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THE WITNESS

UK and Germany firms use government officials to grab 20,000 peasants’ land

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Extracted from the Independent , January, 2012.

As people celebrate Christmas, it is a luxury that others can even hardly afford to think about and have spent their last 10 Christmas like that—sad, poor and displaced.

One of them is Mzee Matayo Kiyitawaguru, 80, one of the 2,000 people that were forcibly and brutally evicted by the Ugandan army following the government’s lease of the residents’ land to Kaweri Coffee Plantation, a subsidiary of the Hamburg-based Neumann Kaffee Gruppe.

 Kiyitawaguru, once a proud owner of a 30 iron sheet house, now lives in one roomed shack and alone. He can only walk with the aid of a stick.

His house was burnt during the eviction. With no house and income, his wife started strangling him blaming him until she left him. “I have suffered my son, I loved my wife but we had to part because when I lost my property she turned anger on me,” he says as he gasps for breath because of hunger—a terrible juxtaposition of a man that once used to harvest six and two bags of coffee and tea respectively.

“They destroyed and burnt everything as bullets flew in the air,” Kiyitawaguru says, “they lied that they would build us [three elders] houses, two of us have died I am the only one left.”

Kiyitawaguru lives in a crowded village outside the vast coffee plantation with some of the people that he was evicted with.

A few metres from his home is David Sekandi whose grandfather was one of the earliest people to stay on this land. He says that his ancestors relocated here over 100 years.

Ssekandi reckons that the August of 2001 was like nothing he had ever seen. “Kids and old people died—some were beaten by mosquitoes and snakes,” he says, “we used to live in the bush because our houses were burnt and we had nowhere to stay.”

He adds that with no option, many evictees were forced to work for the company that displaced them.

The company also displaced the areas main school– Kitemba Primary School—where its head office now comfortably sits. As such many children dropped out of school and now some of them work in the company – some 15 of them were seen seated outside the head offices having porridge for lunch.

Workers say they are paid between Shs. 2300—2700 to work on an area of 700 trees of coffee or about two hectares daily. Since Uganda has no minimum wage, Kaweri officials say that the wages are adequate using the wages in the tea and sugar sectors as a defence.

No lessons learnt—Namwasa

Despite public outcry and international concern over the eviction, 10 years after, another group of 20,000 villagers [2011Oxfam report] has been evicted by the army, their crops destroyed, houses burnt from about 10 villages to give way for a plantation forest by New Forest Company Uganda Limited (NFC).

52 year old, William Bakasheka who represents part of this group says they are now concentrated in a small village-on a certain landlord’s one mile and 560 hectares of land on the outskirts of the forest company.

The villagers here know that as President Museveni pushed Parliament to pass the Land Amendment Bill 2007, claiming it was to protect tenants from evictions with one hand, his other hand wrote letters sanctioning their eviction from the land most of them had spent over 10 years.

“I know for sure that it’s the President that ordered my eviction from land I had spent about 14 years,” Bakasheka says.

In a Sept 14, 2009 letter, Museveni wrote to the Minister of Water and Environment, Maria Mutagamba, asking her to evict the villagers. On his orders, Kirunda Kivejinja (then Internal Affairs) and Asuman Kiyingi (State for Lands) and Mutagamba to visit the area and order the people off the land.

“These ministers came here and wanted us to quit on that very day but one of our leaders negotiated with them to give us a month so that we could prepare ourselves,” Bakasheka says.

Gold mine

Although, government insists that the area is a forest reserve, President Museveni’s letter to Mutagamba says the area is littered with gold. He said Kisita Mining Company was commissioned in 2001 to prospect for gold in the area.

Museveni was also clear. Only people who settled in the area by 1992, would be resettled in line with his “Executive Order on halting the eviction of encroachers” on forests. Of the 20,000, NFC says that on 32 families were there by 1992.

Several officials disagreed with the eviction but theirs fell on deaf ears.

Godfrey Kazibwe, the Presidential Advisor on Luwero Triangle for instance, wrote to the National Forestry Authority in April 2009 dismissing claims that the area was a forest reserve and telling them not to evict people.

“There is suspicion that the land in question is not part of the forest reserve and the people involved are private individuals disguising themselves as NFA personnel whereas not, or are using some elements in NFA,” Justus Karuhanga, President Museveni’s former legal aide, also wrote to the RDC Mubende, on July 25, 2005.

