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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Uganda’s natives are becoming more powerless; losing land everyday, says a New Research Report

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By Witnessradio.org

As Uganda GDP drops to 3.5 from 5%, the latest research is revealing that 73 per cent of Uganda’s total population that depend on agriculture are losing their access to land due to Pursuit of Large-Scale Agricultural Investment Projects, Changing Policy and Local Pressures.

The government’s available statistics indicate that the percentage of women engaged in agricultural activities is estimated to be even higher at 83 per cent (UBOS, 2005).

A new research titled ‘understanding changing land access issues for the rural poor in Uganda’ indicates that given the current architecture of Uganda’s economy, it is projected that the percentage of the population directly dependent on agriculture is likely to remain the same or even increase in the foreseeable future.

The 86 page report whose lead researchers Godber Tumushabe, the associate director of Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies and Alex Tatwagire, a lecturer at the College of Agricultural and Environment Sciences at Makerere University, indicated that “pursuit of large-scale agricultural investment projects has changed the overall economic landscape” which has triggered actual and perceived high returns from land hence increasing demand and driving up land prices making it hard for poor communities to bargain for their land access.

Also, the research reveals that the “changing policy narrative” that has dominated the public policy discussions over the last decade is also responsible for changes in access to land in Uganda. “Policies on poverty eradication, investment and agricultural transformation have elevated land issues to the top of Uganda’s national policy agenda,” the report noted.

Whereas policies on acquisition of land are in place, the research contends that the processes taking place at local level do “overtake” national reforms aimed at strengthening tenure security for rural households.

“Powerful individuals in a community can effectively constrain reforms on how land is governed,” the research says, “the capacity of customary institutional arrangements to deliver clear land rights, and resistance to unlawful evictions.”

“Meanwhile, many poor people face severe land access challenges,” the research added, “high cost of processing certificates of customary occupancy, the cost of processing land titles, difficulties in securing compensation for their land, and poor protection from illegal evictions.”

Other Challenges

The research also found that decentralization policies and the creation of new districts have triggered “many legal cases between communities, districts, and border counties…”

“Poor land valuations and compensations between government and landowners also create tensions, among different ethnic groups,” the report notes, elaborating the finding with a land dispute that is still raging in Apa Parish, Amuru area.

“…is at the centre of a power struggle between the Uganda World Life Authority, Amuru district and adjumani district,” said the research. Local people in this area, claim these government agencies want to evict them from their ancestral land.

This research focused on two case studies of large-scale land acquisitions from southern and northern regions of the country. In Southern Uganda, researchers visited Kalangala district for it offers context in which large-scale commercial land use is developing and it hosts a major palm oil agricultural development that begun in 1998.

In the northern region, the researchers chose Amuru district where more locally- driven factors are likely to govern land access. In Amuru, where 40Km tract of land is in issue, there is a raging conflict between worrying factions and it has claimed more than five people so far.

Public Policy not favourable

The commitment to invest in commercial agriculture to achieve socioeconomic transformation has got far implications because the impact of the situation goes beyond specific locations, according to the research.

In the end, the research therefore, suggests, “Economic growth and investment policies appear to outweigh land sector-specific policies as drivers of land access change.”

The research explains that the “development of infrastructure has the direct effect of opening up previously marginal areas,” thus “triggering fresh competition for land.”

As more land changes hands through the market, the report says  that “high prices and weak bargaining power may exclude the poorest and marginalized groups in rural as well as urban areas.”

The ever increasing commercial interests have “shifted” the modes of land access from traditional means (inheritance, gifts and squatting) to market modes.

According to the report, the above change, “hits some segments of the population hard such as the youth who previously benefited from traditional means of land access.”

In our next report, we will bring you the dynamics of how land access is changing from the local features’ perspective.

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Breaking; Lands Minister directs police chief to arrest armed mobs involved in forced and illegal land evictions.

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By Witness Radio team

Uganda’s Lands Minister Judith Nabakooba has directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Martins Okoth Ochola to arrest all organized and armed mobs involved in forced and illegal land evictions.

The directive is the second one from the same minister to the police chief in three (3) months due to widespread forced and illegal land evictions in Uganda.

On February 28, 2022, President Yoweri Museveni came out and banned all land evictions in the country that are carried out without the consent of the respective District Security Committees (DSC).

The latest directive was triggered by violent scenes that occurred on the 19th of March 2023 when armed groups of men with graders invaded the St peter’s Church of Uganda’s land in Kibiri and started destroying crops planted on the church land. The armed group whose employer is not yet established claims the church is occupying someone’s land illegally.

In an attempt to stop the unlawful eviction, Church leaders, led by Reverend Maxwell Ssebuggwawo and some faithful tried to intervene but in vain.

According to eyewitnesses, the armed group immediately attacked the Clergyman and other Christians causing severe bodily injuries. In the scuffle, Rev. Maxwell Ssebuggwawo’s vestments were torn by the mob, whom the community believes was being targeted.

In response to the violent attack against the church leader and congregation, the minister observed that many land grabbers have resorted to using organized and armed mobs to evict people from their land. She further describes eviction as illegal and unacceptable since the government has capable security agencies that can effect lawful evictions.

“We have noted incidents where some crooks employ mobs to evict people yet we have security forces that can do this concerning the law. This is wrong. I have therefore directed the IGP to arrest everybody involved in these illegal acts and be brought to book”, the Minister added in an interview with the local media.

