Some of the community members affected by land grabbing in Kiryandongo District
By witnessradio.org team.
As the United Nations, is striving to end hunger, achieve food security through sustainable agriculture what they termed as one of the 17 sustainable development goals by 2030, Uganda still grapples with mass forced evictions being aided by International development financiers being hosted and protected by big nations.
In Uganda, the ‘development financing’ has exacerbated poverty, hunger among the local populations, threatened food security, and forced inhabitants to migrate to urbanized cities or working as laborers on large plantation farms established formerly on their land as the only means of looking for survival.
Ever since the mandate to set up the Food Systems Summit was taken over from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) by the UN secretary-general’s office in close partnership with the World Economic Forum, a private sector organization fronting corporate interests, the summit lost its relevance as far as smallholder farmers concept in Uganda is concerned.
The governance of the summit is under capture by “experts” known to be staunch defenders of industrial agriculture, and wealthy nations, which host many of the large multinational corporations and International Development Financiers, to drive their agenda.
In a bid to translate these aspirations into tangible results, the United Nations’ three-day pre-summit in Rome, which ended on the 28th day of July 2021…. in a lead up to the UN Food Systems Summit in September in New York City, US, made no mention of peasant agroecology, or indigenous ecological knowledge and it’s feared by smallholder farmers to be fronting corporates’ interests.
In a survey conducted by Witness Radio-Uganda on development projects (agribusiness, afforestation, carbon offset projects, mining, and infrastructure development) being financed by members of the World Economic Forum for the last ten years, both COVID-19 lock-downs inclusive, estimate that 1, 257,200 (one million two hundred, fifty-seven thousand and two hundred peasant families have been forcefully evicted or threatened with eviction from more than 5 million Ha.
Approximately 98.2% of the grabbed land or on the verge of being grabbed was agricultural land being used for subsistence farming by local peasants.
As we write this story, Nalumunye Betty, not real name, a small-holder farmer in Kawaala who grows yams to feed her family fears that an eviction facilitated by World-Bank financing of the expansion and construction of Lubigi Channel under the Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) Project will take away her cheap and sustainable source of food.
She is not alone, there are many other smallholder farmers across the country including Kiryandongo district, 122 Km away from Kampala facing a related quandary. They are battling multi-national companies, including, Agilis Partners Ltd through its Asili Farms that received USD 1,200,000 from the Netherlands-based Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), a basket fund that gets part of its money from the European Union. Agilis Partners Limited is using the development finances to forcefully evict thousands of peasants off their land.
“Every eviction has a ripple effect and this country will have to pay dearly for it soon”, Mrs. Joan Bulyelari, one of the legal officers with Witness Radio – Uganda, noted with great concern.
“It is a double-edged sword. It takes away a live hood and leaves communities hungry. It breeds domestic violence, breaks families, forces children out of school. Just look at what is happening in Kiryandongo. Employees of multi-national companies are raping mothers and defiling children to defeat their spirited efforts to reclaim their land from multi-nationals”, she added.
By and large, agriculture plays a vital role in the Ugandan economy, and most of the persons evicted are smallholder farmers whose land is being targeted constitute 68% (sixty-eight percent) of all working Ugandans are employed by agriculture.
Small-holder farmers account for 89% (eighty-nine percent) of all land users in Uganda. They contribute up to 80% (eighty percent) of the annual total agricultural output, this includes food crops.
Conversely, this contribution seems to have been overlooked by key stakeholders’ aggressive advocacy, and blind funding by international financial institutions of large-scale mechanized agriculture without prioritizing the land rights of smallholder farmers, which is an affront to food security that has been guaranteed by small-holder farmers through their 80% (eighty-percent) contribution to the annual total agriculture.
According to the Country Director, Witness Radio-Uganda, Mr. Wokulira Geoffrey Ssebaggala, “It is time we rethink, and jealously protect the smallholder farmers’ contribution to food sovereignty, but that debate will only make sense if key stakeholders; governments, financial institutions, and international bodies take up the responsibility to finance community-led projects that cater for the protection of land rights of smallholder farmers.”
“They should not just throw money at large-scale agricultural and development projects, especially, if they will involve the forceful land acquisition. These development finances are aiding instability in Uganda and worsening food insecurity yet it should alleviate such issues. This is akin to throwing pearls to pigs. International financiers, among other solutions, should set independent supervisory and audit units to ensure that there is prior, adequate, fair, and prompt compensation before any evictions ”, he advised.
In Rome, the priorities of the UN Food Systems were emphasized on paper as “hunger and nutrition, climate change and inclusion and equity but such can only be achieved if the summit remains an independent space for all to find lasting solutions to food security.