Apart from the two, residents sold their remaining belongings, raised Shs20million and sued the forest company for harassing, and trying to evict them.

On Aug 24, 2009, High Court at Nakawa issued an order restraining it from evicting people. The directive was to be heard on Oct 8, 2009 but Justice Faith Mwondha extended it to March 18, 2010.

However, on December 11, 2009, ministers Kivejinja, Mutagamba, Kiyingi and RDC Bewayo at a rally told the people to vacate the land by Feb 28, 2010.

On Jan 3, 2010, the army arrested some of the villagers and their leaders in Kyamukasa as they met to plan on what to do. And the evictions took off. Although NFC authorities say the eviction process was peaceful, Bakashesha says that one kid died in one of the houses that were burnt, another fell in a water pond as they escaped.

Zawedde Lukwago & Co. Advocates, the counsel for the villagers says that two schools were closed by the forestry company. Ssefra Parents School had 350 pupils while Mpologoma Parents School had 400.

Government officials say most of these are illegal immigrants from Congo and Rwanda. But Bakasheka disputes this saying that they were given land by Kayoga Lubega (commander of the world war heroes) that the president had given him to distribute amongst the sons and grandsons of heroes.

“Government had given us LCs, we had polling stations, if they knew we were illegal immigrants why did they give us LC and polling stations; they knew we were here lawfully,” Bakasheka says.

Bakasheka, still the NRM chairman in his village – he registered supporters for the party – says they were threatened to vote for Museveni.

“We were threatened, we were told that if you give Besigye votes, Museveni will go back to the bush and you will have two wars to fight hunger and war,” he says, But honestly now I am NRM on the skin but not at heart.”

The displaced group mainly farmers have lost years of their hard labour. Most of them are renting shelter in a small trading centre. On the outskirts of the trading centre, hundreds of the evictees have erected one-roomed-triangular-shaped grass thatched shacks where they stay in what looks like a refugee camp.

Everything here including food, Bakasheka says, is expensive, most of these people can hardly feed themselves, how can they feed their families, all their lives they depended on one thing farming but now they have nowhere to farm.

According to the Population and Housing Census Analytical Report 2005, the district’s population is projected at 603,900 in 2012. Of these, 78.2 percent of the households depend mainly on subsistence farming.

Like Kiyitawaguru and all those displaced by Kaweri coffee, these people know not Christmas and some of them are not likely to have a meal on that day. The cheapest meal here goes for Shs.3000, yet a labourer on a plantation which is what most of them do earns a maximum of Shs 2700.

Many kids have dropped out of school. Bakasheka who is arguably better off is a frustrated man. He had four kids in secondary school, three of which have since dropped out because of lack of school fees.

He says that nobody cares about them as if they are a cursed lot. “Ever since we were displaced, no single government official has ever cared to know where we relocated to, how we are copying, no one,” he says sadly, “It is only NGO’s like Oxfam, journalists and Uganda Land Alliance that keep coming to see how we do.”

It is not two years since Bakasheka and his fellow villagers were displaced. But for Kiyitawaguru and all those evicted by Kaweri coffee, it is now over 10 years and the government has never cared to look their way despite several promises to compensate them. “We only see them during campaigns and when they get votes that is where it ends,” Ssekandi says.

Together, Kaweri coffee and New Forest Company have displaced over 22,000 people in Mubende district alone.  Going by the 2002 Population and Housing Census which put the district’s population at 436,493, the two international companies have evicted five percent of the population. Since 2007, over 17,000 were also evicted the neigbhoring Kiboga district.

The total area of Mubende District is 1793.4 sq Mile or 464,611.4 Hectares. But of this the two companies sit on 22510 hectares or 87 sq Mile – Kaweri 2510 and NFC 20,000 hectares.

As you traverse the district, there are thick commercial plantations mainly of commercial pine forests that residents say were once home to people. Residents say that there are more villagers where evictions are looming because of commercial plantations.

According to the environmental alert report 2006, forested area outside protected areas in Mubende was estimated at 123,127 hectares which is 26.5 percent.

The National Forest Authority claims that by leasing what they say is a forest reserve to private commercial farmer’s they are rejuvenating Uganda’s diminishing forest cover. John Diisi, NFA’s Coordinator of GIS/Mapping, said out of Uganda’s 3.6 million hectares of forest cover, 80,000 hectares is lost each year.

