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




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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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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