What you need to know:
- The residents say the companies that occupied their land are being guarded by security agencies that intimidate them.
More than 30,000 residents, who were evicted from their land in Kiryandongo District by multinational companies, have cried out to the government to expedite the process of their compensation and resettlement.
The residents say the companies that occupied the land that they had been settling on for generations are being guarded by police, military and other security agencies who intimidate them.
Dr Chris Baryomunsi, the minister of Information, Communications Technology and National Guidance, told Daily Monitor early this week, that he did not have facts about the number of affected people but the government would assess if they are eligible for compensation.
“Sometimes these people are occupying the land unlawfully so that we just give them some support but if they are genuine owners of the land, I can assure them that they will be compensated,” Dr Baryomunsi said.
The people said they were evicted from the land measuring about 9,500 acres where the companies are practicing agribusiness.
In a press conference in Kampala early this week, civil society organisations claimed the continued silence by the government on the evictions in Kiryandongo has hindered the deserved justice for the affected people.
Mr Francis Odokorach, the country director of Oxfam International, said most of the people they have spoken to have accused their evictors of rape and other human rights violations.
“We are asking the government to expedite the process of compensation, mediation, and negotiation because many people are suffering yet they have been in this land for generations but they cannot get justice from the authorities,” Mr Odokorach said told journalists.
The issue of mass evictions in Kiryandongo District started in 2017 with the arrival of Kiryandongo Sugar Limited where the investor took up about 2,400 hectares of land for sugar cane plantation and erection of other structures. A couple of years later, another company, Agilis Partners Limited, arrived and took up another about 3,850 hectares of land where it is erecting a grain company and another coffee plantation occupying 1,165 hectares of land.
Asked about the allegations of his company evicting people, Mr Suresh Kumar, one of the directors of Kiryandongo Sugar Ltd, told Daily Monitor on Wednesday that the compensation process is ongoing but there were no evictions.
“We have not evicted anybody, there are people who have been compensated and they have left with no quarrel. There is a group of people who have refused to be compensated but our teams are still talking to them,” he said.
Mr Emmanuel Onyango, the spokesperson of Agilis Partners, said they are in the final stages of compensating the people and that only nine are left.
“How can we have evicted people and yet there are some who are still on our land? I have just been talking to some and one of them wants land in Kikuube District where I have gone and identified the site,” he said.
Mr Eron Kizza, a human rights lawyer, said many evicted people are still wandering in the neighbouring areas.
“I have accounts of old women, the age of our grandmothers who testify that they were raped. Many are still on the land because they can’t go anywhere, these investors have planted sugarcanes around them. They have no access to social services which is a violation of their human rights,” Mr Kizza said.
All companies that Daily Monitor talked to dismissed rape claims, indicating that this was hate speech meant to tarnish their image.
The land in contention, which is divided into six ranches, was given to three companies in 2017 by President Museveni to pave way for large scale farming. On July 17, 2017, the President wrote a letter directing the three companies to find a lasting solution but this did not happen. In 2019, the locals too petitioned the land probe team led by Catherine Bamugemereire, who interfaced with the affected residents.