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UGANDA: 5,000 families evicted off their land by armed govt personnel

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When contacted, the Commission’s lead counsel, Mr Ebert Byenkya said he could not comment on the matter. FILE PHOTO

Land probe: Authorities, firms defy land commission over Kiryandongo evictions

KAMPALA (DAILY MONITOR) – Authorities in Kiryandongo District are on the spot for defying the Commission of Inquiry into land matters to stop forceful eviction of thousands of families from Kiryandongo and Kitwara Sub Counties.It is alleged that more than 5000 families have been rendered homeless in the ongoing forceful eviction in the district.

The evicted families under their Nyamalebe Landless Association were settled by the government on ranches 15, 20, 21, 22 and 23 in the two Sub Counties under the 1990 Ranches Restructuring Scheme.

They accuse two companies; Agilis Partners Limited, a grain dealing company and Kiryandongo Sugar Limited of colluding with the Police and the office of the Resident District Commissioner to violently evict them and destroying property worth millions of shillings.

Last week, the land probe chaired by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire directed the victims of the eviction to settle back to their land and a status quo to be maintained until investigations are conducted and concluded.

Addressing the media on Wednesday, Mr Geoffrey Ssebagala, the Executive Director of Witness Radio, a local advocacy organization that petitioned the land probe challenging the violent evictions, said that the companies, working with armed personnel have continued to evict people and destroy property even though the land probe issued the order stopping the evictions.

“After the meeting, the Commission sent back the evictees to settle pending investigations, but since last week, the Police together with the companies’ workers have continued to destroy property and arrest whoever they find,” Mr Ssebagala said, appealing to the land probe to urgently intervene to save the plight of peasants.

He said that the police detectives who were sent to provide security to the evictees did not reach the ground leaving the people to suffer.

Describing the actions as violation of human rights of citizens, Mr Ssebagala revealed that they have also petitioned DFID accusing Agilis Partners Limited of using United Kingdom tax payers’ money to violate peoples’ rights.

“We are seeking for investigations into the conduct of the companies while undertaking investment in Kiryandongo because this undermines the UN guidelines on business and human rights,” he said.
Mr Joseph Walekula, one of the leaders of Nyamalebe Landless Association, currently on Police bond said that upon learning of the petition to the land probe, security and district leadership is hunting for them.

He accused the companies of committing acts of torture against them to force them vacate their land.

In the petition before the commission titled “Memorandum on land grabbing and related human rights abuses in former government ranches in Kiryandongo District”, the evictees are seeking for actions to avert the violence and abuse aided by the Police, army and the office of the RDC.

The eviction, according to the petition, resulted from a November 2017 public rally convened by people claiming to be investors – accompanied by the delegation of the Police, army and district officials – in which they ordered the peasant farmers to vacate the land.

“Shortly after the rally, violence, intimidation, use of tear-gas and gun shots, illegal arrests and detention, harassment, demolition of schools and peoples’ houses, destruction of gardens ensued, side-lining lawful procedures of compensation of any lawful occupant of the land,” reads the petition.

Mr Ssebaggala contends that the violent evictions have led to demolition of six schools, causing over 1500 children to drop out of school.

When contacted, the Commission’s lead counsel, Mr Ebert Byenkya said he could not comment on the matter.
“I do not have information on that matter,” he said.

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