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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NAPE and allies have been supporting rural farmers in Bugala who lost their land to the Oil Palm plantation owned by Bidico to get justice since 2010. About 100 famers were evicted from their land to pave way for oil palm growing in Bugala, Kalangala district. Since 2014, the farmers have been battling with the company to be reinstated on their land. NAPE invited the UN Social and Environment Compliance Unit to investigate Bidico’s actions in Bugala.
The UN Social and Environment Compliance Unit have finalized the investigation and released a report implicating Bidco following a complaint filed by Bugala farmers Association.
In the report, the investigators found that the United Nations’ admission, due diligence, and screening processes for private sectors are flawed in general and were not fully complied with in the case of Bidco.
The report found:
The U.N. report goes on to suggest that the world body’s vetting procedures be revamped to prevent controversial companies like Bidco from joining U.N. initiatives without more stringent checks. For example, in one policy that assesses private sector partners, only three “exclusionary criteria” are listed: two relating to the manufacture of armaments and one relating to marketing of breast milk substitutes contrary to World Health Organization guidelines. “It omits the human and labor rights-related criteria from exclusionary criteria,” the report says.
The report acknowledged the farmers’ complaint that the United Nations, by accepting Bidco as a private sector partner, is providing an endorsement that could “serve to facilitate future harmful activities by Bidco in Uganda and/or impact Ugandan communities.”
The report also highlights the investigators’ interviews with farmers during their visit to Uganda, where they found that Bidco’s assertion that there is only one land grievance is disputed by at least 29 families claiming to have been “wrongly displaced.”
The investigators met with several Ugandan women who claim to have been resettled from land now used by Bidco. The women say that they were either not compensated or not informed of their options and did not feel able to negotiate or reject the offer made; they are now living in a shantytown, where growing food is not possible, and they have no means of making money to pay for their needs; and they are living without the fathers of their children because there is no way for these men to make a living in the shantytown.
To determine whether the United Nations should continue to associate with Bidco, the report recommends that UN staff “provide documentation consistent with UNDP’s full Policy on Due Diligence and Partnerships with the Private Sector, the complete Risk Assessment Tool, and Guidance, to ensure that due diligence with respect to Bidco’s membership in BCtA is adequate and outcomes of the due diligence support Bidco’s continued membership in BCtA.”
For further information related to the case, including relevant annexes and the public comments matrix with SECU's responses, you may visit the case file on the SECU Case Registry here:
The was Story Compiled by Joan AKIIZA
NAPE Legal Officer
High court Masindi district in Western Uganda has indefinitely postponed the hearing of the Rwamutonga case where more than 250 families were brutally evicted to pave way for the construction of oil waste treatment plant.
Justice Albert Rugadya Atwoki, High Court resident judge Masindi was expected to give a ruling on an application on January 19, 2017 but he informed court that he would make a ruling on notice.
According to Bashir Twesigye, Executive Director Civic Response on Environment and Development, the judge’s move to make his ruling on notice shows that the judge is not comfortable with the case hence the hesitation to make a decisive ruling.
“Hon. Justice Rugadya should not have any excuse ruling on the case because he has had six months to study the case. The judge making a ruling on notice means that he will make a decision when he feels ready” he argued.
Since the first ruling was done last year, this second ruling would give the evictees a mileage and has been pending for long.
The families were evicted in August 2014 from the two pieces of land; one titled in the names of Robert Bansigaraho and another in Joshua Tibagwa. The affected families have since been living in Kakopo Internally Displaced Persons camp (IDP) with no stable source of livelihood.
Nelson Atich, Bugambe sub county Councilor and representative of the evictees told Community Green Radio, that they were shocked by the judge’s decision to make the ruling on notice. “We are now thinking of petitioning the Principal Judge over this matter,” he stated.
“When we went to court on 19th, January, 2017, we were surprised when the clerk to the judge told us that the judge will give us the ruling on notice. We are in a dilemma, but we think we are not getting justice from courts of law,” Atich said.
He further added that the evicted families have been living in a camp for close to three years now under inhuman conditions yet the case has not been given priority.
According to sources privy to court, the ruling was meant to be given on December 8, 2016 but was postponed to January 19, 2017.
Last year, the then resident judge Masindi Justice Simon Byabakama, who has since moved to the country’s Electoral Commission as its head ruled that 53 families out of the 250 families affected were illegally evicted on land owned by Robert Bansigaraho since the eviction court order was issued in error.
“The eviction was unlawful and should not have happened in the first place because at the time of the execution of the warrant of vacant possession, there was an ongoing suit to determine true ownership of the land,” ruled Justice Simon Byabakama last year.
Justice Byabakama in his ruling also ordered Bansingaraho to compensate the evictees for the unlawful eviction. Following the immense pressure from NAPE and other civil society organizations, Bansigaraho accepted mediation by Justice Centers Uganda and handed over the piece of land to the 53 families.
In their application, the evictees, through their lawyers Iam Musinguzi of Musinguzi and Co. Advocates and Jonathan Okiria, an advocate with Justice Centers Uganda in Hoima are seeking a declaration that the families were unlawfully evicted by Tibagwa Joshua and should be awarded compensation.
In November 2016, Betty Amongi, Minister of lands visited Rwamutonga camp and appointed a probe committee to investigate and establish the rightful owners of the disputed land.
According to Isaac Kawooya, Hoima Resident District Commissioner, the committee finalized its investigations and has submitted a report to the minister. Kawooya says the judiciary should objectively look at the matter in folds to determine whether all evictees are genuine occupants.
Meanwhile over 17 children have died and close to 100 others are suffering from severe malnutrition at Kigyayo camp in Kiziranfumbi sub-county, Hoima District following a forceful land eviction two years back.
On 28th February 2015, about 5000 people were evicted from 1860 hectare piece of land in Kiziranfumbi after it was leased to an investor Hoima Sugar Limited for sugarcane plantation. Namara Scovia, a 7 year old girl is the latest child to succumb to severe malnutrition while at the camp.
Kigyayo camp is located approximately 40 km away from Hoima town and about 7 km away from Kiziranfumbi sub-county headquarters. The 4 acre piece of land where the group is currently residing belongs to Church of Uganda.
According to Buryahika Stephen, head of Kigyayo Internally Displaced People’s camp, Namara is not the only child who has lost her life due to malnutrition. Many 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 68 others including the elderly people 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 to acquire treatment for their children.
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 used a land title for some 10 ha piece of land to evict,” Buryahika revealed in a recent interface meeting when NAPE and Community Green Radio staff visited the camp.
On 4th July 2014, the High Court of Uganda issued an interim order restraining the respondent (Kimera 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 Kiziranfumbi 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. According to Buryahika, the community in their file demands UGX 108bn as compensation from the investor.
In a recent report launched by Transparency International, 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 board officials fraudulently acquiring land titles over communal lands.
Such loopholes leave bad precedents in the judicial sectors, especially when the big fish use temples of justice and police to unleash terror against innocent Ugandans.
Records in the office the Resident District Commissioner, Hoima so far indicate over 1000 households have been affected by illegal land evictions either directly or indirectly between the year 2012 and 2016.RDC Kawooya says only 30% of these victims have accessed court for justice, while others either have no access or are intimidated by their tormentors.
Story compiled by Robert Katemburura Turyomurugyendo,
Editor NAPE Community Green Radio, Hoima District