Leaders from Uganda’s oil rich districts Petition President Museveni over land Evictions
A group of over 30 community leaders in Hoima district have signed a petition sent to President Yoweri Museveni on the widespread land-grabbing cases that is threatening tenure security in the oil rich region.
The community leaders want the President to revisit the executive ban on land titling in the Albertine region and further instruct his office to investigate the irregularities that have marred land ownership and acquisition.
While speaking at a strategic meeting held in Hoima recently, the group, led by Benon Tusingwire, Executive Director for Navigators of Development Association agreed that petitioning the President was the only alternative the communities were left with after exploring other possible avenues with no avail.
“We are tired of land evictions. We have been pressed to the wall for a long time and petitioning the President is the only alternative to curb the rampant land grabbing here in Hoima,” he said while addressing the team of local government councils.
“The rich, powerful and opportunistic people anticipating to benefit from oil discoveries are fraudulently acquiring land and evicting people who own land customarily and labelling as encroacher,” he added.
Since the discovery of commercial quantities of oil and gas in the area, there has been a rush for prime land with potential buyers flinging in from as far as Kampala.
According to John Peter, leader of evictees in Kiziramfumbi sub-county, the communities are scared, tired and are ready to come out boldly and defend themselves rather than hide behind Non Governmental Organizations.
“We are not getting any immediate assistance from the courts of law and our leaders either. For us we have decided that if we must die fighting for our lands then so shall it be” he sternly said.
He further added that the President should commission an inquiry to study all the cases of illegal land grabbing in Hoima and investigate the land titles awarded by Hoima District Land Board between June 2003 and June 2004.
The community leaders also requested that the land dispute cases currently being handled by Masindi High court be given top priorities since people are living in disparity following illegal evictions and displacements.
According to a recent report ‘Up Against Giants’ launched by Transparency International Uganda and Civic Response on Environment and Development, Communities in the Albertine Graben are being regularly disenfranchised and displaced due to the massive oil-influenced land grabs and evictions.
Ms. Kathleen Brophy, Extractive Governance officer at Transparency International notes that communities that own land under the customary tenure in Hoima are being oppressed due to the lack of formal justice systems that are accessible and compatible with the needs of the rural poor.
“We agree that the country needs investments but it should not be at the expense of grossly violating citizens’ rights,” she notes.
Agreeing with her, Bashir Twesigye, Director Civic Response on Environment and Development recounts that the communities move to petition the President has been catalyzed by the rampant land evictions and land grabbing in Hoima that has been left undressed for a long time.
“There seems to be a big force hindering the attempts of the communities to be heard by the instituted authorities and petition the President is the last resort,” he argued, adding that the communities plight need to be addressed and an inquiry on the illegal land evictions instigated.
The oil sector development is undeniably and significantly affecting the communities and people living within the Albertine Graben as it is the nexus of oil exploration and production. Since the discovery of commercial deposits of oil in 2006, Uganda has seen a number of unintended consequences and negative externalities f from the rapid transformations in the region.
Where does Uganda stand on Land rights for women?
Charles Darwin once stated that if the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. Darwin in his book ‘Voyage of Beagle’, postulate that these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, believe in God and pray that his will be done on Earth! It indeed makes one’s blood boil witnessing how women in rural areas continue to languish in penury.
According to one District Official, land wrangles, disputes and evictions in the districts of Hoima and Buliisa are becoming a ‘normal’ thing’. Land in the rural areas is a symbol of identity and belonging and is essential for livelihoods and well being of many.
Article 26 of the Uganda 1995 Constitution stipulates that every person has a right to own property either individually or in association with others. It is followed by Article 33w which advocates for women empowerment and provides a legal framework for gender equality.
However, in reality, two decades after it came into force, it is evident that women scarcely benefit from these legal elements. The 2001 and 2004 Land Act amendments provides for the protection of spouses by right of occupancy on family land. Sadly, even with these amendments, the Act does not still address the issue of co-ownership rights!
Whereas the National Land Policy 2013 acknowledges the inadequacies in the existing land laws, it does not also advocate for women land rights; but recommends a basis upon which Government can take steps to redress discrimination and disparate impact and suggests for law reform and practice change at the policy implementation level. Arguably, I would will not blame the lack of enforcement for the continuous land disputes but will state that a contributing factor is lack of knowledge of the citizenry regarding their land rights.
A recent report titled ‘Spousal Consent Section in the Land Act in safeguarding women land rights; case study of Hoima district’ reveal that 75 per cent the 100 respondents are not aware of their land rights. It reports that one of the key problems relating to women and land rights is the lack of knowledge, especially on their statutory rights.
The report further reiterates a key issue previously raised by scholars; that women for ages have been denied rights to access, utilize and own lands. They have been disenfranchised by the existing patrilineal system and prevailing male chauvinism regarding land ownership. This ideology that land belongs to men has played a significant role in disenfranchising women from owning, accessing and utilizing land and hence has negatively impacted on women land rights.
It is also evident that communal tenure is slowly fading and rich and unscrupulous persons have also capitalised on the ignorance of land rights in these area to either grab land or buy it cheaply. Most efforts geared to solve this injustice however seem to have hit a dead end!
In all sense of aphorism and axiomatic assertion, giving women access to land will be a commanding means to battle poverty and hunger. So; whereas it would be prudent to commend the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development for trying to address the land issues, there should be a collective effort among all actors including parliament, if Uganda is to realize this long post dream! Often, there is a level of autonomy and empowerment and security that comes with knowing your rights and being able to act accordingly!
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.
African Development Bank writes off 600 Million dollars in Zimbabwe debts
Zimbabwe Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said on Tuesday the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) had agreed to cancel the southern African nation’s $601 million in arrears to the bank.
“The African development bank has set aside some funds to help Zimbabwe clear its arrears to the bank,” Chinamasa told a news conference.
Zimbabwe owes foreign creditors $9 billion and has been struggling for five years to recover from a catastrophic recession, widespread food shortages and hyperinflation.
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