By witnessradio.org team
It’s over seven months since tragedy befell former traders of the demolished Park Yard Market. Around 4am or 5am in the morning of Sunday, February 28th 2017, when numerous police officers, armed to the teeth arrived and seized off Park Yard market.
The eviction operation commanded by Andrew Felix Kaweesi (RIP), left over 15,000 traders jobless with merchandise stolen and others destroyed. After living in a deplorable situation with diminishing hope to regain their source of income, traders have resorted to seeking for justice from court.
Through MS&S Tuhimbisibwe and Co. Advocates, over 500 victims led by Jimmy Mukwaya, Yusuf Luboyera, Abdallah Bukenya, Pius Waswa and Idah Nakatende sued the Attorney General, Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium Board of trustees, Beti Kamya, the Minister for Kampala, Police and Hamis Kiggundu (the investor) over illegal eviction and destruction of their merchandise in suit No. 678/2017, filed on August 30th 2017.
Speaking to witnessradio.org, the evictees explained that they sued Nakivubo stadium board of trustees for abdicating its obligations as their landlord, Kamya for issuing an ultimatum of 30 days to traders and fail to implement it, Hamis Kiggundu for demolishing market and stealing their merchandise before the deadline expired, Attorney General on behalf of government which failed to build them a market and Police for overseeing the eviction and stealing of the merchandise.
“We want the court to order Ham enterprises to return our merchandise that was stolen from the market during the eviction.” Bukenya, a former chairperson of Kitala zone in Park Yard said, “We also want Ham to pay us with interest because we think that our merchandise would have been able to earn us more money, and then we want Ham to compensate our time we have spent without working.”
The respondents have 15 working days within which to file their defense in court in regards to the issues brought against them.
The proprietor of Ham Enterprises, Hamis Kiggundu was contracted by Government to re-develop Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium land including the market, occupied by over 15,000 small scale-vendors.
During the forceful demolition, many traders lost their merchandise because the eviction was carried out in the wee hours when a number of traders hadn’t reported to their duties and on a Sunday, considered a resting day.
Many traders say, were given little warning or confusing messages before their market was razed down thus denying them a chance to collect their belongings, the merchandise in particular which they always kept from market stalls.
Indeed, the demolition of Park Yard came just five days after Beti Kamya, the Minister of Kampala had issued a 30-day ultimatum for traders to voluntarily leave the market.
Without exception, traders who worked from a market that was being overseen by Government through its agency Kampala Capital City Authority have to this day, never received any penny as compensation that would cover the losses incurred during the process.
Leaders of the affected evictees detailed the problems they have faced over the last six months as a direct consequence of their eviction. A significant number of the victims, leaders say, found themselves unemployed again, rendering them homeless due to the biting poverty they experience now.
They were less deprived of their survival and livelihoods, because the market which was the only source income to sustain themselves and their families to the extent that many children are no longer going to schools.
“Our merchandise were destroyed which tremendously affected our livelihoods. Because we no longer work, we can hardly get what to eat and our children have dropped out of schools which is detrimental to their formal futures.” Abudallah Bukenya one of the victims’ leaders explained.
Besides, Bukenya says, “some of our colleagues lived with HIV Aids and they could take ARVs adequately but some of them have since died because life because unbearable for them. So, we are living very distressful lives.”
Located down town Kampala, the demolished market accommodated over 15,000 traders with majority being youths from poor families surviving on it since 1980s. It sat on 3.5-acre of land and traders would deal in second hand merchandise like shoes, clothes, bags, among others and low-income earners in Uganda would visit it regularly.
It was not the first market that employs the urban poor to be demolished in Kampala after a number of them –including Shawuliyako, part of Kisekka market, Katimba market, among others, were demolished under the similar circumstances.
What is so uniform is that evictions are organized by government authorities, and are enforced by police and sometimes, the army. At times, those evicting the urban poor use gangs of private individuals to help them carry out the demolitions, but most significantly, most of the markets where urban poor have been evicted from, have been gutting fires under mysterious circumstances prior to the actual forceful evictions.
Signs of harmful projects with financing from development institutions are spotted in Uganda…
By Witness Radio Team.
The growth of a country is discerned by great leaders and innovators who see opportunities out of darkness and transform their areas from nothing to success. Those are great leaders whose interest is to see the developments in their countries and the well-being of their citizens.