This could gain Uganda a lot of carbon credits but according to Oxfam denying the residents due compensation, NFC contravened international practices regarding resettlement and development.

Oxfam Country Director Ayman Omer says their report was not looking at the legality of people on the land, but at their rights. “You cannot just evict them without giving them alternative livelihoods,” Omer told The Independent.

Oxfam also found the term “encroachers” offensive. “This is a dangerously loaded term that pre-judges people’s rights and dehumanizes them, making it easier to justify violent actions. And it is a highly misleading term, because the people maintain that they did in fact have lawful entitlement to the land and were testing that argument in ongoing legal cases,” the report argued.

But NFC blames the delay in resettling the entitled families on the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, whose mandate it says was to provide compensation.

Risky business

No one wants to comment on land issues in Mubende because apparently it is risky. At the district headquarters after several requests, a top district official agreed to talk to us but on conditions of anonymity.  But the official started with a warning:

“My son be careful as you follow these land issues in Mubende, you are still young and your parents still love you. These people who have deployed armies, fired bullets and shot some people cannot sit as you expose them.”

Asked why there were rampant land evictions in Mubende than any other district in Uganda, the official said that the main reason was that much of the land in Mubende was Mailo land belonging to Buganda Kingdom but was grabbed by individuals and has been changing hands since then.

The district official also added that knowing that most of this land belonged to the Buganda Kingdom, several top government officials have connived with multinational companies to evict people from the land. This land according to the official is in former Bewekula and Singo counties part of the 9000 sqmiles.

The official cited plantation farming as one of the major drivers of evictions adding that while people have heard about mainly Kaweri and Namwasa evictions many people have been evicted by powerful individuals who buy land expensively and fence off other dwellers forcing them to sell. The official cited lack of effective laws to protect landlords and squatters.

Apart from nongovernmental organizations and some of the evicted, the district official said that the only person that has authoritaty on the land issues is the Resident District Commissioner because of the office’s deep involvement in displacing people.

Although the district has a land board, according to the official, this has not taken any part because the directives come from the President’s office thus the direct connection with the RDC’s office.

So touchy is the matter that when this reporter approached the Deputy RDC, Evelyn Tinkamarirwe, she quickly referred him to the District Internal Security Officer (DISO), where she called a small meeting to probe the reporter’s intentions.

“The Namwasa issue has reached a point of no correction by local media, Oxfam an international NGO came and did a false report,” one of the officers said as the, “there is not much you can change, we would advise to go back to Kampala.”

While Mubende is at the centre of massive land evictions and grabbing cases, several parts of the country have suffered too.

For instance in Buliisa and Hoima districts, since the discovery of massive deposits of oil of about 2billion barrels, it was estimated that by 2009 over 700 hectares of land were grabbed and people evicted. Some hundreds of people in Bullisa still complain that they have not been compensated.

A Feb 2008 World Bank northern Uganda land study found that Government was massively grabbing land either directly or indirectly through military officers to give it to investors. The report pointed to high ranking military officers who had grabbed land in Acholi particularly Amurru Districts and the elite Acholis in Kitgum District.

Although the Land Act 1998 prohibits the sale of land to non-Ugandan enterprises and foreign companies, President has made it his habit to give them land and in most cases free of charge.

A 2009-2010 report by FIAN, Food First Information and Action Network, an international organization, found that the government has reportedly leased 2m feddans of land (840,127 ha) – a staggering 2.2% of Uganda’s total area – in various parts of the country to Egypt, so that Egypt’s private sector may come in and produce wheat and maize for export to Cairo.

In 2003, the High Commissioner for Human Rights observes that ‘this race to attract investment might lead to a race to the bottom to the severe detriment of human rights

Corporate Accountability

Why UN Food systems summit is irrelevant to Uganda’s smallholder farmers: A case of capitalism pushing the poor away from family land

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Some of the community members affected by land grabbing in Kiryandongo District

By witnessradio.org team.

As the United Nations, is striving to end hunger, achieve food security through sustainable agriculture what they termed as one of the 17 sustainable development goals by 2030, Uganda still grapples with mass forced evictions being aided by International development financiers being hosted and protected by big nations.

In Uganda, the ‘development financing’ has exacerbated poverty, hunger among the local populations, threatened food security, and forced inhabitants to migrate to urbanized cities or working as laborers on large plantation farms established formerly on their land as the only means of looking for survival.

