8 Children Dead, 63 Severely Malnourished Due To Forceful Evictions in Uganda’s Oil district

Eight children have died and 63 others anguish from severe malnutrition at Kijayo LC-1 camp in Munteme parish, Kiziramfumbi sub-county in Hoima District following forceful land eviction earlier this year.

On 28th February 2015, over 5000 people were evicted from 1860 hectare piece of land in Kiziramfumbi after it was leased to an investor for sugarcane plantation.

Namara Scovia, a 7 year old girl is the latest child to succumb to severe malnutrition while at the camp. According to her death certificate, Namara passed on the 10th of August and the cause of death, as stated by the medical officer at Hoima Regional Referral Hospital, was severe acute malnutrition and pneumonia.

Kijayo camp is located approximately 40 km away from Hoima town and about 7 km away from Kiziramfumbi sub-county headquarters. The 4acre piece of land where the group is currently residing belongs to Church of Uganda.

According to Buryahika Stephen, head of Kijayo camp, Namara is not the only child who has lost her life due to malnutrition. Seven others between the ages of one to seven years have died due to malnutrition and lack of proper feeding.

“At the camp, we depend on charity! We are now living like homeless people because everyone wants to get rich from this oil,”  Buryahiko narrates, adding that the discovery has brought more harm than good.

He further adds that sadly, the 63 others will suffer the same fate if no urgent attention is rendered to them.

Benon Tusingwire, Executive Director Navigators of Development Association, a local community based organization notes that the camp has only two clinics which appear to be slack since the community members cannot afford UGX 30,000 (less than 10 USD) to acquire treatment for their children.

“These people do not have jobs, they do not have any land to cultivate and no source of livelihoods, they cannot afford to buy food to eat and any medication for their children,” he added.

According to Turinawe Rogers, father to late one year old Atugonza Prosper, the children are dying because there is no food and proper medication for them at the camp.

He reveals that the situation at the camp is sickening and worrying because they are not allowed to bury their children at the camp because it is not their land.

“We are not allowed to bury at the camp. One is expected to bury their loved ones at either their relatives or at the cemetery,” he stated.

According to Buryahika, the land in question is claimed by Kimera Herbert; a local tycoon (now deceased) who is using a different land title to evict them.

“Kimera claimed he owned this land but it is not true. He (Kimera) used a land title for some 10 ha piece of land to evict,” Buryahika revealed in a recent interface meeting in Hoima.

“He used police to chase us out of our land like we were dogs,” he said, adding that the police looted their livestock and destroyed their crops.

On 4th July 2014, the High Court of Uganda issued an interim order restraining the respondednt (Kinera Herbert) from “erasing, demolishing or destroying the existing gardens and structures of the applicant but is at liberty to carry out his activities on the undeveloped part of the suit land.”

The land dispute in Kiziramfumbi started in 2012 when the late Kimera threatened to evict the residents branding them as ‘squatters.’ Further investigations reveal that the community upon receiving the eviction threats filed a court case at the Masindi Magistrate court to halt any evictions.

According to Nkunzi Tanazio, 31 and father to late Namara, the land under dispute is a communal land and has been his home for the last 16 years. He further recites that Godfrey Nyakahuma, the Residence District Commissioner’s efforts to solve the issue have been fruitless.

“He (RDC) came here at the camp and asked us to take our children to Hoima Referral hospital for treatment after seeing the condition they are in,” he said.

The Kijayo community filed an application in the High Court of Uganda challenging the investor for violation of rights and damage of property. The hearing of the application is slated for 2nd September 2015.

According to Buryahika, the community in their file demands UGX 108bn (about 320,000 USD) as compensation from the investor.

In a recent “Up against Giant” report launched by Transparency International Uganda and Civic Response on Environment and Development, oil based investment and its associated benefits have inspired an unprecedented amount of land grabbing in the region with powerful rich elite and District land boards officials fraudulently acquiring land titles over communal lands.

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