Denis Hurley Peace Institute, in partnership with the Archdiocese of Gulu Justice and Peace Commission, is investigating and documenting widespread evictions of the populations of entire districts, without compensation, to be given to investors. In the process ancient riverine forests are being decimated, for the wood to be exported to China. DHPI staff member Jeanette lesisa visited Uganda recently. Below is her report:
Land grabbing is a gross human rights violation in Uganda. The situation is getting worse as the populations of entire districts people are being forcefully removed from their land. The forced evictions are clear indication that peoples rights are not respected. The abuses intensified during the Covid–19 pandemic. The pandemic gave a lot of opportunists an advantage to easily access millions of hectares of land with the backing of the government and influential politicians in the country. Foreign firms acquired large areas of natural forests and farm land from the government under the pretext of development and employment. The COVID-19 pandemic was a smokescreen used to rid people of their land. Soldiers were deployed during the lockdown to force people from their homes by burning their houses and arresting some who were resistant.
The Acholi West Union started cultivating the peoples land with one of the Army Generals in charge and forcefully removed the people. Maima Madekai Iyowo a former Lords Resistance Army (LRA) commander is also an opportunist who chased away a whole parish in Apaa area which is now a Game Reseve. Investors including South Africans such as Bruce Martins from South Africa acquired land as a hunting sports facility which is called Lake Albert Safaris in Hoima.
Land grabbing leads to environmental degradation as well. A vast number of shea nut trees have been cut. One of the areas where trees have been decimated is Adilang Sub-County, where close to 500 people from the different parts of the country have been camped in the area, where child labour is being deployed and rights of children being abused in the production of charcoal.
The political elites and the government who are facilitating the land grabs in Uganda want everyone to believe it is development. Lack of international awareness about the the land evictions and environmental destruction during the COVID-19 lockdown exacerbates the problem.
The wealthy elites violate the rights of the poor by taking their land. The government does nothing about it. It in fact promotes such activities because they have an interest. The land and environmental degradation situation in Uganda has been kept under the radar.
However the churches were able to come together and raise awareness about these human rights abuses, see Catholic, Anglican Archbishops condemn murders, injustices and land grabbing (independent.co.ug).