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UK company evicts 20,000 in Uganda

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Over 20,000 people were forced from their homes the central districts of Mubende and Kiboga to pave way for a tree planting project by a British company, Oxfam said in a report and called for investigation into alleged abuses.

The Oxfam report titled, “Land and Power: The growing scandal surrounding the new wave of investments in land” was released on Wednesday.

London-based New Forests Company (NFC) signed a deal with National Forestry Authority (NFA) in 2005 to develop 20,000 hectares of timber plantations in Namwasa and Luwunga forest reserves under the carbon trading programme.

“The people evicted from the land are desperate, having been driven into poverty and landlessness”, the report read, noting evictions stopped in July 2010. “In some instances they say they were subjected to violence and their property, crops, and livestock destroyed”, it added.

But Kate Sharum the New Forest Company Group head of corporate responsibility expressed what she called “deep disappointment,” with the Oxfam report in a telephone call to New Vision yesterday (Thursday).

“The New Forests Company takes Oxfam’s allegations extremely seriously and will conduct an immediate and thorough investigation of them. Our understanding of these resettlements is that they were legal, voluntary and peaceful and our first hand observations of them confirmed this.

She added, “NFC also regrets Oxfam’s decision to publish this highly prejudicial report without having given NFC the opportunity to investigate its claims.”

In attacking the NFC Oxfam have chosen a company with an impeccable track record in community investment and development who in their short life have not only created over 2,000 jobs in remote rural Ugandan communities but been responsible for increasing access to health, education, clean water and fuel. Africa needs responsible inward investment.

The report said that the villagers had not been consulted or compensated and the eviction has affected the community’s food security situation and led to child malnutrition.

“I have lost what I owned. Where I am now, my kids cry every day. I cannot sustain them and they do not go to school. Even eating has become a problem”, a former resident told Oxfam.

The Uganda Land Alliance (ULA) a consortium of NGOs advocating for fair land laws in Uganda, asked the Government to review the case and investigate it to ensure that justice is provided to the communities.

Esther Obaikol, the ULA executive director said: “If done well, foreign investment by companies like NFC can be positive for Uganda’s development and provide jobs, revenue, and goods and services.

However, NFC is also responsible for protecting the rights of people affected by their projects  thousands of whom in this case say they have been left with nothing – and can no longer shift all the responsibility solely onto the government.”

The Oxfam Uganda country director Ayman Omer said: “Oxfam recognises the value of ethical investments in national development. NFC itself has major financial backers which insist that their investments are done ethically and responsibly.

These should have ensured that poor people did not lose out as a result of NFC’s projects. Nevertheless that’s what appears to have happened.
New Forests Company said the evictions were non-violent and were carried out by NFA.

But New Forest Company said that as a licensee they had limited rights and no rights to evict and that compensation was solely the government’s responsibility.

The National Forestry Authority (NFA) spokesperson Moses Watasa told AFP, “These people were encroachers and were given notice … most of them moved out voluntarily”

Watasa said police only intervened to evict about 200 people who had refused to leave. “I would not describe it as a violent eviction … by the deadline everyone had moved out,” Watasa added.

 

Extracted from a New Vision’s article

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The World Bank project affected persons have petitioned the court seeking to halt an illegal eviction by capital authority

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By witnessradio.org Team

 

Kampala – Uganda – more than 300 families at Kawaala Zone II, Lubaga Division in Kampala district have today, the 11th January 2021 petitioned the court seeking to restrain the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) from illegally evicting them off their land, which they have lawfully occupied and cultivated for decades.

 

The affected families through Witness Radio lawyers accuse KCCA of hiding under the Public Health Act to issue a demolition notice targeting all properties on the land to give way for construction of a multi-billion drainage channel, which is funded by the World Bank. KCCA is established by an act of Parliament and it’s responsible for the management and administration of the capital city.

 

Specifically, KCCA is using section 72(1) cap 281 of the Public Health Act, to force them off their land without consultation, sensitization, property valuation, and compensation claiming that they (residents) illegally constructed their houses in a wetland.

 

The court action follows Witness Radio and the affected attempted to engage KCCA over the irrational decision however efforts to hear from them were futile.

 

In 2015, KCCA acquired USD 175 million loan from the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA) for Kampala Institution and Infrastructure Development (KIIDP) project. However, part of the money (USD 17.5 million, which is 63 billion Uganda shillings) was earmarked to construct Lubigi Primary Channel and it’s being used to dispossess poor urban communities without consultation, sensitization, and infringed communities’ right to know and access to information.

