National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) has received the 2019 Uganda Responsible Investment (URI) Award for being the best environmental protection organisation of the year.
NAPE was recognized and appreciated for its contribution towards attainment of Uganda Vision 2040 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SGDs) through promoting and upholding international best practices and standards.
The certificate of award was received by the NAPE Executive Director, Mr. Frank Muramuzi on 22nd November, 2019 during a high level Uganda Responsible Investment Summit and award ceremony that was presided over by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. The ceremony that was held at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala was organised by Public Opinions and Office of the Minister of State for Privatization and Investment.
Addressing the participants, President Museveni expressed concern over massive degradation of wetlands and forests which he said he will not tolerate any longer. He attacked irresponsible investors who have degraded forests and wetlands thinking they are promoting sustainable development yet they are greatly contributing to climate change.
Mr. Muramuzi said the award manifests the visible achievements by NAPE especially in areas of environment protection and human rights.
“Now that the government has come out to recognize our efforts, it means that NAPE has hit its target and goals as an environmental organization,” Muramuzi said while addressing staff.
Mr. Rajab Bwengye, the Coordinator of Projects at NAPE said that receiving the award is a clear sign of the firm footprint that NAPE has put in the struggle to protect and conserve the environment in Uganda and beyond.
“NAPE has been criticizing big environmental polluters and degraders, manufacturing industries, mining companies, oil companies, companies producing consumer products using chemicals and others. So being awarded as the best environmental organization in the presence of sector players is an indicator that we have done our part to ensure that these private sector companies observe the laws, guidelines and best practices for environmental protection,” Mr. Bwengye said.
NAPE has been at the forefront in campaigns against environmental degradation which among others include; campaign to save Mabira Forest, campaign against Bujagali falls destruction and the save Bugoma Forest campaign.
In 2007, NAPE disputed the giveaway of around 27 square kilometers of Mabira forest to Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL) owned by Mehta Group of Companies for sugarcane plantations. The government in collaboration with SCOUL had proposed to de-gazette this part of the forested land and transfer its ownership to the sugar company. NAPE in conjunction with other civil society groups in Kampala formed a pressure group codenamed „Save Mabira Crusade‟ which mobilized Ugandans across the country and beyond to protest the forest de-gazettement plan.
The government bowed to pressure and abandoned the plan to de-gazette the forest. However, in 2011, the government again attempted to resurrect the de-gazettement plan but NAPE and other civil society met the president who suggested a joint research between the activists and State House on economic values of the forest which would inform the government on their next step. Since then, the government has kept silent on the Mabira forest issues.
NAPE was also against the construction of Bujagali power dam saying it would not benefit Ugandans and it presented numerous social, economic and environmental problems. However, the Government and World Bank did not listen to the concerns of environmental activists and went ahead to approve the dam project in 2001.
Today the dam that was expected to add 250 MW to the national grid is unable to produce 180 MW and electricity demand continues to rise in the country.
In Albertine Region, NAPE has campaigns against Bugoma forest give-away for Sugar cane plantation, campaign on food security and seed sovereignty and protection of sacred natural sites.
ISSUED BY THE NAPE COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT
With some of the characters from Hoima and Buliisa, the documentary, Women Hold Up the Sky tells the story of how women activists affected by mining and other forms of large-scale extractives in Uganda, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are deeply engaged in resistance and active struggle to take back the control of their land, rights, bodies and their lives.
“Now that we are back on the land, nobody should interfere with our rights as women. If they come to evict us again, we will die to the last person standing,” said Lucy Ongiera a community group leader for Rwamutonga women savings group in Hoima district in the film.
It reveals the experience and activism of women in the three African countries but tells a much bigger story of the ongoing exploitation of natural resources and marginalization of poor communities, particularly women.
