By Bwengye Rahab
On July 11, 2017, Uganda’s Attorney General tabled in Parliament a Bill to amend Article 26 of the 1995 Constitution (as amended) to the effect that the Government can legally displace communities anywhere in the country without prior payment of fair and adequate compensation to the victims.
That the Government should have powers to acquire any land anywhere in the country, including protected areas and no one should have a legal right to challenge such decisions on acquisition.
To be specific, the preferred position by the Government under the proposed amendment, reads, “Where the owner of property or any other person having any interest in or right over property objects to the compensation awarded under the law made under clause (2) (b), the Government or local government shall deposit with court for the property owner or any other person having any interest or right over property, the compensation awarded for the property and the Government or local government shall take possession of the property pending determination by the court of any dispute relating to the compensation.”
Amendment of Article 26 of the Constitution of Uganda reduces citizens’ rights to only money remedies and erodes the existing legal dispensation on land governance and ecosystem protection.
The most unfortunate part of such a move is that it will automatically erode citizen’s rights to grow food, secure water and conserve biodiversity (IPGs). The move will further complicate the equation of development versus conservation since it will result in legalising people’s displacement without consent which displacement will most likely accelerate people’s encroachment on protected areas.
Amendment of Article 26 will further render the environmental laws of Uganda irrelevant since no one will have legal right to question the degradation of ecosystems or abuse of environmental laws and, this will further, accelerate food insecurity and push Ugandans further into abject poverty amidst worsened climate change
Maybe the right questions to ask at this stage would be: Where in Uganda has a road or any other government project failed to be located when the land owner has been adequately compensated?”
Who meets the legal costs when you compulsorily acquire a person’s land and merely deposit what you think is the right compensation in court? In short, are courts going to be a free service in this line??
Where there is forceful eviction, where will the entire family together with the children settle during this saga?
When the compensation is deposited in court since this will not be money to buy food, provide water, secure shelter; how will the evicted family be surviving? Will the Government foot such basic needs?
How will you enforce, for instance, the 2015 Environmental Monitoring Plan for the Albertine Graben, the 2016 Management Plan for Murchison Falls National Park and the 2013 Sensitivity Atlas for the oil rich Albertine Graben, if the amended Constitution “Supreme Law” will be giving exclusive rights to government to compulsorily acquire any land be it private or protected? In short, exclusive rights to invest any where any time. All this said and done, I would think Government needs to give the proposed amendment a critical eye well weighing whether this is the right move.
This is a million-dollar question; the Government will always find difficult to convince Ugandan citizens about.
The writer works with NAPE and co-ordinates Oil Watch Africa
Government of Uganda has proposed an amendment to the Land Act and related laws thereto. Government argues that it should have authority to acquire land for timely implementation of public works, fast-track construction of the proposed 24 industrial parks and other investment projects. The rationale behind the resolution is that members of the public act as bottlenecks in the implementation of such investment projects.
The basis of government’s argument is that on many occasions, some people refuse government compensation asking for more money and in the process, they delay government projects. However, this argument is irrelevant for Section 6(5)(b) of the Land Act which provides that "Where a person awarded compensation under this Section refuses to accept payment, the High Court on the application of the Attorney General may order payment to be made into court on such conditions as it thinks appropriate.
Uganda has sufficient pieces of legislation to deal with compulsory land acquisition and there is no need for further amendment to the Land Act. The 1995 Constitution of the republic of Uganda as amended provides for the right to own property by an individual or a group by virtue of Article 26 of the same constitution. The law further provides for exceptions under which a person can compulsorily be deprived of his or her property specifically land and these include public safety, public order, morality and for health reasons.
In case any of the above exceptions is proved or justified, Government has to make a prompt payment of a fair and adequate compensation to the affected person before acquisition and taking possession of the affected land mindful of the fact that compensation should be based on the actual market value of that land at the time of acquisition. The courts in Uganda have pronounced themselves on this issue and its well settled.
Ugandans too take cognizance of the fact that government ultimately has the right to buy any land if deemed necessary, but there are some circumstances in which an objection could swing in favour of a land owner. Most land ownership in Uganda is guaranteed in the lordship of customary interest, government has no option than to employ eminent domain to acquire private rights in land without complete accepted agreement from the owners for societal benefit. The framework within which government or acquiring authority carry out the processes is highly appalling and has resulted in detrimental outcomes. There many examples where government’s attempt to take over private land has resulted into ugly scenarios, arrests and even death.
Compulsory acquisition of land in Uganda has undermined the principles of good governance. The failure to strictly adhere to the rules and procedures of the available legislative tool, and also inadequate payment of compensation has become obvious and apparent. This tantamount to land grabbing, and many people are worried that if the land policy is amended as proposed many people will lose their land rights to powerful and politically well-connected individuals and multinational companies. Ugandans have interpreted the plan as a well-calculated maneuver that will fuel land grabbing and evictions in the country. Most of which are not adequately compensated.
However, the big challenge is that Uganda does not have a land compensation policy. Policies that relate to land compensation are scattered in various instruments and papers, in Government institutions and departments, which exercise varying responsibilities over land use and management, with many conflicting and others overlapping, all of which follow no clear policy or guideline.
Government maintains that the proposed amendments were premised on the bureaucratic tendencies involved in compensation of the project-affected persons, which tend to stall projects. It is intended to shorten the processes involved by allowing government to start the projects pending negotiations on compensations with the affected persons.