Every single day, countries all over the world receive investors that acquire loans, grants, and donations to implement mega projects that are seemingly expected to develop host countries. countries and investors borrowing the money Often, countries and investors portray how these projects improve the livelihood of the browbeaten, au contraire, they have left many broken families, poor-dirty homesteads, and shattered dreams.
Uganda is one of those countries, whose citizens have paid a price for reckless or unsupervised and profit-led international investment. In a bid to implement its industrial policy, the country has welcomed both foreign and local investors with interests in the fields of extraction, industrial agriculture, carbon credit tree plantation, mining, infrastructural projects, and many others.
It has received billions of dollars from different financiers including commercial banks, Pension Funds, and International Development Finance Banks or institutions, among others. For instance, the World Bank has invested more than 20 Billion Dollars since 1963 and currently
Every project comes with its own chilling story. More often their stories are unheard by the World. Witness Radio – Uganda surveyed some projects in Uganda. This study revealed agony, illegal evictions, abject poverty, environmental degradation, and loss of life among others, as some of the consequences suffered by the would-be beneficiaries of these international funded projects across the country.
In the capital of Uganda, Kampala, over 1750 families were forcefully evicted from a city suburb, Naguru, for Naguru- Nakawa housing estates. 11 years down the road the project that was highly hyped is to take off on the grabbed land. Pleas from the victims of the eviction to regain their land have all fallen on deaf ears.
About 80km away from Kampala is the island district of Kalangala surrounded by the World’s second-largest lake, Victoria, and known for palm growing. When the palm-oil project was introduced to residents they were given the impression that it would improve their livelihoods and create job opportunities. Instead, it has dumped thousands into poverty after their land was grabbed by BIDCO, a Wilmer international-funded project. People lost land and now work on plantations as casual laborers. The neighboring communities are accusing BIDCO workers of sexual and gender-based violence.
In the South-Western District of Kiryandongo, multinational companies including Agilis Partners Limited, Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, and Great Seasons SMC Limited with funding from The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom, and Common Fund for Commodities among other financiers are forcefully evicting more than 35,000 people. The eviction has been on since 2017.
Workers that worked on a World Bank Project in Soroti, in the far east of the country, are accused of sexually harassing minors. Several young girls were defiled and left pregnant. Despite the government being aware of this none of the pedophiles have been brought to book, the World Bank-funded project in the Eastern Town of Soroti left several underage girls defiled and impregnated.
In late 2020, residents of Kawaala zone II woke up to the hail of armed men and graders evicting and destroying their properties to implement a multimillion-dollar project funded by the World Bank. The project is being implemented by the Kampala Capital city Authority (KCCA) on behalf of the government of Uganda.
The above-listed and other projects, on the other hand, continue to perpetuate violence and judicial harassment against leaders of Project Affected Persons (PAPs) and community land and environmental rights defenders because of their work that resists illegal evictions and destruction of the environment among others.
Although project implementers such as government entities accuse local communities of occupying land targeted for projects illegally, in most cases victim communities have rights over these pieces of land because their settlement on the same land can be traced to have happened generations ago.
No matter how people are negatively impacted being by these harmful projects, financiers continue to release more money to the government and investors. The banks aim at profit margins other than the livelihoods of the people. In Bulebi village, Mbazi parish, Mpunge Sub County in Mukono district, Akon’s futuristic city is about to lead to the eviction of over 1000 residents whose entire lives have been built on their land.
In April last year, American rapper Aliaune Damala Badara well known for his stage name AKON visited Uganda in search of land for constructing the city. On the same business trip, he met President Museveni Yoweri Kaguta and expressed his interest in building a futuristic city with its currency. The president ordered the Ministry of Lands, housing, and urban development to look out for free land for his city.
However, on 7th Jan 2022, the Uganda Land Commission showed the Minister for Lands, Housing, and Urban Development “Hon Judith Nabakooba” land that was proposed for the Akon city. According to the Uganda land commission, the land is Freehold Volume 53 Folio 9 measuring I square mile.
This has sparked outrage amongst the affected as they were never consulted or consented to allow the project in their community. According to community members that Witness Radio interviewed, they said they heard the distressing news of Akon city through the Media.
The community said no official from the ministry has ever approached them about their land giveaway. “Our country is full of land evictions and evictors begin in that way. There has been no official coming on the ground to officially inform us about the project and neither have we heard any official communication of compensation.” Obori said.
Residing in the attractive village surrounded by freshwaters, the community asserts this has been the source of livelihood and advised the government to get alternative land for the City.
Controversies surrounding the land giveaway and ownership of the area still exist. A section of residents have protested and vowed not to surrender their land for the City. They claim to have acquired freehold titles from the Mukono lands board.
