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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Update: Houses of land rights defenders demolished by Great Seasons Company

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By Frontline Defenders

Land rights defenders Godfrey Ssebisolo, Erias Wanjala and Fred Mwawula reported that on 12 March their houses, located in Kisalanda village, were bulldozed by Great Season Company Limited. The defenders further reported that company agents made death threats against their families and refused to explain why the houses were being destroyed.

The demolition took place on the same day Godfrey Ssebisolo, Erias Wanjala and Fred Mwawula were released on bail following their arrest two weeks earlier. Their trial at the Kiryandongo Magistrate Court is due to start on 26 April 2020.

On 25 February 2020, the three land rights defenders were arrested by Kiryandongo police after reporting to the police station as part of their bond requirements. They were later transferred to Dyanga prison in Kiryandongo district without being presented before a magistrate. The prison authorities subjected them to severe beatings and other forms of physical abuse, which may have amounted to torture.

Front Line Defenders is extremely concerned by the continued targeting of the three land rights defenders for their peaceful work opposing forced evictions perpetrated in Kiryandongo by the companies Agilis Partners, Great Season Company Limited and Kiryandongo Sugar Limited. It urges the authorities in Uganda to carry out immediate, thorough and impartial investigations into the destruction of the defenders’ property, the death threats made against their family members as well as their physical abuse by the prison authorities, which may have amounted to torture, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards. Front Line Defenders further calls on Great Season Company Limited to cease its harassment of land rights defenders in Kiryandongo and provide compensation to Godfrey Ssebisolo, Erias Wanjala and Fred Mwawula for the demolition of their homes.

Source: Frontline Defenders

Accountable Development To Communities

Breaking: Court dismisses a criminal case against a community land rights defender for want of prosecution.

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By Witness Radio Team.

Kiryandongo. A criminal trespass case against a community land rights defender has been dismissed over the prosecution’s failure to adduce evidence before the Chief Magistrate Court that pinned the community defender on the alleged charges.

On 27th October 2021, Kiryandongo Chief Magistrate Court charged Otyaluk David with criminal trespass and remanded him to Masindi prison. He was later granted court bail and since then, he has been traveling 48 kilometers to and from court every fortnight.

Before he was presented before a court, Otyaluk was kidnapped and illegally detained in Kiryandongo Central Police Station (CPS) cells for five (5) days for trespassing on a piece of land he (Otyaluk) had lived and cultivated since he was born.

In the afternoon of 21st October, two (2) armed men cladding Uganda People Defense Forces (UPDF) uniform and police personnel raided Otyaluk’s home and got him kidnapped to an unknown destination. UPDF soldiers guard Kiryandongo Sugar Limited plantations.

“On the day of his kidnap, Otyaluk was found praying in his house. In a blink of an eye, the defender was rounded up and bundled onto a vehicle owned by Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, forcefully evicting us off our land. We later learned that he was taken into evictor’s facilities where he was kept for some time before being transferred to Kiryandongo CPS” A family member remembers.

A family member further added that before the kidnap, Otyaluk’s family had lost about 12 acres of land to Kiryandongo Sugar Limited.

“Company workers under the protection of soldiers brought a tractor and plowed acres of semi-mature maize, beans, sorghum, and sim-sim. We were only left with a small piece of land where our house sits and we are currently trapped in the middle of a sugarcane plantation” a family member added.

Since the trial period was announced, the prosecution failed to bring witnesses to pin Otyaluk for trespassing on his land. It was only on the 19th of July, 2022 during a court session, one Adamuru Peter, allegedly to be a company manager turned up as a company representative but not as a witness.

In her ruling last week, a magistrate at Kiryandongo Magistrate court discontinued the trial of Otyaluk and dismissed the case.

Otyaluk is one of the luckiest among hundreds of community land and environmental rights defenders currently under persecution to have his case dismissed. It’s an order of the day for the community land and environmental rights defenders to be kidnapped, arbitrarily arrested, and tortured on orders of investors for their work of mobilizing the communities to desist land grabs.

Kiryandongo Sugar Limited is among multinationals forcefully evicting over 35000 local and indigenous people off their land to give way to large-scale agribusinesses.

Kiryandongo Sugar Limited is one of the many companies owned by the Rai Group of Mauritius. The dynasty owns several other companies in DR Congo, Kenya and Malawi, and Uganda. A dynasty owns companies such as West Kenya Sugar (which owns Kabras Sugar), Timsales Limited, Menengai Oil Refineries, Rai Ply, and Webuye Panpaper.

