamed lawyers and civic groups for wanting “to be looked at as saviors” and misleading the community about how much their properties are worth.

The Accountability Counsel’s Daniel challenged KCCA’s assertion, citing a person whose proposed compensation amount was so low that it wouldn’t even cover administrative fees to obtain the documents that proved they owned the land.

“We are not rebelling [against] the project but we want to be compensated and leave the land for the project to go on,” said one 42-year-old woman, who has lived in Kawaala her whole life.

Jeff Ssebaggala, Uganda’s country director at Witness Radio, said the project’s problem is that it wasn’t community-led from the beginning.

“Development should be community-led,” he said. “No poor community would fight a development project, but people are not included.”

Original Source:

  • A community kickboxing academy marked for demolition by the Kampala Capital City Authority.

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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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