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WITNESS RADIO MILESTONES Appears Before Land Inquiry Commission, Tables Evidence of Severe Torture, Destruction of Homes, and Loss of Livelihoods Meted against Poor Residents in Mubende



Tens of thousands of poor families in Mubende district, have over the years lost numerous hectares of land to either companies or powerful individuals who carry out forceful evictions, has reported to the commission of inquiry into land matters chaired by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire.
Constituted in September 2016 by President Museveni, the commission’s role is to investigate and inquire into the law, process, and procedure by which land is administered and registered in Uganda.
“For years we have worked around land issues in several districts, Mubende in particular, we find it an epicenter of land evictions in Uganda,” Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala, the Director, informed the commission on August11, 2017 at Mubende during its public hearing.
“These evictions are perpetuated by politically and economically powerful individuals and companies who are using their financial muscle or their connections in some government departments and agencies to evict the population.” Ssebaggala added., a non-partisan organization working towards an equitable land management through the use of technology has documented various forced land evictions that have had grave social and economic effects on natives.
On numerous occasions, it has reported incidents where the disputes have resulted into loss of poor peoples’ lives, loss of sense of belonging, arbitrary arrests and detention, use of tramped-up charges against community leaders opposing such evictions, and livelihoods, hence threatening the survival of entire communities and indigenous groups.
Indeed, detailed to the Inquiry some of its findings when it comes to the chilling effects of land grabbing menace in Mubende district.
“This is against a background of a massively poor, rights unware and voiceless population who have become an easy target for all sorts of violations including torture, intimidation, unlawful arrests and detention, plus destruction of homes, crops, animals, dwellings, schools etc.” Ssebaggala said.
He added; “Apart from victims losing their livelihoods and sense of belonging, some have died or have been rendered disabled due to the severe torture that they are subjected to in the process of eviction(s).”
Ssebaggala explained that Mubende came to be an epicenter for land grabs because of being one of the districts that “hosts huge chunks of public land” with major land problems centered in sub-counties of; Butoloogo, Maduddu, Kitenga, Kitumbi, Manyogaseka and Kiganda which were found to be having majority of absent landlords.
Public Offices pinned on abetting Land Evictions
Both elected and technical officials occupying public offices have been immensely weakened by individuals either through corruption or other interests, thus enabling land grabbing in district, according to findings.
Mubende Resident District Commissioner’s office, Uganda Police Force, Mubende District Land Board, Court of judicature, Director of Public Prosecutions and district chairperson’s office, were the offices mentioned as the culprits as far as land grabbing is concerned.
In justification, told the commission that the leadership has “failed to restrain investors from forceful eviction and destruction of people’s properties and crops,” which has resulted into communities’ starvation and causing anger, hatred and retaliation
Secondly, spoke to the commission about impunity and retaliation to cause death, singling out attacks on helpless communities because of being unattended to by police and other authorities. For instance, Stephen Tumwine (RIP) the former manager of Formasa, a Chinese-tree planting company involved in massive evictions.
Before his hacking to death, Tumwine was caught red-handed cutting down crops in one of the residents’ garden in Butolo village to plant trees before compensating land owner, but the case had been reported to both area police and Mubende police to no avail.
Use of trumped-up charges to frustrate communities’ efforts to oppose unlawful evictions and their land rights, was the third justification fronted.
Advocacy platform said that Mubende prisons are overcrowded due to either direct or indirectly linked land evictions. It’s a common practice in Mubende for anyone or a group of people leading a particular community to oppose unlawful eviction to be arrested and charged with capital offences.
But most interestingly, would be crucial offices in rescuing residents, public offices including the office of the RDC, were accused of protecting land grabbers. It was reported that, most of the cases mentioned above, police, the army and RDC’s office have been very active protecting land grabbers.
The unbecoming conduct and corrupt-oriented tendency of Mubende District Land Board while issuing freehold land titles also became an issue.
“We have noted with dismay the conduct of members of district land board sidelining communities’ efforts to attain full ownership of the land they have lived on for decades,” said
Also, the board was also pinned on issuance of multiple land titles on one piece of land by the same advocacy platform.
It was against this background therefore, that urged the commission to do the following;
• Issue a production warrant to prisoners on land-related matters to enable them an opportunity to testify in regards to their fate
• To order an immediate return of the evictees back to their land so as they can regain their sense of belonging, survival and livelihoods
• Critically look into the workings of Mubende police, RRDC’s office and District Land Board and individuals responsible to be held accountable to the suffering natives


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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