“The oil companies destroyed our crops, driving through with the tractors, graders, wires and trucks. When they came to pay, I realized the money they brought was not the right amount, so I rejected it. When I complained, they said they don’t care. I went to court to sue them. And the case has been in the high court since 2011, motionless. We are like squirrels against an elephant because the elephant is huge and can run over you and squash you,” said Margaret Kagole, the chairperson of the TulimeHamu Mbibo Zikadde Women’s group in Buliisa, another character in the film.
The film that was done with support from the WoMIN-an, African Gender and Extractives Alliance, in partnership with the National Association of professional Environmentalists (NAPE) The Uganda film launch was attended by women affected by oil developments, women activists, government leaders who pledged to unite together to strongly hold up their struggles on land and their rights in the era of oil development.
“I have heard in the documentary one women saying that her husband was beaten and left unconscious during eviction in Rwamutonga. What if it was my husband, me who has no eyes, who can’t see? How would I have looked for him? Some of these real-life stories make us emotional but it’s a lesson for us as women to stand up and fight for our land. We need to come together as women,” said Joy Nalongo Rufunda, the Chairperson of Blind women association.
Margret Kagole from Buliisa said women should not give up in fighting for their rights on land and be organized in groups to be able to have one strong collective voice.
“I thank NAPE for empowering me. I have been empowered to stand up and fight for what belongs to me. Like for my land case that has been in court since 2011, I think the people I am battling with have now feared me. They have started calling me for peace talks but I refused because I have my lawyer. I have heard it in corridors that I will be compensated. This is what we need as women. We hold on, we don’t give up,” Kagole said.
Bernadette Plan, the Secretary for Gender for Hoima District asked women to work hard and hold up to their struggles against the injustices that have come with oil development in the district with the sky being the limit.
Catherine Byenkya, the Minister for Health in Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom hailed NAPE for going on ground to bring out the untold stories of women. She asked women to work together as women and build a platform where the voices from the grassroots to national level can be heard.
“Thank you, NAPE, for loving women. Let’s work together as women to build ourselves. Let’s stand bold and speak up in defending our rights on land,” said Catherine Byenkya.
Sostine Namanya, the Gender and Food Security Officer at NAPE applauded women who took part in the documentary. She said land issues, environmental degradation and climate displacements affect women most and the documentary gives a lesson on what women face in other countries compared to Uganda and how they are taking on their resistance struggles.
She added that ‘’ Women hold up the sky’’ is a character-driven film about African women who are deeply engaged in struggles to take back control of their land, their rights, their bodies and their lives. The film tells us about women’s experiences and their dreams for development.
The film will be used by allies in the global North will use it for training, political education, lobbying and advocacy. The film will also be the centrepiece of a women-led women’s rights African campaign on fossil fuels, energy and climate justice.
The film will cultivate greater awareness of the costs of extractives-driven development, and its gendered costs, amongst civil society organisations and the wider public, and it will be used to advocate and campaign for the needed development alternatives to governments and multilateral bodies, like the African Union and the United Nations.
Co-written by Precious Naturinda & Namanya Sostine
November 25 marks the International Day of elimination of violence against women, which begins the 16 world wide activism campaign against gender-based violence that goes up to December 10. The day is observed every year to raise awareness on the fact that women are subject to rape, domestic violence and other forms of violence around the world. Following on from last year, this year’s global theme once again focuses on violence and harassment in the world of work.
As one of the activities to raise awareness campaigns, NAPE organized media interactions with Women human rights Defenders (WHRD’s) in Bunyoro region to share experiences, strategies and struggles in the face of violence against women.
The women expressed concern over the rising over rising cases of gender based- violence that often go unreported fear to speak out, impunity by perpetrators and gender inequality.
Peninah Ruhindi, a woman activist from Kigaaga in Kabaale Sub County in Hoima says the compensation of persons affected by oil developments has triggered violence in the oil-rich region as men want to take control all the compensation money.