Breaking: over 350,000 acres of land were grabbed during Witness Radio – Uganda’s seven months ban.
By Witness Radio Team.
As the onslaught on civil society heightens, its space continues to shrink which has bearing on the services they render to the communities. Witness Radio, was among the 54 organizations suspended by Uganda’s National Bureau for Nongovernmental Organizations on August 20th, 2021. The actions are amongst the recent forms of attack on civil societies in Uganda. Other numerous attacks include arrests of rights activists, harassment, tortures, and office- break-ins at night by security operatives who move away with valuables.
The effects of this suspension were felt by communities facing land grabs across the country. For seven months while the organization was suspended, over 300,000 people were evicted from their land and couldn’t access specialized and prompt legal assistance.
Witness Radio Uganda, globally known for its campaign against community land-grabs couldn’t assist these victims of land grab since it risked facing further sanctions from the Bureau in case it intervened. However, last week, there was some relief, when Uganda’s National Bureau for NGOs lifted suspension and certified its operation.
According to Mrs. Bulyerali Joan, the Head Legal at Witness Radio – Uganda, the organization conducted a review of the evictions that happened during the suspension. With information and assistance from some lawyers, local journalists, and community land and environmental rights defenders across the country, the evictions watchdog was able to document cases of hundreds of thousands of Ugandans that were either forcefully evicted or received threats of evictions while in its limbo.
The ban imposed on Witness Radio coupled with the disruptive impacts of COVID- 19 resulted in the surge of eviction cases, especially in areas where the organization had a presence. Throughout the ban, without access to swift and prompt legal support, the communities resorted to sharing with the world their ordeal.
She further noted that the evictions were conducted in disregard of the law on evictions. “I was shocked to see powerful people and companies take advantage of our suspension to escalate the evictions of vulnerable communities that received our assistance. The evictions did not comply with the land eviction practice directives. None of them was preceded by legal court orders.” She noted.
According to the Land Eviction directives, issued by the former Chief Justice of Uganda, Bart Katureebe, evictions shall be preceded by valid court order, properly identifying the persons taking part in the eviction, and upon presentation of formal authorizations. The police and local authority of the area shall be notified and shall be present to witness the evictions, among others.
Based on the data gathered by the team, various communities across the country were left dispossessed by land grabbers without any form of assistance. Others have received threatening messages with intentions of dispossessing them off their land.
During the period under review, over 300,000 people across the country are believed to have been threatened with evictions, while 350,000 acres of land were either grabbed or on verge of being grabbed.
“However much, we gathered this information, we expect the cases to be higher because some evictions go unreported either due to the remoteness of the areas or other related factors.” One of the collaborators observed.
The evictions were extremely violent. They were characterized by kidnaps, arrests and detentions, torture that often-caused unexpected grief to the communities.
Among the most affected districts include Kyankwanzi, Mubende, Kassanda, Hoima, Buikwe, Wakiso, Kikuube, and Bulambuli districts.
In some of the mentioned districts, the Lands, Housing, and Urban Development Minister toured and halted the evictions but the evictors continued unabated.
Mr. Kimazi Experito, a journalist based in Mubende, attributed the rise of evictions to the organization’s suspension which denied the evictions-affected communities access to specialized legal assistance.
He said Witness Radio has offered support to over 20 land-grab-affected communities in Mubende with legal support. “Witness radio is a game-changer that brought back lives of evicted communities to normal,” he lauded.
“Mubende is one of the fastest-growing areas because of gold and other minerals as well as factors related to fertile soils. Currently, it is one of the hotspots of evictions. Opportunists used this chance to grab land from people with full attention. Without the defenders, it’s often hard for people to get justice since local people are not much informed about land laws.” Kimazi explained.
Engineered by powerful people in public offices, multinational companies, and politicians using state machinery including the army and national police, forced evictions to continue to affect food sovereignty and threaten the role of indigenous communities to protect the environment.
During the same period, President Yoweri Museveni stopped any eviction without the approval of the Resident District Commissioners. However, legal experts warned that the move is to usurp the powers of the Judiciary. In a statement signed by Pheona Nabasa Wall, the Uganda Law Society President noted that the directive undermined the role and independence of courts in handling eviction matters.
That notwithstanding, “Occasionally, the residents are not given any opportunity to negotiate with the landlords. Even when the government obliges to pay landowners, neither does the government nor the evictor compensate for the damaged property. During evictions, properties that were made for their life end up being destroyed in seconds which causes lifetime misery.” Paul Kasoozi, a community land rights defender stated.