Witness Radio in the recent past has documented incidents where organized and armed mobs are participating in violent land evictions.  For instance, a recent eviction of a 99-year-old Hellena Namazzi in Numugongo in Kira Municipality in Wakiso district by Sema Properties boss, Ssemakula Sulait, another ugly case involved a violent eviction of over 2000 people off 328.1 hectares by one Moses Karangwa and Abid Alam in Kassanda district among others.

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Over 500 Kapapi families in Hoima district remain stranded after the district security committee fails to resettle them back on their land as directed by the minister.

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By Witness Radio team.

Hundreds of families, violently evicted from their land in Kapapi and Kiganja sub-counties in Hoima district are still pondering their next moves as efforts to return to their grabbed land remain ambiguous.

The directive came after Hoima district police and private guards from Magnum, a private security company raided people’s homes in Waaki North, Kapapi Central, Waaki South, Runga, and Kiryatete villages in Kapapi and Kiganja sub-counties, Hoima district on 10th of February 2023 at 1:00 am.

The violent scenes left hundreds of children with scores of injuries, houses were torched, and property worth billions was destroyed.  The animals such as goats, sheep, and cows were butchered and others were looted.

On 22nd of February 2023, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Honorable Judith Nabakooba while addressing a meeting in Rukola village Kapapi sub-county, Hoima district directed the security committee to return the victim villagers back to their land.

She considered the eviction unlawful since it was conducted at night and without a court order.

In that meeting, area leaders, Hoima district police and Hoima Resident District commissioner, Mr. Rogers Mbabazi, Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Michael Kyakashari were in attendance.

The victim community accuses a group of people including Ndahura Gafayo, Aston Muhwezi, David Mpora, Monica Rwashadika, Agaba, and Wilber Kiiza of being responsible for the land grab.

The grabbed land is situated at the shores of Lake Albert adjacent to the Kabaale parish in Buseruka Sub-county where the greenfield oil refinery is to be established. In April 2018, the government selected the Albertine Graben Refinery Consortium (AGRC) as the private sector investment to finance, develop, construct, and operate the Greenfield oil Refinery estimated to cost $4b.

According to the Witness Radio research team, ever since the directive was made instead, there’s increased human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, detentions and threats, and intimidation against victims of residents encamped at Rwenyana Church to vacate.

The evictees report that after the minister’s directive, three community members include; Mbombo Steven, and Kalongo Steven have been arrested, charged, and remanded to Hoima government prison.

“Our families encamping at church and waiting to be resettled back as directed by the Minister are facing further threats and intimidation to go away. They say they don’t want us at the church. Some of us are currently in hiding for fear of arbitrary arrests or kidnaps.” A community member who preferred to be called Enos due to fear of retaliation told Witness Radio.

He further added that the community is living at the mercy of God, with no food, or shelter, and predicted an uncertain future for their children since they are not attending school.

“Families are scattered in different centers while others continue to live with their relatives. However essential services such as shelter, food, health services, and education for their children remain a challenge. These people found us on land and started claiming ownership of this land. Imagine when we went for a search at a land registry, we found out that they only have a title of 2 acres but everyone knows we have been on this land for over 30 years. We have people who were born on this land.” He added.

Witness Radio contacted Mr. Rogers Mbabazi, Hoima Resident District Commissioner who heads the district security committee, to understand how far the committee had gone with the implementation of the minister’s directive. He instead referred us to his Deputy Mr. Michael Kyakashari.

Mr. Michael Kyakashari, when asked about the status of the directive, told our reporter that he did not have an answer for him before he hung up.

“I don’t have an answer for you” He repeatedly said.

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

State House Anti-Corruption Unit nets a surveyor implicated in Mubende district land-grabs

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Mr. Mafumu Paul and his accomplices at police after their arrest.

By Witness Radio Team,

The State House Anti-corruption Unit has arrested an alleged landgrabber in Mubende district whose evictions have rendered masses homeless.

Mr. Mafumu Paul, a Mubende based surveyor is accused of using police and conniving with some officials in the Lands ministry to issue forged titles that have been instrumental in illegal land evictions in the districts of Mubende, Kiboga and Kyankwanzi.

The alleged land grabber has been arrested alongside two of his farm workers who include Ssenyondo Ronald and Sseruyange Ben.

The arrest follows complaints of grave human rights abuses to the State House Anti-Corruption Unit and the minister for lands housing and urban development. In response, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, the Hon. Judith Nabakooba Nalule, visited the families whose crops were sprayed with chemicals by Mafumu’s workers. She later requested the State House Anti-Corruption Unit to intervene and investigate circumstances under which forged certificate of land titles are issued and used to forcefully evict local communities off their land. She further directed the Mubende Police to oversee the arrest of the Mufumu.

He has been implicated in instigating unlawful arrests, beating people, denying communities to access clean water sources, razing-down people’s houses and gardens, fly-grazing, and spraying their crops with chemicals in order to evict them from their land.

In one of the recent cases, on the 14th of January 2023, violence was meted out on the residents in Nalyankanja village, Kyenda Town Council in Mubende district. Mafumu is said to have ordered his workers to spray their crops, an act they believe has escalated hunger in their area. The crops sprayed with chemicals included: sweet potatoes, pineapples, coffee, bananas, and Cassava.

According to Witness Radio research, Mafumu has been accused of violently evicting over 17 families since 2018 from their land measuring approximately 248 acres.

The alleged land grabber and his accomplices are currently being detained at Mubende Police.

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