Ever since the mandate to set up the Food Systems Summit was taken over from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) by the UN secretary-general’s office in close partnership with the World Economic Forum, a private sector organization fronting corporate interests, the summit lost its relevance as far as smallholder farmers concept in Uganda is concerned.

The governance of the summit is under capture by “experts” known to be staunch defenders of industrial agriculture, and wealthy nations, which host many of the large multinational corporations and International Development Financiers, to drive their agenda.

In a bid to translate these aspirations into tangible results, the United Nations’ three-day pre-summit in Rome, which ended on the 28th day of July 2021…. in a lead up to the UN Food Systems Summit in September in New York City, US, made no mention of peasant agroecology, or indigenous ecological knowledge and it’s feared by smallholder farmers to be fronting corporates’ interests.

In a survey conducted by Witness Radio-Uganda on development projects (agribusiness, afforestation, carbon offset projects, mining, and infrastructure development) being financed by members of the World Economic Forum for the last ten years, both COVID-19 lock-downs inclusive, estimate that 1, 257,200 (one million two hundred, fifty-seven thousand and two hundred peasant families have been forcefully evicted or threatened with eviction from more than 5 million Ha.

Approximately 98.2% of the grabbed land or on the verge of being grabbed was agricultural land being used for subsistence farming by local peasants.

As we write this story, Nalumunye Betty, not real name, a small-holder farmer in Kawaala who grows yams to feed her family fears that an eviction facilitated by World-Bank financing of the expansion and construction of Lubigi Channel under the Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) Project will take away her cheap and sustainable source of food.

She is not alone, there are many other smallholder farmers across the country including Kiryandongo district, 122 Km away from Kampala facing a related quandary. They are battling multi-national companies, including, Agilis Partners Ltd through its Asili Farms that received USD 1,200,000 from the Netherlands-based Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), a basket fund that gets part of its money from the European Union. Agilis Partners Limited is using the development finances to forcefully evict thousands of peasants off their land.

“Every eviction has a ripple effect and this country will have to pay dearly for it soon”, Mrs. Joan Bulyelari, one of the legal officers with Witness Radio – Uganda, noted with great concern.

“It is a double-edged sword. It takes away a live hood and leaves communities hungry. It breeds domestic violence, breaks families, forces children out of school. Just look at what is happening in Kiryandongo. Employees of multi-national companies are raping mothers and defiling children to defeat their spirited efforts to reclaim their land from multi-nationals”, she added.

By and large, agriculture plays a vital role in the Ugandan economy, and most of the persons evicted are smallholder farmers whose land is being targeted constitute 68% (sixty-eight percent) of all working Ugandans are employed by agriculture.

Small-holder farmers account for 89% (eighty-nine percent) of all land users in Uganda. They contribute up to 80% (eighty percent) of the annual total agricultural output, this includes food crops.

Conversely, this contribution seems to have been overlooked by key stakeholders’ aggressive advocacy, and blind funding by international financial institutions of large-scale mechanized agriculture without prioritizing the land rights of smallholder farmers, which is an affront to food security that has been guaranteed by small-holder farmers through their 80% (eighty-percent) contribution to the annual total agriculture.

According to the Country Director, Witness Radio-Uganda, Mr. Wokulira Geoffrey Ssebaggala, “It is time we rethink, and jealously protect the smallholder farmers’ contribution to food sovereignty, but that debate will only make sense if key stakeholders; governments, financial institutions, and international bodies take up the responsibility to finance community-led projects that cater for the protection  of land rights of smallholder farmers.”

“They should not just throw money at large-scale agricultural and development projects, especially, if they will involve the forceful land acquisition. These development finances are aiding instability in Uganda and worsening food insecurity yet it should alleviate such issues. This is akin to throwing pearls to pigs. International financiers, among other solutions, should set independent supervisory and audit units to ensure that there is prior, adequate, fair, and prompt compensation before any evictions ”, he advised.

In Rome, the priorities of the UN Food Systems were emphasized on paper as “hunger and nutrition, climate change and inclusion and equity but such can only be achieved if the summit remains an independent space for all to find lasting solutions to food security.

Earlier this month, one of Uganda’s dailies, The Daily Monitor, reported that a total of 36 civil society organizations (CSOs) in Uganda and across Africa under the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) had ruled out their participation in the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) scheduled for September 2021 in New York, USA.

