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We won’t leave Queen Elizabeth park land, Rukungiri locals insist



RUKUNGIRI. Residents of Kikarara Parish in Bwambara Sub-county have asked government to reverse a plan to evict them from a piece of land, which is claimed to be part of Queen Elizabeth National Park in Rukungiri District.
The more than 8,000 residents live in nine villages of Garuka, Nyakatemba A, Nyakatembe B, Nyabugando, Kahimbi, Rwesigiro, Nyakabungo B, Nyakabungo A and Kafunjo in Ishasha Sector.

They are mainly of Banyabutumbi tribe and claim the place is their ancestral land. The other inhabitants are Bakiga, who claim to have been resettled there in 1940s from Kabale by the government.
The residents say the area was erroneously gazetted for wildlife protection by government in 1995.
On May 28, President Museveni said government would compensate the affected residents.

“I shall sit with your leaders and we dialogue on the possible ways to compensate people whose land was turned into a national park…..,” he said while campaigning for Ms Winifred Masiko in Bwambara during the Rukungiri Woman MP by-election.
Mr Charles Tukamusherura, the Kikarara Parish chairperson, says residents have been living in fear of being evicted for long adding that they will not yield to any attempts to take them from the place they call home.

“We have lived here for all our lives, our great grandfathers were buried here and no one knows how we came to live in this area. The government wants us out of this land, our land? They want to give it to animals. Everyone who has been coming here since 1996 promises us an answer but we have got none. We still shall be waiting but we shall not accept anyone who says we leave,” Mr Tukamusherura says.

He adds that residents have faced several injustices, including animals feeding on their crops, their domestic animals being eaten by wild animals and at times, and some residents also being killed by animals. When they tell government, they are reminded that they live inside the NP.
“Because we have been waiting for an answer, we have been patient, we have endured a lot, and our people have been killed and tortured. Our crops, our goats and our cows are feeds for park animals and when we complain, government tells us we are living in a place for animals, the park. Who makes the park and when did animals become more important than people to that extent?” he further says.
Mbwa Tract in the Bwindi Impenetrable NP, the Upper Madi area in the Murchison Falls NP, and part of the Mount Elgon NP are other wild life protection areas with contested boundaries.

Kikarara Parish has a government aided (Universal Primary Education) school with at least 800 pupils and a government health centre II.
“We don’t even know the essence of voting, here we have been supporting this government to the extent of voting openly for NRM, but they want us to go away from our land. Every time you want to plant crops such as coffee you fear because you feel like they are going to come and cut it, we live in poverty because of this,” says Mr Evaristo Tushabe, a resident of Garuka.
The Bwambara Sub-county chairperson, Mr Enock Turyamuhabwa, says the sub county and district leadership have made several attempts to have the area degazetted by Parliament.

“We have made teams to follow up this issue and the residents have been hopeful. When the President visited during the recent campaigns, everyone was waiting for him to say this place shall be degazetted,” Mr Turyamuhabwa says.
The Rukungiri District chairperson, Mr Andrewson Charles Katebire, says the area has failed to develop due to the uncertainties.
“People would wish to come and establish tourist camps but they cannot, others want to have land titles to construct permanent structures.

This is also a place where oil was discovered and it’s on people’s land but they fear they may not be compensated when drilling starts,” says Mr Katebire.
Rujumbura MP Mr Fred Turyamuhweza says he has been engaging the central government over the issue, and wanted residents to go to the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire-led land probe and present their case.


“We have lived here for all our lives, our great grandfathers were buried here and no one knows how we came to live in this area. The government wants us out of this land, our land? They want to give it to animals,” Charles Tukamusherura, Kikarara Parish chairperson.

“The current land law allows residents to own land after living there for 12 years. Most people came to the land in 1947 while others lived there even before. This makes this land legally theirs. I don’t know what time it will take but no one should be afraid that government shall evict them,” Fred Turyamuhweza, Rujumbura MP.

“The challenge we have is people wanting to undertake activities in protected areas that are not permissible. Our role is to protect and ensure no one encroaches it. But I cannot say we have had a poor relationship with this community,” Bashir Hangi, Uganda Wildlife Authority spokesman.

Source: Daily Monitor


Breaking: Witness Radio and Partners to Launch Human Rights Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy Project Tomorrow.



By Witness Radio Team.

Witness Radio, in collaboration with Dan Church Aid (DCA) and the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD), is set to launch the Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy for Human Rights in Uganda (MDA-HRU) project tomorrow, 22nd February 2024, at Kabalega Resort Hotel in Hoima District.

The project, funded by the European Union, aims to promote the protection and respect for human rights, and enable access to remedy where violations occur especially in the Mid-Western and Karamoja sub-regions where private sector actors are increasingly involved in land-based investments (LBIs) through improved documentation, and evidence-based advocacy.

The three-year project, which commenced in October 2023, focuses its activities in the Mid-Western sub-region, covering Bulisa, Hoima, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Kikuube, Kagadi, Kibale, and Mubende districts, and Karamoja sub-region, covering Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Nabilatuk, Abim, Kaabong, Kotido, and Karenga districts.

The project targets individuals and groups at high risk of human rights violations, including Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs). It also engages government duty bearers such as policymakers and implementers in relevant ministries and local governments, recognizing their crucial role in securing land and environmental rights. Additionally, the project involves officials from institutional duty bearers including the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Equal Opportunities Commission, and courts, among others.

Representatives from the international community, faith leaders, and business actors are also included in the project’s scope, particularly those involved in land-based investments (LBIs) impacting the environment.

The project was initially launched in Moroto for the Karamoja region on the 19th of this month with the leadership of the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD).

