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
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.
During the last week of March 2017, Young Friends of the earth Africa (FoEA) groups and Young Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) had a cross-regional learning meeting for groups participating in the Erasmus project of the FoEI federation in Durban South Africa. The meeting was hosted by groundwork, FoE South Africa.
The Erasmus project brings together youths from African and European regions that are partners to Friends of the Earth to strengthen the Youth Environmental Justice movement, both internally in FoEI and externally with Youth Social and Environmental Justice allies.
The project is also an opportunity to strengthen relationships and ways of working across the European and African regions, and supporting the active engagement of young people in decision-making.
The Director of groundwork, Bobby peek told the young people that one of the principles of FOEI is inclusiveness. Young people can only be included in most of the FOE work if they acquire deeper knowledge around movement building and FoEI is ready to support them.
Ms Sophie Manson, the coordinator for the Erasmus project in FOEI advised the youth to collectively identify creative strategies to enhance the engagement of diverse youth groups.
She told them the future belongs to young people and therefore young people need to critically reflect on particular role they can play in struggles against injustice. She advised them to have one firm voice through the environmental justice movement and suitable thematic campaigns that will prosper their struggles in their individual organizations
In the meeting, NAPE was represented by Peruth Atukwatse who coordinates the Youth Projects. NAPE, in 2016 started a Youth Movement for Social and Environmental Justice in Uganda. The movement is aimed at among other things:
NAPE believes that once the young people are in the driving seat, they can cause the change the organization and other activists and other Civil Society Organizations globally have been struggling to make. Society sometimes have a negative perception of young and because of this, young people are disengage from social, economic and political processes and feel powerless to bring about a sustainable change in their communities. NAPE stands in solidarity with young people as they demand for social and environmental justice.
The story was compiled by Peruth Atukwatse
The American Jewish World Service (AJWS) has hailed NAPE for its work of fighting for environmental justice and human rights of communities affected by the Oil Industry in Bunyoro sub-region of Uganda.
On March 2, 2017, NAPE hosted a team of 24 donors for the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) in its community operational areas in Hoima District. The 24 donors were accompanied by staff of AJWS from their New York and Kampala offices.
The AJWS President and Chief Executive Director, Robert Bank said the effects of oil developments heavily fall on host communities and that it is important for communities to be mobilized to realise their rights and work together to defend them.
He stressed that this can be achieved when the communities have one voice and speak without fear. “Good people speak the truth to power. This is the only thing that can bring change. As AJWS, we stand with you in solidarity” he said while addressing a community gathering at Kaiso-Tonya fishing village on the shores of Lake Albert.
Before Bank made his remarks, the NAPE Executive Director Frank Muramuzi and the Sustainability School Manager, Allan Kalangi had made presentations on NAPE’s vision, mission, core values and objectives and its emphasis on working with grassroots communities who are usually marginalized in development processes.
Through dance and drama, the Kaiso-Tonya communities ably conveyed a message of how oil activities have impacted on their livelihoods and their human rights and how NAPE has played a very big role in sensitizing and empowering them to speak for themselves.
“NAPE has empowered us and we are now able to stand up against human rights violations and conserve the environment as well. With the Community Green Radio initiated by NAPE, our voices have been raised and we have a platform to express our views.” Sylivia Kemigisa, the chairperson of Kaiso Women’s group said.
Judy Stern, a Board member of AJWS applauded NAPE for tremendous work they are doing in organizing the communities to speak as one voice.
“I want to thank NAPE for advocating for the rights of communities. As AJWS, we are happy to support you. That’s why I leave an appreciation message with a great American saying; ‘Never doubt that small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Kaiso-Tonya in Buseruka Sub County Hoima district is one of the areas where some oil wells (Ngasa 1 and Ngasa 2) were discovered and the road was constructed to ease transport. However, the communities say this came with challenges like violation of women’s rights, poor compensation and influx of people in the area leading to lake depletion and frustration of their livelihoods.
From Kaiso-Tonya, the team moved to Kigaga village, Buseruka sub-county which shares the same parish (Kabale) with the yet to be constructed oil refinery. Kigaga forms one of the listeners’ clubs of the Community Green Radio.
Penina Ruhindi, the Chairperson of Kigaga oil refinery affected women’s group welcomed the team. She said that the communities that neighbor the proposed oil refinery area faced challenges of land grabbing, environmental degradation, food insecurity and displacements.
Ruhindi said that the Community Green Radio has helped them in amplifying their voices and sensitizing them on how they can engage in income generating activities that do not degrade the environment.
“I want to thank NAPE for organizing and supporting us. With Community Green Radio, we have been able to raise our challenges and we have also sensitized others on the need to conserve the environment,” Ruhindi noted
NAPE has been supporting communities who are affected by oil activities to provide alternative sources of economic livelihoods like beekeeping, establishment of indigenous tree nursery beds among others and with support from AJWS they have provided them with funds to support community-led income activities through sub-granting.
The Kigaga community mounted a mini exhibition of the organ food crops that they have managed to grow following their being sensitized by the Community Green Radio
Muramuzi pledged that NAPE will continue working with the host communities in the oil region in sensitizing them on oil issues and its impacts on environment and livelihoods and their human rights so that they can position themselves better to benefit from the oil developments.
He also hailed the communities in Bunyoro for intensifying the campaign to revive and promote the indigenous seeds as well as saving the environment. “I am so happy that you are reviving our indigenous seeds to ensure food security. They are part of our culture and are very important for our health and need to be conserved alongside planting indigenous trees to conserve the environment.”
This story was compiled by Precious Natulinda,
Assistant News Editor,
Community Green Radio
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