Harriet Kemirembe, the chairperson of Kijayo camp of people who were evicted for Sugarcane growing in Kijayo Kikuube district says many women who have undergone sexual harassment and rape in the camp have suffered in silence due to fear to break their marriages and shame. She says women are instead freeing their homes in the camps due to the psychological torture they undergo. “Women fear to pass through the sugar plantations because they have been raped and sexually harassed by the employees in the sugar factory but they can’t speak. Where do you start from? Even back in the camp, we are sexually harassed by our husbands in the face of our children due to the nature of the makeshift huts we sleep in. A man wants to have sex with you when the children are listening. It hurts,” she said.
Jenipher Beitwamaswa, from Navigators of Development Association (NAVODA), a community Based Organization in Hoima says efforts to take up legal actions on sexual harassment and rape have become hard because the victims fear to speak out to give evidence.
“There is a case of rape from Kijayo camp that we were following where a man pushed the woman out of the house only to be raped by the sugarcane workers. However, we failed to take it on because the victim has failed to speak out,” she said.
Despite the challenges, women activists who have been empowered by NAPE are coming up together as a collective power to mobilize other women in communities to speak up in the face of violence. They say through their women groups, they talk about the challenges affecting them including gender-based violence and how to find solutions.
Evas Katusiime, a resident of Kakindo in Buliisa says violence is used as a mechanism that suppresses women yet women have equal access to resources, opportunities and services as men. She said women should join groups to be able to stand together to fight the challenges.
“I thank NAPE for empowering us, it has opened our eyes. Gone are the days when women were violated against and remained silent because there is widespread advocacy through trainings and forming groups. I believe together, we can speak up and fight for our rights,” Katusiime said.
WHRD’s urged the government leaders to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace by putting in place and implementing sexual harassment policies by regularly and promoting the policies, translate into relevant community languages. Put in place reporting mechanisms and promote gender equality. Provide regular trainings and information to women workers and activists.
Women human rights defenders like Evas face many risks to protect their rights, NAPE and its allies will continue standing in solidarity with women in addressing violence through sensitization, amplifying their voice and bring out the untold stories that women and girls face.
Co-written by Precious Naturinda & Namanya Sostine
By NAPE Editorial Team
Buliisa District Council has unanimously passed a resolution to legally recognise the Customary/Earth Laws of the Bagungu indigenous communities which had been documented with the support of the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE).
The council session presided over by the Deputy Speaker Joyce Mbabazi Kadogori, passed a motion to recognize and customize the earth laws on Wednesday, 6th November 2019. The motion to recognize customary laws was moved by Gilbert Tibasimwa the district youth councilor and was seconded by Yofes Mudaaki, councilor for Buliisa sub-county before members unanimously passed it pending procedures to formulate these customary laws into an ordinance.
After the recognition by the government, these customary laws will guide the 26 custodial clans to lead all the other 56 indigenous clans in Buliisa district to protect their traditional food systems, ancestral land and ecosystems referred to as territories in which the Sacred Natural Sites are embedded as spiritual energy spores of the Mother Earth.
These Community Ecological Governance laws will also help the communities to rejuvenate their indigenous knowledge systems, thus reweaving the basket of life; both terrestrial and aquatic.
The customary laws for Bagungu first went through, the district Technical Planning Committee headed by the Buliisa Chief Administrative Officer Chrezostom Kayizi which approved them and forwarded them to the District Executive Committee (DEC) headed by District chairman Agaba Simon Kinene who also approved them and forwarded them to the district Speaker for council plenary.
During council session, the custodians of Sacred Natural Sites led by their chairperson Robert Mukitare defended their resolution to have the customary laws documented because they would guide them in conserving their natural heritage and in defending their food and land rights.
Robert Katemburura, the Head of Community Ecological Governance program at the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) told councilors that once passed, these customary laws will supplement the implementation of Section 4 of the National Environment Act (2019) that recognizes rights of nature to exist, persist, and regenerate its vital cycles in the processes of evolution.