According to the project implementors,  the action is organized into four activity packages aimed at; enhancing the capacity and skills of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs) in monitoring, documentation, reporting (MDR), and protection, establishing and reinforcing reporting and documentation mechanisms for advocacy and demand for corporate and government accountability;  providing response and support to HRDs and marginalized communities; and lastly facilitating collaboration and multi-stakeholder engagements that link local and national issues to national and international frameworks and spaces.

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Kiryandongo leadership agree to partner with Witness Radio Uganda to end rampant forced land evictions in the district.



By Witness Radio team.

Kiryandongo district leaders have embraced Witness Radio’s collaboration with the Kiryandongo district aimed at ending the rampant violent and illegal land evictions that have significantly harmed the livelihoods of the local communities in the area.

The warm welcome was made at the dialogue organized by Witness Radio Uganda, Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog at the Kiryandongo district headquarters, intended to reflect on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

Speaking at the high-level dialogue, that was participated in by technical officers, policy implementers, religious leaders, leaders of project affected persons (PAPs), politicians, media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and development partners that support land and environment rights as well as the Land Based Investments (LBIs) Companies in the Kiryandongo district, the leaders led by the District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Ms. Edith Aliguma Adyeri appreciated the efforts taken by Witness Radio organization to organize the dialogue meeting aimed at bringing together stakeholders to safeguard community land and environmental rights in order address the escalating vice of land grabbing in the area.

During the dialogue, participants shared harrowing accounts of the impacts of land evictions and environmental degradation, including tragic deaths, families torn asunder, young girls forced into marriage, a surge in teenage pregnancies, limited access to education, and significant environmental damage which have profoundly affected the lives of the local population in Kiryandongo.

Participants attending the dialogue.

In recent years, Kiryandongo district has been embroiled in violent land evictions orchestrated to accommodate multinational large-scale agriculture plantations and wealthy individuals leaving the poor marginalized.

According to various reports, including findings from Witness Radio’s 2020 research Land Grabs at a Gun Point, the forceful land acquisitions in Kiryandongo have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 individuals have been displaced from their land to make room for land-based investments in the Kiryandongo district. However, leaders in the district also revealed in the dialogue that women and children are affected most.

The Kiryandongo Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Jonathan Akweteireho, emphasized that all offices within the Kiryandongo district are actively involved in addressing the prevalent land conflicts. He also extended a welcome to Witness Radio, acknowledging their collaborative efforts in tackling and resolving land and environmental issues in the district.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that the land rights together with environmental rights have been violated in our district, but because we don’t know what our rights are, because we have not directly done what we could to safeguard our rights and now this is the time that Witness Radio has brought us together to safeguard our rights. I want to welcome you in Kiryandongo and be rest assured that we shall give you all the necessary support to help us manage these rampant cases,” Ms. Adyeri said in her remarks during the dialogue meeting.

The team leader at Witness Radio Uganda, Mr. Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala expressed gratitude to the participants for their active involvement in the dialogue and revealed that Witness Radio’s objective is to find a holistic solution to the escalating land disputes in Kiryandongo district serving as an example to other districts.

“We are here to assist Kiryandongo district in attaining peace and stability because it stands as a hotspot for land grabbers in Uganda. Mismanagement of land conflicts in Uganda could potentially lead to a significant internal conflict. Everywhere you turn, voices are lamenting the loss of their land and property. Kiryandongo, abundant with ranches, suffers from a lack of a structured framework, which amplifies these land conflicts. The influx of wealthy investors further complicates the situation,” Mr. Ssebaggala disclosed.

Within the dialogue, Mr. Ssebaggala emphasized the need for the Kiryandongo district council to pass a by-law aimed at curbing land evictions as an initial step in addressing the prevalent land injustices.

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Kiryandongo authorities decry rising cases of land disputes



The LC5 chairperson of Kiryandongo, Ms Edith Aliguma Adyeri, has saidnland dispute has impacted on people’s lives, dignity and children’s education in the district.

Just like other parts of Uganda, conflicts over land in Kiryandongo arise when individuals – who often are blood relatives – compete for use of the same parcel of land or when members of the community lay claim over ownership of unutilised government land.

Ms Adyeri further said land and environmental rights affect people both directly and indirectly, “and we are not hearing it from afar. It is already together with us [here], it has already affected us!”

She was speaking at a meeting which sought to discuss alternative remedies to salvage the appalling land and environmental rights situation in Kiryandongo at the district headquarters on Thursday.

The one-day dialogue was aimed at reflecting on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

It was attended by private companies, members of civil society and local government officials and organised by Witness Radio – an advocate for land and environmental rights in Uganda – in partnership with Oxfam, and Kiryandongo District leadership.

“Some people have even died, families are broken up, and brothers are not seeing eye-to-eye because of land rights. Access to justice is equally becoming very difficult because when you hire one lawyer that
lawyer will talk to learned friends, and they agree. They leave you in suspense,” Ms Adyeri said.

According to her, some children have not accessed education because of land and environmental rights.

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the deputy Resident District Commissioner of Kiryandongo, said enlightened people especially should be sensitive to the historical injustice of this area.

“We can never handle the Bonyoro land question without thinking about that history. It will be an injustice to the incomers, to the government and to the leaders who don’t understand,” he said.

“We had 38 ranches here which on the guidance of these international organisations, especially the World Bank, the government restructured them, allowing people to settle there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he added.

Mr Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the executive director of Witness Radio, said that a well-functional land sector supports land users or holders and investors, reduces inefficiencies and provides mechanisms to resolve land disputes.

Mr David Kyategeka, the secretary to the Kiryandongo District Land Board, said the issue of land rights is very clear but the major challenge has been sensitising the locals to know what rights he or she expects to enjoy out of this very important resource.


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