UNFSS is accused of excluding the critical views of indigenous farmers in defining suitable food systems, “We are deeply concerned that the current rushed, corporate-controlled, unaccountable, and opaque process for this summit will not lead to the transformation we envision of sustainable and healthy food systems.”, its statement read in part.

Globally, the International Peasants Movement, while christening the UNFSS as a ‘Scientific Group’ also views it as a composition of “corporate-sponsored actors who legitimize corporate-owned knowledge and technology systems, and hold peasant agroecological practices in contempt.”

Witness Radio Uganda will not take part in the Food Systems Summit, later in September 2021 in New York, instead joins other actors to reaffirm the need of the UN and other stakeholders to rethink approaches that have left smallholder farmers landless and threatening food security.

 

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Corporate Accountability

Breaking Alert! A community fighting forced eviction during COVID-19 lockdown, Witness Radio-Uganda together with Accountability Counsel file a complaint before the World Bank’s Inspection Panel…

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In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kawaala community of Kampala, Uganda, is facing eviction to pave the way for the construction of the World Bank-funded Lubigi drainage channel. Accompanied by armed soldiers, representatives of the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) turned up at shocked residents’ homes, placing a red “X” on many structures and explaining that they were earmarked for demolition – the first those families had heard of the KCCA’s plan to take their homes and land.

The construction of the Lubigi drainage channel will displace more than 100 families from their shelter and farmlands. These farms enable community members to feed their families and sell other produce, earning income that pays for their children to attend school. For some of the community members, family grave sites will be lost, as well as ancestral land intended for their children and grandchildren. Yet neither the KCCA nor the World Bank provided adequate information to the community about project plans, nor did they meaningfully consult them on the extent of displacement and any plans for compensation and resettlement, as required by World Bank policies, before issuing eviction notices.

After its glaring mismanagement of this project was highlighted by the Kawaala community and its local partners, including Witness Radio, KCCA and its agents have begun to push affected community members through a rushed and problematic resettlement process, prioritizing project timelines over the livelihoods and wellbeing of affected people and the accuracy and completeness of the process. Out of desperation, many community members have signed documents they do not understand.

The Kawaala community raised its concerns with the World Bank Uganda country office and asked them to closely monitor the project, but the World Bank refused – using restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse for their inaction – seemingly indifferent to the risks and impacts of forcibly displacing a vulnerable community during that same pandemic.

Given these failures, in the face of the severe threats to their wellbeing and livelihoods, the Kawaala community has filed a complaint about the project to the World Bank’s Inspection Panel seeking protection from the forced and unfair eviction processes, as well as meaningful consultation and participation in the design of a comprehensive and fair resettlement solution.

THE STORY: 

An attempted forced eviction, during a pandemic

A channel diversion constructed around 2014 now causes water to flow through
residents’ properties. The planned expansion will widen it to 70 meters across, causing
extensive forced eviction.

In December 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, communities living in Kawaala Zone II, in Kasubi Parish, Rubaga Division, Kampala were awoken in the early morning hours to find excavators and armed guards destroying their property, without any prior consultation or plan for compensation and resettlement. The previous day, they had received eviction notices requiring them to vacate their lands within 28 days. The eviction notice was issued by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The KCCA, with support from the World Bank, is constructing the Lubigi drainage channel as part of a broader road and infrastructure project.

The Kawaala community has lived, built their homes, and earned their livelihoods through farming and livestock-keeping in the area since the 1960s. With a population of approximately 300, the community is composed mostly of elderly men and women. Given the high number of elderly persons in the community, most are illiterate. Their farms enable community members to feed their families and sell other produce, earning income that pays for their children to attend school.

On December 3, 2020, the Kawaala communities were shocked to find KCCA representatives in their village, accompanied by armed guards, distributing eviction notices and informing residents that they had 28 days to vacate their homes. KCCA representatives approached residents’ homes, placing a red “X” on many structures and explaining that they were earmarked for demolition.

The eviction notices included a claim that violations of health and safety code were the reason for the evictions. However, through active investigations, the community was able to confirm that the area was being cleared to make way for the expansion of the Lubigi drainage channel, part of the World Bank-funded Second Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2).

Over the following two days, in contravention of the 28-day notice period, the KCCA began attempting to evict residents. They brought excavators and destroyed some homes and gardens before community members were able to contact local leaders, who successfully intervened and persuaded the KCCA to halt the eviction process.

