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Agony As Justice Systems Side With Land Grabbers In Mubende District To Incarcerate Indigenous Communities Opposing Illegal Land Evictions



By Team

Formasa limited, a Chinese owned Company dealing in tree planting business was in 2010 introduced to 1000 native families from over twelve (12) villages in both Maddudu and Butoloogo sub counties by Mubende District Deputy Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Evelyn Tinkamarirwa Akiiki. RDC is a president’s representative at a district whose position is established by the 1995 Constitution of Republic of Uganda.

The company allegedly bought land totaling to over ten (10) square miles covering 12 villages namely; Kaziragoma, Nakasozi, Kyedikyo, Kamagwa, Kicucuulo, Namayindi, Kiguluka, Kabuwuka, Kaswa, Kitebi, Kyabbogo and Kisiigwa.

No sooner had the company been introduced than hundreds of casual laborers were brought and established a camp under Mubende police protection. Family gardens and plantations started getting destroyed to plant both eucalyptus and thorny pine trees, burning down people’s houses, allegedly gang raping women, attacking community members with pangs and machetes, harassment of community members, arresting and detaining community leaders opposing illegal land evictions.

Lubuuka Harunah, 35, is a resident of Kisiigwa LC1, Maddudu Sub County.  He claims that on 02/7/2014 he was attacked at his home by a group of company workers. He said his body parts were cut with machete and got admitted at Mubende Referral Hospital. “I was being accused of refusing to vacate my land for the company to plant trees”. Said Lubuuka.

He said upon being discharged from hospital, he filed an assault case against company workers at Mubende police station on 04/07/2014 but instead; Mubende police arrested him few days later and got produced before court. He was charged with assault CR. CASE NO.514/2014 for assaulting FORMASA company workers.

Court remanded him to Kaweeri prison for one year after which, he secured cash bail and got released from prison.

Lubuuka said that by the time he returned home, he found his entire land covered by trees belonging to Formasa Company on top of demolishing his house that he had built there!

I tried to seek justice, but any government office like Police, RDC, among others, that I have been to, they just send me away only threatening to arrest and get me back to prison again. In fact, I am now timid to the extent that I no longer want to talk about these things anymore”. Said Lubuuka. He added that the case was later dismissed due to lack of evidence after losing his entire land to the company.

Paul Sinamenye, 54 a resident of Nakasozi village, Naluwondwa Parish – Maddudu Sub-County, claims he was falsely charged with assaulting Stephen Tumwine, the Manager at Formasa Company under Criminal case No 0608/2016. He said, when he was taken to court, he wasn’t allowed to say anything and Grade One Magistrate Wandera Wilson remanded him to Kaweeri prison. “What hurts me is that Formasa Company used the period I spent in prison to grab my land through planting their trees and as I speak now, I don’t have any farmland to grow food to feed my family” said Sinamenye.

Sinamenye added that his case was later dismissed after the complainant (Tumwine) made a U-turn and denied having been beaten.

He said they later filed a civil suit against Asiimwe for malicious case civil suit No. MBD CS 16/2107 Hategyeka Esau & Sinamenye Paul Vs Tumwine Stephen. “Upon receiving court papers requiring him to put in his defence within 15 days, he came with police to arrest me and Hategyeka. We were arrested and charged with a new assault case No. 0608/16 accusing us of beating up workers of Formasa Company” said Sinamenye.

He added that they were remanded to Kaweeri prison before being granted cash bail of 500,000 UGX equivalent to about USD 150 on 31/1/2017.

Jimmy Ssegujja, 45, is a resident of Kyedikyo village, Maddudu Sub County. He said during the forceful evictions by Formasa Company, he refused to leave his land and resisted the company’s plan to plant trees in his land. As a punishment he was arrested by police and charged with a case relating to removing of boundary marks contrary to CS 338 Penal Code Act on file CRB 518/12/case No. 192/2012. The magistrate jailed him at Kaweeri prison, before being transferred to Kijumba prison.

After spending three months on remand, I was taken back to court, but I was never allowed to bring my witnesses only to be convicted and sentenced to six months. On completion of my sentence, I returned to my home, but I couldn’t find my wife at home-she had left, and part of my land had been grabbed. But my efforts to reclaim the ownership of my land was in futility, because Formasa Company seem to have bribed all officials in the various government offices I ran to, because everybody gave my issues deaf ears.

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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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