With different tactics aimed at alienating the poor from their land, it has been established that the police and the army continued to play a huge role in the largest forms of violent evictions through torture, arbitrary arrests, and detention and instilling fear and pressurizing the local communities to vacate their land on orders of the evictors.
Many of those community members who oppose land evictions end up being kidnapped, tortured, or arrested and detained to silence the community. It takes support from an organization defending communities’ land rights to intervene for such communities to get justice.
Days before the lifting of the suspension imposed on Witness Radio, communities neighboring the Katta Barracks in Bulambuli district, were violently evicted by the Uganda People’s Defense Forces under the alleged command of Lieutenant Colonel Mukiibi Julius without offering alternative resettlement.
Double tragedy as KCCA uses the World Bank’s money to evict a Kawaala resident from both his home and place of work: TALES OF A BUSKER
Mr. Mutaasi’s house marked with “X” by KCCA for demolition.
By witnessradio.org Team
“…Ekuba omunaku tekya…”, loosely translated as “The rain that falls on a down-and-out is a relentless deluge,” is one of the adages applied among the Baganda, and its equivalent among the English is, “it never rains but it pours”, highlight the 12 years of misery of 42-year-old Mutaasi Ali.
Mutaasi, a resident of Kawaala zone II in Kampala had a dream of living a better life, but it has never turned out as he had envisioned it. His suffering started way back from the fire-outbreak that twice gutted his merchandise in the Owino-Park Yard market. A market that mothered the urban poor. That Market is no more. It was replaced with a gigantic mall whose construction was preceded by a brutal night of forced eviction carried out with impunity by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The Authority is the governing body and administers the Capital City of Uganda.
Now the ghosts of the past are back, he hardly sleeps. A nightmare of a looming eviction to give way to the expansion and construction of Lubigi-Channel under a World-Bank funded project, KIIDP-1or 2, pre-occupies his mind. And the outbreak of the pandemic is another setback that has kept him on tenterhooks waiting for the Covid-19 relief from the government.
The father of ten (10), has spent about a half of his age on the streets of Kampala trying out different odd jobs to feed his family.
Before the pandemic, he was a maid of all work. He gurgled busking, farming, singing, and playing aback-up artist role. Mutaasi who is now a backup artist moved from his home village in Mpigi town in Mpigi district, 50 km from the western side of Uganda’s capital Kampala for greener pasture in the capital at the age of 18.
“I was born to in an extended poor family; we had little chances of getting the basic needs we wanted because of being poor. I had to look for a livelihood elsewhere to support my needs and those of my family,” Mutaasi narrated.
Mutasi said a village friend who had come earlier in Kampala informed him of a job. “A friend of mine in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb helped me to get it. It was a hawking job. I did it for about 4 years on the streets of Kampala. In 1997, we shifted to the Park Yard market,” he added.
When he was moved to Park Yard market, it was a great achievement. “Because we were expanding, and our second hand-clothing business was showing signs of success, he (my boss) decided we move to Park Yard since it was busier and had enough space. And after making some little money, I parted ways with him (my boss) and I started a similar business in the same market in 2004,” he added.
He was determined to learn and worked hard. He becomes an inspiration not only to his peers but also to his former coworkers. “Mutaasi was a promising bright child that everyone wanted to be with. We looked up to him for inspiration,” a close friend confirmed in an interview with Witness Radio.
His business continued to boom, but misfortune struck. Mutaasi and many other traders suffered big blows when merchandise, worth billions of Ugandan shillings was razed in the fire that first gutted the market in 2009.
“I had shopped a day before the fire, so I was left with nothing and no capital to start again with,” he said.
But as the saying of the Banna Kampala (people living in Kampala) that “Kampala kuyiiya,” literally meaning that to thrive in Kampala you have to hustle. Mutaasi and two of his friends moved onto the city streets as buskers with a reggae music version.
“I would practice singing in my free time and some friends of mine had described my voice as euphonious. Because I had nothing to do at home at that time, we formed a group of three, went to the streets, and started entertaining people. Some of us were even employed as backup artists during shows,” Mutaasi reveals.
He says the little money they earned helped them to cater to their needs. “At least on a good day, we could earn 6000 Shillings (USD 1.7) each, which I would use to look after my family in the village. In about a year, I had also saved some money and went back to Park Yard market to give selling clothes a second-shot,” he shares with a nostalgic look.