The Kawaala community, with the support of Witness Radio, was then able to challenge the eviction by filing a case at the High Court in Kampala. This prompted the KCCA to halt the eviction process. However, the court case remains undecided and the eviction notice still has not been withdrawn, leaving the community at risk of sudden eviction.

The World Bank’s involvement

The World Bank’s KIIDP-2 project funds the construction and rehabilitation of roads and associated infrastructure throughout Kampala via a USD 175 million loan. This project includes, among other works, the expansion and construction of the Lubigi Primary Drainage Channel, which forms part of the eight primary channels in Kampala and is 2.5 kilometers long. The project also involves institutional and systems development support to the KCCA, including for engineering and technical services.

KIIDP-2 follows the Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-1), which had similar objectives. Around 2014, KIIDP-1 led to the construction of a channel diversion that ran through the land of many local residents and cut others off from easy access to schools and basic services. Residents report that this diversion was described to them as “temporary,” and they were therefore not offered resettlement compensation. Some received a small sum for temporary disturbance from project works, while other families affected by the diversion did not receive even this much and were thrown into a state of desperation or even homelessness following the original channel diversion. KIIDP-2 will expand on this diversion, widening it significantly and requiring forced eviction of residents across an area 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long. Many residents report that they never realized that the diversion would be made permanent until the forced eviction process began last December.

A general project fact sheet by the KCCA claims that all affected properties were registered years ago, and states that no new developments will be valued or compensated, but residents dispute this claim. The KCCA has since walked back from this assertion and begun a rushed and problematic resettlement process, based on a contested and non-consultative surveying process that residents believe does not accurately reflect their land rights.

The channel diversion that began construction nearly 10 years ago has separated community members’ homes from the shops and schools visible across the waterway. This bridge was built by community members as a temporary fix, but it is dangerous, especially when water levels rise. Community members fear the channel expansion will exacerbate these problems.

The devastating impacts of this project

The Lubigi drainage channel project will result in most affected families losing their homes and others losing their farmland, leaving very little for them to sustain themselves. In addition to that displacement, the construction of the drainage channel poses a series of other environmental and social concerns:

  • Loss and disruption of family remains: Some community members risk losing the remains of their loved ones that are buried in the land set aside for the project.
  • Food insecurity: This risk comes as a result of the destruction of crops, including those crops already destroyed in the attempted forced eviction in December 2020.
  • Loss of education: In case of any eviction or relocation without adequate compensation, community members fear that the children will be forced to drop out of school since the houses built and the crops grown on the land are their sole sources of income to cover their fees and tuition. Community members fear that this in turn will lead to increased marriage rates for young girls with limited options.
  • Safety risks: Following the construction of the channel to date, the local area has become unsafe for children to play outside due to a constant risk of drowning, which is especially heightened during rainy periods. There have been reported cases of people drowning.
  • Sexual exploitation: Some women in Kawaala have been compelled to engage in transactional sexual relationships to ensure that their children’s basic needs are met ever since the KCCA coerced them into abandoning their gardens to make way for the construction of the channel diversion under KIIDP-1. Residents fear that this pattern will be intensified if community members are not provided with fair and complete compensation to address the full extent of economic impacts from another forced resettlement.
  • Cumulative impacts of multiple infrastructure projects: The Kampala Northern Bypass Highway, funded by the European Union and the Government of Uganda, as well as the Lubigi Sewage Treatment Plant, funded by the European Union and the German Government, were also constructed in the community’s immediate vicinity in recent years, surrounding the Kawaala community on multiple sides by government-sponsored and internationally funded infrastructure projects.
  • Flooding: Far from improving the flooding problems that plague the area, community members have observed that flooding has actually increased in Kawaala Zone II, since the channel diversion and other multiple infrastructure projects began.
  • Other social impacts: Residents expect that eviction without adequate compensation will likely lead to a host of other foreseeable social issues, such as increased rates of domestic violence, child abandonment, or other family rifts.

Because of the totality of these impacts, the community deems it best to be compensated and resettled elsewhere in order to live with dignity.

Raising concerns with the World Bank Uganda country office

The KIIDP-2 project is proceeding in blatant contravention of a host of World Bank commitments designed to ensure meaningful consultation of communities and to avoid or mitigate environmental and social impacts, including resettlement. Although the KCCA has walked back from its initial assertions denying residents’ rights to compensation, in recent months it has undertaken a forced, rushed, and non-transparent survey process that some residents were unable to participate in. Residents are deeply skeptical that any compensation determined based on this incomplete survey will provide them with fair and accurate compensation assessments.