Earlier this month, one of Uganda’s dailies, The Daily Monitor, reported that a total of 36 civil society organizations (CSOs) in Uganda and across Africa under the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) had ruled out their participation in the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) scheduled for September 2021 in New York, USA.
UNFSS is accused of excluding the critical views of indigenous farmers in defining suitable food systems, “We are deeply concerned that the current rushed, corporate-controlled, unaccountable, and opaque process for this summit will not lead to the transformation we envision of sustainable and healthy food systems.”, its statement read in part.
Globally, the International Peasants Movement, while christening the UNFSS as a ‘Scientific Group’ also views it as a composition of “corporate-sponsored actors who legitimize corporate-owned knowledge and technology systems, and hold peasant agroecological practices in contempt.”
Witness Radio Uganda will not take part in the Food Systems Summit, later in September 2021 in New York, instead joins other actors to reaffirm the need of the UN and other stakeholders to rethink approaches that have left smallholder farmers landless and threatening food security.
The committee calls for the protection of projects’ host communities.
By Witness Radio team
Development Banks and investors have been urged to invest in activities or projects that do not deprive individuals or communities of access to land or land-associated resources on which they depend for their livelihoods.
The negative effects arising from the projects funded by some development banks and investors have forced the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights General Comment No. 26 (2022) on Land and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights while giving its general comment on land to call on development banks and states hosting the projects to refrain from actions that interfere, directly or indirectly, with the enjoyment of the Covenant rights in land-related contexts outside their territories
In 2014, an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists revealed that some 3.4 million of the most vulnerable people were left homeless by the projects funded by World Bank. Till today, more of the bank’s funded projects continue to harm communities.
Currently, there is an ongoing mediation process between the project-affected persons of Kawaala Zone II and Kampala Capital City Authority, an implementer of a World Bank funded-project over human rights violations. In December 2020, their houses were marked with an x as a sign of demolition and later some of the residents’ crops got destroyed.
In the Pakwach district, the Paten clan continues to experience gross human rights violations arising from the Wadelai Irrigation Scheme implementation funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB).
According to the communities, the project forcefully acquired more land for the Wadelai Irrigation Scheme project under The Farm Income Enhancement and Forestry Conservation Project-Phase 2 (FIEFOC-2). This was contrary to the earlier understanding with the community that the project would utilize 365 acres which the community had freely offered for the project. Instead, 365 hectares were forcefully acquired.
The committee while reviewing state parties’ reports, claims has encountered an increasing number of references to the negative impact on individuals, groups, peasants, and indigenous peoples’ access to productive resources, as a result of international investment negotiations, agreements, and practices, including in the form of public-private partnerships between state agencies and foreign private investors
The committee says land transfers are quite often financed by international actors, including public investors such as development banks financing development projects requiring lands, such as dams or renewable energy parks, or by private investors.
“Parties must take concrete measures to prevent their domestic and international policies and actions, such as trade, investment, energy, agricultural, development and climate change mitigation policies, from interfering, directly or indirectly, with the enjoyment of human rights that applies to all forms of projects implemented by development agencies or financed by development banks.” The committee noted.
Adding that “ there is a need to establish the necessary regulatory mechanisms to ensure that business entities, including transnational corporations, and other non-State actors that they are in a position to regulate, not impair the enjoyment of Covenant rights in land-related contexts in other countries and moving the necessary steps to prevent human rights violations abroad in land-related contexts by non-State actors over which they can exercise influence, without infringing the sovereignty or diminishing the obligations of the host States.”
The committee further emphasized the conduct of human rights impact assessments before making such investments and regularly assess and revise them. Such assessments shall be conducted with substantive public participation and the results shall be made public and inform measures to prevent, cease and remedy any human rights violations or abuses.
In addition to responsible investment, the committee directed states to take all necessary measures to respect human rights defenders and their work, including concerning land issues and to refrain from imposing criminal penalties on them or enacting new criminal offenses to hinder their work.
World Bank extends the Lubigi drainage project dispute resolution process for another six months.
By Witness Radio Team.
The World Bank, Accountability Mechanism has granted the Parties involved in a dispute resolution case in Uganda an additional six months with expectations of achieving better mediation in the ongoing dispute resolution between the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and the Projected Affected Person.
According to the brief by World Bank Accountability Mechanism Secretary, Ms. Orsolya Szekely, the DRS extended the dispute resolution process which was supposed to end in December 2022, to six months which began this January 2023. Orsolya believes the added time will help all the parties resolve their differences.
The World Bank Accountability Mechanism is an independent complaints mechanism for people and communities who believe that they have been or are likely to be harmed by a World Bank-funded project.
The extension follows the failure to negotiate between the two parties in one-year-long negotiations of the dispute resolution process which started in December 2021.
The Kampala Capital City Authority is implementing the Lubigi drainage Channel expansion project under the KIIDP-2 with funding from the World Bank.