But government needs to handle issue of land carefully. People entirely depend on land for their livelihood. Land has economic, social and cultural significance and is a source of pride to individuals, families and clans. It should not just be dispensed at will.
By Betty Obbo
Uganda joined East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Burundi to phase out the use of mercury in mining in the region as it is harmful to human health and environment. Artisanal gold minld sector in these countries is poorly regulated and monitored.
Unfortunately none of the six East African countries (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda) has so far ratified the Minamata Convention!
In Uganda, NAPE in collaboration with Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health (UNACOH) and Ban Toxics from the Philippines with support from the Danish Government through Diologos, a Denish NGO are promoting a Mercury-Free gold mining worldwide.
The project’s intervention seeks to reduce health and environmental footprints caused by small-scale mining in Uganda. The major aspects of this project are to develop the capacity of ASGM miners and regulatory mechanisms within the local government, to promote mercury-free technology, and monitor mercury in the environment.
Recently NAPE and her partners carried out a Training of Trainers (ToT) for 30 ASGM miners on Mercury-Free techniques with Borax from seven districts of Uganda - (Mubende, Buhweju, Bugir, Namayingo, Busia, Moroto and Nakapiripirit). Fifteen (15) ASGM miners from Central and Southern Uganda were training in Mubende and another 15 ASGM miners from East and Northern Uganda were trained in Namayingo respectively. The miners expressed a high interest in learning the Borax methodology and pledged their total cooperation for the project.
Key benefits of the borax method over the mercury amalgamation process include increased operating efficiencies and higher yields of gold extraction, resulting in better over-all economics even before health and environment issues are considered.
NAPE trains community dialogue animators
NAPE’s approach to strengthen community cultural governance is use of community dialogues. The use of approach is a realisation and appreciation that communities have for long been disconnected from their social and ecological realities, the so called ‘’modernity’’ or ‘’development’’ creates a big divide between the rural agricultural/subsistence folk and the urban ‘’educated’’, terming the later as backward, uneducated and poor. This stereotyping has led these rural communities withdraw their would-be-useful and relevant knowledge from the public domain.
The elderly who have, hither to, provided food, land; conserved ecosystems and brought up the current generation have had their knowledge systems bashed and branded out-dated and backward. Rarely do the modern development workers, agriculturalists, ecologists, and other social workers consult elders in their innovations and researches about food, land and ecosystems.
Dialogues involve identification and involvement of knowledgeable elders in seeking sustainable solutions to the current conflicts on land, food and ecosystems. The elders are the depository of knowledge and young people seek this knowledge by asking relevant and right questions. When elders, gain confidence and faith then they reveal the knowledge used in conservation of ecosystems.
Dialogues are organised in an informal structure and facilitated by a trained animator who ensures an accommodative environment for discussion. The ideas from elders are inform of a story and facilitator ensures he asks the right questions at an appropriate time.
The project works with 3 communities and the selection of animators was carefully done with the help of elders and the entire community group. The animators are part of the community group and have been participating in the dialogues specific roles of these animators will include, among others, the following;
- Mobilising communities and organising community dialogues
- Facilitate dialogues in coordination with the project officer
- Facilitate recording and arrangement of dialogue information, especially drawing community and ecological maps, seasonal calendars, making community constitutions.
In a 5- day training facilitated by NAPE and Gaia staff, the animators were introduced to the theory of earth laws, regarding food, land and ecosystems conservation and organising and facilitating a dialogue. It is planned that as the animators continue participating in the dialogues which are animated by NAPE project officer, they will gain more experience and knowledge from elders. This will enable them start organising and animate the subsequent dialogues in year 2 and 3 of the project.
NAPE is working in partnership with Uganda National Association of Occupational Health (UNACOH) and the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to promote Mercury-Free Project in artisanal Gold mining (ASGM) in selected districts in Uganda. The project is supported by Dialogs, a Danish NGO and Ban Toxic from the Philippines.
Mercury is being used freely in Uganda regardless of the fact that Uganda is a signatory to the Minamata and ILO conventions that banned the use of mercury globally. The project is a global initiative under the Convention that aims at eliminating the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector globally.
Over the past century in Uganda, ASGM emerged as a relatively important source of livelihood and contributor to local economic development in several regions of the country. The ASGM sector in Uganda is informal, unregulated, and characterized by rudimentary methods, and use mercury to recover gold from the ore.
The project will target seven districts: Mubende, Bushenyi, Buhweju, Namayingo, Bugiri, Busia, Nakapiripirit where artisanal and small-scale gold mining is taking place.
The objectives of the project are to;
To realize the Project objectives, two Training of Trainers (ToT) Workshops for artisanal miners from the selected districts has been organized by the project partners. There will be training for miners from the Western parts of the country (Mubende, Buhweju and Bushenyi) will be conducted in Mubende at Ekyekampala gold mining site. The second training for miners from the Eastern parts of the country (Namayingo, Bugir, Busia and Nakapiripirit) will be conducted in Makana mining site in Busia.
The miners will be trained in a new methodology that uses Borax to recover gold from the ore. The Borax methodology has tremendous benefits to the miners and their families; it is user friendly, less toxic and more productive. About 30 artisanal miners will be trained in the new methodology so that they in turn, train other miners in their communities. The training will be from May 26th to June 5th, 2017. Miners will be trained by experts in the use of Borax from Ban Toxic, an NGO from the Philippines and Diologos from Denmark.
The story was compiled by Betty Obbo