On March 4, 2021, community representatives raised their concerns regarding the project and the potential harm in a meeting with KCCA officials and the World Bank Uganda country office team. The World Bank team directed that the KCCA intensify citizen and stakeholder engagement and provide adequate project information to the community in Luganda rather than English. Further, the KCCA was asked to carry out proper identification of the project-affected persons and, through a consultative process, determine the amount and type of compensation needed. Lastly, the World Bank team directed that the KCCA re-constitutes a Grievance Redress Committee composed of representatives of all the stakeholders in the project.

The World Bank, however, refused the community’s demand that Bank staff visit the project site and engage in follow-up meetings with the community. The community feared that, without this supervision, the KCCA would continue to abuse the rights of affected community members.

Those fears have been realized. The KCCA has not followed the directions of the World Bank and is continuing to rely on its forced survey process, as well as failing to meaningfully consult community members on the details of any compensation.

A Kawaala resident was in the midst of constructing his home when he heard about the eviction notice. He hesitates to continue construction out of fear of imminent demolition.

Inspection Panel complaint

Through Witness Radio, community representatives reached out to Accountability Counsel to support the filing of a complaint. Because of the non-responsiveness of the KCCA and the World Bank to their concerns, the community wanted to escalate those concerns to the World Bank’s independent accountability mechanism, the Inspection Panel. After several consultations with different groups in the community to understand their concerns and goals of the complaint, Witness Radio and community representatives filed a complaint on June 17, 2021 with the following demands (in summary):

  • That the project should be investigated and evictions halted until affected people are properly informed about the project and consulted about its impacts and necessary mitigation measures, and are consulted on the formation of a resettlement action plan that addresses the concerns of local residents;
  • That the KCCA formally withdraws the eviction notice issued under the Public Health Act Cap. 281 against the residents and other similarly affected persons;
  • That the community be resettled and fairly compensated, given that the land is now uninhabitable;
  • That the compensation processes be aimed at ensuring that the entire family is included and able to share in the benefits, rather than being provided to the head of household only, which can contribute to intra-family and social conflicts and gender disparities. For example, the KCCA should encourage both spouses to sign compensation documents and attend related meetings, and it should provide compensation funds into jointly-owned bank accounts; and
  • That the affected people should be provided with resettlement assistance, including scholarships for their children at least until families have an opportunity to find an alternative livelihood. Any resettlement assistance should include social support programs such as stress management, anger management, and domestic violence sensitization programming to reduce common social problems that can accompany physical displacement.

The complaint is currently awaiting registration and an assessment of eligibility by the Inspection Panel.

Case Partners

Accountability Counsel is partnering on this case with Witness Radio, an advocacy and media organization focused on issues of rights in development in Uganda, cutting across sectors (including agribusiness, environment, mining, and extraction). They monitor, document, and report human rights violations using traditional and new media formats and, where possible or necessary, support communities to seek justice through judicial and non-judicial mechanisms.

THE CASE: 

  • Jun 2021

    Community representatives filed a complaint with the World Bank’s independent accountability mechanism, the Inspection Panel, on June 17.

  • Mar 2021

    Community representatives met with the World Bank Uganda country office and the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).

  • Dec 2020

    In spite of the 28-day notice period communicated on the previous day, on December 4 and 5, the KCCA began attempting to evict residents. They brought excavators and destroyed some homes and crops before community members were able to contact local leaders, who successfully intervened and persuaded the KCCA to halt the eviction process. Shortly after, the Kawaala community, with the support of Witness Radio, was then able to challenge the eviction by filing a case at the High Court in Kampala. This prompted the KCCA to halt the eviction process. However, the eviction notice still has not been withdrawn.

  • Dec 2020

    On December 3, the KCCA issued a notice to residents of Kawaala Zone II to vacate their land within 28 days.

    IMPACT:

    Through their local partner, Witness Radio, community representatives reached out to Accountability Counsel because their concerns were not being heard by the World Bank or its client, the Kampala Capital City Authority. As is too often the case, as soon as Accountability Counsel became involved, the World Bank became more responsive – although their actions continue to be woefully inadequate to prevent harm and comply with their own environmental and social safeguards.