In Uganda, the Rai Group of Mauritius owns Nile Ply limited, Kinyara Sugar Limited, and Masindi Sugar Limited among others. One of its directors is a shareholder of a British Virgin Islands company, listed in the Panama Papers database recently.

The same company has fraudulently gotten a license to replace part of Bungoma natural forest with a sugarcane plantation.

“Court has shown today that the company is maliciously arresting us to keep us in jails. To weaken our hearts, wasting our time and resources. They intentionally do this because we refused to surrender the land we have lived on for years. It is shaming that the government has failed to protect the rights of the poor people.” The defender noticed.

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Kawaala community land rights defenders will report for police bond for the fourth time on 1st August.

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By Witness Radio – Uganda team

Kampala, the three community land rights defenders from Kawaala Zone II charged with fraud are reporting back at the Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters on Monday 1st of August.

It will be the fourth time for the defenders to report for the bond.

While appearing at the station on 18th July 2022, the two of the three defenders were re-arrested and subjected to another interrogation which lasted for one hour between 11 am to 12 pm local time.

They were quizzed by the head of the investigations at the Old Kampala Police headquarters, Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Patrick Domara. Land rights defenders Kabugo Michael and Kasozi Paul Ssengendo reported.  The third defender Busobolwa Adam did not turn up due to health-related issues.

On the third time, the two defenders who reported before police recorded additional statements on fraud charges that were preferred against them on July 11th, 2022.

Section 342 of the Penal Code states that forgery is the making of a false document with the intent to defraud or deceive. It carries three-year imprisonment on conviction.

The lawyers representing the defenders said their clients were questioned by the police about their land ownership in Kawaala and the documents proving ownership. Police said that the complainant accuses defenders of forging land sales agreements and occupying land illegally.

The defenders were summoned, arrested, and interrogated on the orders of the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division Anderson Buroora who is accusing them of fraud.

The Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.

However, Witness Radio – Uganda believes that charges preferred against the community land rights defenders are a result of their continued mobilization of the local community of Kawaala to resist forced eviction, seek fair compensation, and resettlement before the Lubigi drainage channel is constructed.

“We challenge the RCC to bring evidence pinning the community land rights defenders on the alleged charges. We believe this is intimidation and continued efforts of fighting back to silence the work of the land rights defenders, wastage of their time and resources,” said one of the lawyers.

Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced evictions by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) funded by World Bank. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) is the implementer of the project.

The said project first impacted Kawaala Zone II around 2014, when a channel diversion was constructed. The current planned expansion will widen that channel and require forced evictions across an area at least 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long.

According to Witness Radio-Uganda lawyers, the community which is being forced off of its land without due process started living on that land in the 1940s and did not invite the project on their land.

The defenders will be reporting back on police bond at 10 am local time on the 1st of August 2022.

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Defending Land And Environmental Rights

Police re-arrest and interrogate Kawaala Community land rights defenders upon reporting back on bond.

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By Witness Radio Team

Kampala, Two of the three community land rights defenders from Kawaala Zone II, Kampala suburb have been re-arrested and re-interrogated on fraud charges at Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters.

The duo had reported back to police on bond on fraud charges for the third time since they were first summoned on June, 29th 2022.

Kasozi Paul and Kabugo Micheal were subjected to another interrogation which lasted for one hour between 11 am to 12 pm local time. They were quizzed by the head of the investigations directorate at the Old Kampala Police headquarters, Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Patrick Domara. The third defender Busobolwa Adam could not make it due to health-related issues.

According to defenders’ lawyers, the duo recorded additional statements on fraud charges that were preferred against by police on July, 11th, 2022.

According to defenders’ lawyers, the victims were questioned by the police about their land ownership in Kawaala and the documents proving ownership. Police are saying that the complainant is accusing defenders of forging land sales agreements and occupying land illegally.

Section 342 of the Penal Code states that forgery is the making of a false document with the intent to defraud or deceive. It carries three-year imprisonment on conviction.

The defenders were summoned, arrested, and interrogated on the orders of the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division Anderson Buroora who’s accusing them of fraud.

Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.

Witness Radio-Uganda says that the community which is being forced off its land without due process started living on that land in the 1940s and did not invite the project on their land.

Witness Radio – Uganda further believes that charges preferred against the community land rights defenders are a result of their continued mobilization of the local community of Kawaala to resist forced eviction, seek fair compensation and resettlement before the Lubigi drainage channel is constructed.

Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced evictions by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) funded by World Bank. Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) is the implementer of the project.

This project first impacted Kawaala Zone II around 2014, when a channel diversion was constructed. The current planned expansion will widen that channel and require forced evictions across an area at least 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long.

The defenders were released on a police bond and required to report back on the 1st of August 2022 at 10 am local time.

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