On December 3, 2020, the Kawaala communities were shocked to find KCCA representatives in their village, accompanied by armed police officers, distributing eviction notices and informing residents that they had 28 days to vacate their homes. A few days later, for instance, in the wee hours of 05th/12/2020, the community started experiencing attacks by armed anti-riot police and workers of the construction company; destroying properties, without any prior consultation or plan for compensation and resettlement.
In a bid to find justice, in June 2021, the affected community filed a complaint with the World Bank’s Inspection Panel raising concerns about forced evictions during COVID-19.
According to the complaint filed against KCCA, the implementor of the KIIDP-2 project excluded the affected community from benefiting from the Project’s Resettlement Plan (RAP) and instead resorted to the use of force to have them evicted. Following the intervention of the World Bank, KCCA conducted another Project’s Resettlement Plan. However, according to the affected community, the process was rushed and intended to promote inequality.
The project is marred with retaliatory attacks from people believed to be project implementers against project affected community.
The Accountability Mechanism’s operating procedures allow for a one-year period for all parties to resolve, with a six-month extension period in case parties fail to reach an amicable understanding.
Festive holiday forced evictions: armed gangs linked to a Chinese tree planting company descend on a village, severely beat and wound dozens of villagers.
By Witness Radio Team
A festive holiday is happily waited for by many people in every corner of the world. It’s a period for merry-making and family get together. In Africa, particularly in Uganda, most people travel from towns to their ancestral homes to spend that time with family members, make parties and meet longtime childhood friends.
For a community at Kicuculo village, Kiruuma Sub-county, in Mubende district was a different experience. The much-awaited season was marred with violence, anxiety, and death threats from Formasa Tree Planting company targeting the community’s land to expand its commercial trees business.
Formosa is a Chinese-owned tree-planting company planting pine and eucalyptus trees in the Mubende district, Central Uganda.
Ugly incidents started happening on December 7th, 2022 in the wee hours of that night. A group of over 20 casual workers linked to Formasa invaded homesteads, started cutting people with pangas, and beat everyone found in their houses accompanying them with threats to kill them if they don’t leave the land.
Three people were hacked with pangas and clobbered with sticks by armed company laborers in an attempt to force them off the land they have lived on for decades.
While more than seven (7) people got hospitalized after sustaining deep cut wounds during the scuffle. Mr. Byakatonda David who sustained a deep cut wound on the head narrates his ordeal. “At around 11 pm, I heard my neighbor crying for help, and decided to respond. On reaching there, I found a group of armed workers from Formosa destroying his house while others were beating him. When one of them saw me, “he said, he is also among the people on our wanted list”.
“I wanted to run but was immediately caught by the rogues. They beat me and left me unconscious with deep cuts on my head. I got back to my normal senses admitted and bandaged at Maduddu Health Center II.” The father of 13 revealed this in his interview with the Witness Radio team.
According to his relatives, they found him lying in a pool of blood and rushed him to the hospital. “We waited for someone who had gone to the neighborhood to respond to an alarm, but he wasn’t returning. Due to fear, we searched only to find him bleeding on his head and lying in blood. I called the chairman on the phone who helped with a BodaBoda motorcycle to rush him to the hospital.” His wife revealed.
Violent forced evictions in the Mubende district occurred despite a government ban on evictions during the festive seasons. The lands minister, honorable Judith Nabakooba on December 2022, ordered that no family should be evicted during the festive holiday. She directed police and Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) to respect the order.
Mr. Byamukama Yuda, an area chairman of Kicuculo village told Witness Radio that Formosa company is a threat in their village because of continuous and violent attacks on his people for refusing to surrender their land to the company to grow commercial trees.
“Ever since the company started operations in 2012, the company under the protection of the police has been grabbing people’s land, beating them, raping women and young girls, cutting them, and causing arrests to community land rights defenders. Over 2500 hectares of people’s land have been grabbed and rendered families landless. And for only 2022, over 100 people have been terrorized by angry company workers.” He added.
He further said company workers seem to have powerful people protecting them and respect or fear no one. Adding that on Christmas, a group of workers went to his home and threatened him to be castrated in front of his wife and children.
The same company in 2017 caused the arbitrary arrest, and imprisonment of 5 community land rights defenders for 15 years and 35 years on murder and other charges. The five among others include; Paul Sinamenya, Richard Ssemombwe, Fenehansi Kaberuka, Esau Hategeka, Godfrey Bukenya, Yonnah Ssebanenya, and Sserugo Sam Ssemigo
Witness Radio has since appealed against the conviction on grounds that the evidence relied on by the court was doctored.
When we contacted the Company Manager, Ms. Annah Kyoheirwe, she declined to discuss the allegations. She said she was busy attending a meeting and hung up.
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