    Given those failures on the part of the World Bank and its client, community members decided to elevate their concerns to the World Bank’s Inspection Panel. In April 2021, Accountability Counsel’s Africa Communities Associate, Robi Chacha Mosenda, traveled to Kampala to document the community’s concerns and goals in preparation for complaint filing.

    On June 17, 2021, Witness Radio filed an Inspection Panel complaint on behalf of the Kawaala Zone II community, seeking protection from the forced and unfair eviction processes, as well as meaningful consultation and participation in the design of a comprehensive and fair resettlement solution.

    In close partnership with Witness Radio, we will continue to support the Kawaala Zone II community to prepare for, understand, and navigate through each stage of the Inspection Panel’s process, demanding accountability and remedy from the World Bank for its oversight and lack of due diligence that has harmed these communities.

    CASE MEDIA: 

    Photos

    Family burial sites have experienced regular flooding ever since the initial channel diversion directed water through residents’ properties. These burial sites now in the path of the planned channel expansion (Credit Witness Radio).

    This channel diversion constructed around 2014 will be widened to 70 meters, requiring extensive evictions. (Credit: Witness Radio).

    A makeshift bridge connects Kawaala residents with schools and shops across the channel but creates a safety hazards, especially during frequent flood events.

    The channel diversion constructed in 2014 has led to increased flooding and safety hazards, including at least one drowning due to inadequate walkways around the channel. (Credit Witness Radio)

    A community kickboxing academy marked for demolition by KCCA.

    A homeowner hesitates to finish construction his home, as it is marked for demolition by the KCCA.

    Original Source: accountabilitycounsel.org

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THE WITNESS

Court asked to block gov’t from paying UGX 647 billion loan

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The applicant Brian Kasaija at the High Court in Kampala.

Kampala, Uganda. A concerned citizen Brian Kasaija has petitioned the High Court seeking an order compelling the government not to repay 175 Million Dollars obtained from the World Bank eight years ago.

According to Kasaija, the loan which is equivalent to 647.5 Billion Shillings was obtained illegally by the government to fund the Second Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Programme Phase II because Parliament passed a resolution to borrow it without the necessary quorum way back in 2014.

The 2005 Parliamentary Rules of Procedure require one-third of all Members of Parliament entitled to vote and required at a time when Parliament is voting on any question.

But the evidence before the court shows that the Kampala Capital City Authority-KCCA which has been sued alongside the government sent a loan request to the Cabinet without a lawfully constituted authority governing body as required under the law. In the aftermath, the loan was approved and further forwarded to parliament by the then State Minister for Finance, Planning and Economic Development Aston Kajara on July 9th, 2014 for approval.

As a result, the evidence shows that Parliament on December 19th, 2014 chaired by the then Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah allegedly passed a resolution to authorize the government to borrow the loan from the International Development Association of the World Bank Group without the requisite quorum of two-thirds of the MPs.

According to the hansard that has been attached as evidence to the case, 77 Members of Parliament which is one-third of 229 MPs were supposed to vote on the matter, but only 63 members voted.

The records further indicate that the loan was to be paid for 40 years effective 2024. But the petitioner states that this continuously threatens the right to property and all Ugandans must pay it through legitimate and lawful payment of direct and indirect taxes which is their liquid asset.

Further, Kasaija also states that the actions and omissions amounted to an infringement and violation of the right to good governance.

“Absence of requisite quorum to enable the vote on the resolution authorizing government of the Republic of Uganda to borrow, made and rendered the loan resolution not only null and void but also non-binding to the humbly humbled applicant and the greatly humbled people of the Republic of Uganda as by law established hence a violation, infringement and threat to the rights nobly enumerated afore”, reads the suit in part.

Kasaija now wants the court to declare that the loan was illegally passed by Parliament and an advisory opinion is issued to the government to institute an Independent Political Standards Authority -IPSA to oversee the conduct of Parliament and members with a view of safeguarding and promoting good governance in a wider public interest among other orders.

Asked why he has opted to petition court two days after Oulanyah being elected as the Speaker of Parliament to replace Rebecca Kadaga, Kasaija said that his case is not filed in bad faith because matters of holding people accountable have no expiry date.

In 2015, another concerned citizen Moses Muhumuza filed a relatively similar case before the Constitutional Court and the matter is pending determination.

Uganda’s debt at the moment currently stands at more than 40 trillion shillings meaning that each Ugandan would have to pay 1.5 million shillings if the debt was to be cleared at once.

Original Source: independent.co.ug

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