According to Mutaasi, initially, his business had failed to pick up, but the desire for better life kept him soldiering on.
“I had to limit on other roles, so I left the street entertainment and concentrated much on growing my business in Park Yard and recording music. Every single coin I would get from music would be invested in my second-hand clothing business,” he added.
Whereas it had grown, fire gutted the market on 31st July 2011 and destroyed traders’ merchandise worth millions of shillings. It did not spare his business either. And according to Mutaasi, this was the second fire in one year and subsequent fire outbreaks until Park Yard Market land was forcefully grabbed by KCCA, politically connected investors, and police in 2017 without any prior consultation or compensation.
“When this happened, I felt like I had lost my senses. Asking myself why I don’t succeed yet others do, and why my businesses collapse yet others stand the taste of time,” he recounts.
In an interview with the Sunday Monitor, a local newspaper in March 2017, Mr. Kiggundu acknowledged being behind the eviction of Park Yard vendors. He said he demolished the temporary structures at Park Yard to make it a better place. Mutaasi was left grasping at straws
Helpless traders watch as their merchandise are destroyed by an excavator during an eviction in march 2017.
After a double loss, he had to pick up his broken pieces and focus on music and entertainment which had been his initial source of income, but the ghosts of the past continued to haunt him. In July 2020, a countrywide lock-down was imposed and the entertainment industry was hit hard. No concerts! No bars! No clubs! This was later lifted except for the entertainment industry.
Then when he thought the state would lift the ban on the music industry, there was a surge in COVID-19 cases, the government of Uganda imposed a second lockdown. This continued to pile misery upon him.
“Backing up other artists pays less and it is what I used to rely on now. We depend on God’s mercy to survive. I have not even received the government’s COVID relief ever since the lockdown started.” he added.
As he still recounts his ordeal; the misery in Park Yard market and the heart-wrecking lockdowns, the father of 10 is now facing forced eviction from his 27×40 piece of land by a World Bank-funded project. Mutaasi bought his piece of land 10 years ago from his hard-earned money.
In all that he has gone through his land without a doubt is being grabbed by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) officials to pave way for the Lubigi primary channel expansion.
He said, “I started working in 1991. Look, my merchandise perished and the only thing I have is a piece of land that I have, and now is being taken away without any compensation.
“KCCA’s imminent eviction has taken me aback. I remember when I was evicted from a rental. I was verbally abused in front of my children, wife, and neighbors, my household items were thrown out and others confiscated. I was forced to move out of the house since the rent arrears had accumulated,” he shares the distressing memories. That day, he and the rest of the family had to brave the cold night outside. The following day, he could not bear the embarrassment and scorn that came with the eviction. He took it upon himself to construct a makeshift shelter, without walls, on his piece of land to temporarily serve as a house.
Good times may not last, but bad memories never fade, and Mutaasi, now penniless at the time, vividly remembers the price he had to pay to put up the make-shift shelter; “I had some sugarcane on the land, and on the second day, I requested my neighbors to give me eucalyptus poles to in exchange for the sugarcane. That is how I started a new life without a coin.”
He wonders why KCCA, the project implementer, is using the World Bank project to grab his land without being compensated. He is among the 120 households being evicted to pave away for the Lubigi drainage channel expansion project.
“You cannot tell me that you want my land on which you have found me living and you don’t want to compensate me for it. You want to take it and you don’t want to prepare for me who owns it. Why don’t they first prepare for the people affected by the project and then think of taking the land?” He questioned.
He also blames KCCA for the corrupt networks under the Buganda Land Board (BLB), a company that manages the Kabaka’s land who solicit money from them in rewards to a letter taken to KCCA to carry out the surveying and valuation of their property.
“We are required to clear UGX 250,000 (USD 70.46) for a letter proving your ownership in Mengo, the Busuulu (ground rent) of UGX 550,000 (USD 155), and UGX 150,000 (USD 42.28) to the chairman for the stamp. This is a lot of money that some of us don’t have. We are in a lockdown, and like me, I stopped working last year, where do they expect me to get all that money,” he further wondered.
He wonders what will happen if the others pay the BLB fee and is valued and surveyed but he fails to clear the fee. “It seems I am losing my land too, because if I lack what to eat, then where will I get the money to pay for the surveying and valuation,” he said.
He proposes that KCCA uses its money to survey and value his land, clear BLB, and then deduct it from the compensation money instead of losing the property they have worked for generations.
“I have suffered a lot and I feel I am tired…, he painfully concluded.
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