 

The 2.58 Kilometers project expected to end later this year, stretches from Bwaise roundabout to Hoima road, southwest of Kampala.

 

The eviction is taking place at the time when the government of Uganda halted all land evictions during the COVID 19 pandemic and the determination of KCCA to forcefully evict the urban poor raises many legal questions.

 

The victims want the court to issue an interim order and temporary injunction to restrain KCCA from implementing the decisions that are being challenged.

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Renewing demand for justice; the 28 land rights defenders have applied for bail

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By witnessradio.org Team

Mubende – Uganda – the defense lawyers of the 28 community land rights defenders have filed new applications for bail at Mubende High Court after spending 3 years in prison.

The 28 include two staff members of Witnessradio.org‘s Nantubiro Grace and Mugwabya Ronald.

Others are; Mugisha Focus, Ssekamana Kaloli, Mwikirize Keleti, Ssewanyana Kizza John, Tumwine Moses, Bigirwa Gilbert, Mulindwa Tadeo, Kayesu Patrick, Kyalimpa Tobias, Mugisha Stephen, Mwesigye John, Kiiza John Bosco, Byakatonda Aroon, Manirikiza Elidefunce, Tabalamule William, Kobwemi Christopher,  Kiwanuka Emmanuel, Senkula Charles, Ssemombwe George, Musinguzi Paul, Biryomumisho Fred, Maniriho Forodis,  Habimana Ernest, Byaruhanga Emmanuel, Mwesigye Julius and Kezaala Saul.

They are facing 9 counts including murder, and aggravated robbery among others.

The prosecution alleges that on October 12, 2018, the accused at Kambuye-Kanseera, Mubende district, killed and robbed Yunus Kasajja Tabu of his three mobile phones.

Late Tabu allegedly died during a fight with land grab affected community whose assailants are still unknown. Tabu was a manager of local businessman one Kaweesi George, under the protection of police grabbed 322.5 hectares and violently evicted over 3500 lawful occupants on Block 168; Plot 19, 22 and 23 covering five villages namely; Kambuye, Kikono, Kyabaana, Kanseera and Lwensanga in East Division, Mubende Municipality, Mubende district. The land is adjacent to Kaweeri Coffee Plantation is covering on.

However, police carried out a random arrest and targeted land rights defenders and activists that were mobilizing and empowering the landgrab affected community to resist an illegal and forceful eviction.

In January 2019, the attempt to get bail for witnessradio.org‘s Nantubiro Grace and Mugwabya Ronald was denied High Court in Mubende’s justice Joseph Mulangira.

According to officials at Mubende High Court, bail applications will be heard this afternoon.

 

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More than 800 families face eviction, petition district land Board

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By witnessradio.org Team

 

Mubende – Uganda – More than 800 families from Kyamukoona, Kijojolo and Kalagala villages- Mubende District have petitioned the district land board to immediately cancel the land title that was fraudulently issued out to one Samuel Wambi Maamali. They explain that the cancellation will avert the looming eviction.

 

The lease was issued out on August, 1st 2015, a process the community regarded as fraudulent because the title was acquired from the center (Land Commission), which contradicts the legal procedures of acquiring a freehold title.

 

The community members stated that the person who fraudulently acquired a land title never consulted the area, parish and sub-county land boards that should have advised and guided on whether the land was lawfully being occupied and cultivated.

 

The residents revealed that they have occupied the land for more than 40 years, and it houses government-aided schools, hospitals, churches, and several vital infrastructures.

 

It is reported that the residents, local leaders, and Maamali held a meeting in 2019 in which (Maamali) said he was not interested in the land because his initial interest was on a land situated at Kalingo LC1 Mugungulu Parish- Bagezza Sub country –Mubende district not that of Kyamukoona. He later asked the residents to refund the money (UGX 200, 000) which he claims having used to survey and demarcate the 1.5 mile land, which they without hesitation accepted.

 

However, Maamali overturned the meeting resolution as he has since issued the residents with an eviction notice.

 

“I have occupied this land for the last over  40 years, well knowing that this is public land but I was astonished to learn that the District Land Board went ahead and illegally processed a land title for block 240 Plot 12, which is totally wrong” Bwambale reveals.

 

Ahimbisibwe David, a resident of Kijojolo Cell says “I wanted to formalize my land ownership. I was shocked to learn that it was already surveyed by an unknown person in the area”.

 

It is alleged that the district land board has previously leased out people’s land to tycoons without following proper legal procedures.

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