Sacred Natural Sites are included within conservation areas for which Rights of Nature law applies.
The Bagungu Communities in Western Uganda are now the first indigenous communities in Africa and on the globe to successfully push their governments to integrate customary laws into their existing legal frameworks.
With the help of the European Union, the African Biodiversity Network, and the Gaia Foundation, NAPE has been leading this process in Hoima and Buliisa districts through community dialogues that saw the formation and registration of the Custodial clans Association.
NAPE and her partners facilitated the process to ensure that elders and custodians of indigenous knowledge documented these laws in cognizant to the Treaties and conventions to which Uganda is a signatory. Example is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognizes one’s right to freely participate in cultural life without discrimination. Sacred Natural Sites and Territories could be recognized under this section, and their protection from destruction by industrial development required full legal recognition by the Local Governments.
The African Commission on Peoples’ Rights which had earlier recognized custodians of Sacred Natural Sites in Buliisa has welcomed this pronouncement by the Ugandan District Local Governments.
The Buliisa District Chairman Simon Kinene hailed NAPE and partners for supporting this milestone achievement towards conservation of nature.
He asked the custodians of sacred natural sites not to condone some acts and practices which contravene the existing laws on environment and natural heritage in general.
Frank Muramuzi, the NAPE Executive Director says his organization will be working with partners like Buliisa Local Government to develop these laws into an ordinance. He says as the process enters into the legal domain, it requires drawing on experiences elsewhere, especially within the Earth Jurisprudence and indigenous networks.
Early this year, NAPE, Gaia Foundation and Advocates for Natural Resources &Development (ANARDE) in a joint campaign, successfully pushed parliament to amend the National Environment Act and included Section 4- “Rights of Nature”. This is means that a tree or Lake Albert through their custodians can sue anybody or company degrading them and perpetrators be forced to pay heavily for the damages.
In early April, the Executive Director, NAPE and the Netherlands Ambassador to Uganda went on a multi-stakeholder tour to the Oil Pal mill in Kalangala. The tour was aimed at getting key lessons for expansion of palm oil growing in other parts of the country. Palm oil is grown on a large scale on Bugala, Bubembe and Bunyama Islands in Kalangala district, and in Buvuma island in Mukono district. Now Uganda Government plans to extend the oil palm project beyond the Islands on Lake Victoria. Oilseed development around four hubs (Lira, Eastern Uganda, Gulu and West Nile) covering 43 districts, including Mpigi, Masaka, Kalungu, and Bunyoro region is in the offing.
This sounds very good in ears of government, especially when the venture has to do with increase on the country’s GDP. But to biodiversity conservationists including NAPE, the move sends chilling shock-waves especially in this error of climate uncertainty. Large monocultural establishments are associated with a host of short-comings ranging from social to ecological. Studies on impacts of Palm Oil on communities and the environment across the globe revel untold suffering of the host communities. The main issue around large-scale palm oil projects are its impact on the rural communities. Poorly xxxxx land-laws and regulations to protect the communities worsens the bad situation leading to increased social and environmental injustices.
For the case of Uganda, communities in Kalangala and its enviros were fisher folks previously, and they depended entirely on fishing for their livelihoods. With the introduction of palm oil growing, many households have been persuaded to switch from fishing and subsistence farming to growing palm oil trees. Small-holder farmers are encouraged to devote the largest portion of their farmland to palm oil gardens. This has resulted in shortage of food as households cannot grow enough food to feed their families.
To address food shortage in Kalangala, government has developed a policy on food, where every small-holder farmer is manded to reserve two acres of their land for growing food. We are yet to see if this will help to increase food production in the palm-oil growing areas of Kalangala. The stakeholder tour aimed to hear experiences of the communities on oil pal project to inform the plan for expansion of growing palm trees beyond Kalangala. The tour included representative from IFAD, Government of Uganda, representatives from the Dutch Embassy and OPUL.