Masindi High Court has cleared another eviction for families in Rwamutonga village, Hoima district, where a US firm wanted to set up an oil waste treatment plant.
An order dated April 4th 2017 signed by the assistant registrar Acio Julia cleared Ochika Julius, a court bailiff, to give vacant possession of the land to Tibagwa Joshua and Kusiima Robinah and to demolish any illegal structures on the land.
The land is on certificate titles under VRF 10521, Folio 6, Block 44 measuring 103.553 hectares located at Rwamutonga village, Katanga parish, Bugambe sub-county in Buhaguzi County.
“Whereas the above mentioned land is in possession of Abwoli Mukubwa Beatrice, Uromacan Martin, Ausenge Petero, Onita Quinto, Latim Alex, the applicants, their relatives, agents or servants was decreed to Tibagwa Joshua and Kusiima Robinah,” the order reads in part.
“You are hereby directed to put Tibagwa Joshua and Kusiima Robinah in possession of the same and authorized to remove any property/persons bound by this decree that may refuse to vacate the same,” the order stated.
The order, which was kept a secret from the families facing eviction, became known on April 20th when it was served to Hoima district security committee members.
The order has sparked tension and fear among the families who were evicted from the same land on August 25th 2014.
The families that lived in a makeshift camp near the land for about three years returned to the land in March this year (2017)after being permitted by Robert Bansigaraho who is in a land dispute with Joshua Tibagwa.
IGP clears eviction
In a letter dated April 19th, addressed to the Albertine regional police commander, the office of the Inspector General of Police cleared the eviction.
“The purpose of this letter is for you to comply with the court order. If any person feels aggrieved by the court order, the remedy is to appeal or cause review of the matter at hand,” Nairuba Diana, an official in the Police’s Legal department wrote for the IGP.
According to Nairuba, the applicants applied for a review of the court order which was clearly denied by the learned judge. The trial judge was Justice Simon Byabakama who has since been appointed Uganda’s Electoral Commission chairman.
“A court order is a court order and cannot be replaced by an administrative decision, thus be advised to comply with the order as guided by the commandant land protection unit in the attached forwarding letter,” the letter referenced PLS 62/211/01/VOL 56 read.
Prime Minister had blocked eviction
The Prime Minister’s office had previously blocked the eviction of the families. This was directed in a letter dated March 6th 2017 signed by the First Deputy Prime Minister Gen Moses Ali and addressed to the Albertine regional police commander Police:
“Please ensure that no eviction takes place, with a view of enhancing peace and tranquility. By a copy of this letter, the minister of internal affairs is hereby informed and so is the Inspector General of Police (IGP),” stated Ali who is also a deputy leader of Government business in parliament.
Gen Ali reminded police about the ruling at Masindi High Court in which Justice Simon Byabakama declared their eviction as wrongful on October 22nd 2015.
Judge petitioned to halt eviction
The centre manager at Justice Centres Uganda, Mr. Tiyo Jonathan, wrote on April 21st 2017 to the Masindi resident judge asking him to exercise his supervisory powers and halt the execution of the eviction and investigate anomalies in the court process.
He said the bailiff had been directed to put Tibagwa and Kusiima in possession of the land from where the families were wrongfully evicted.
He stated that the lawyers are preparing to file an application for a judicial review to quash the warrant and prohibit the intended execution so as not to cause injustice and inconvenience to the families.
Much as the eviction has not yet taken place, it can be executed anytime from now. The eviction order will expire on May 4th 2017.
Robert Bansigaraho who in 2014 entered into a consent judgment and surrendered his title covering 103 hectares to Tibagwa has since withdrawn from the deal and allied with the families.
He argues that the families have suffered enough as a result of displacement which prompted him to allow them back on the land.
Mr. Tibagwa sued Mr. Bansigaraho accusing him of grabbing his land. However in a turn of events, Mr. Bansigaraho entered into a consent judgment with Mr. Tibagwa in September 2013 in which Bansigaraho surrendered a title covering 103 hectares to Mr. Tibagwa.
Mr. Bansigaraho, however, says he regained his land after Mr. Tibagwa failing to give him an alternative 350-acre piece of land, compensating squatters and fully compensating him.
Mr. Tibagwa insists that Mr. Bansigaraho surrendered to him his title and signed the title transfer forms.
Mr. Tibagwa consequently applied to court for an eviction order to evict Mr. Bansigaraho and occupants of the land which he obtained in July 2014. The over 250 families were then evicted in august 2014. The eviction was later declared unlawful and should not have happened in the first place, Masindi High Court ruled.
By Oil in Uganda Correspondent, Hoima
Members of Parliament and human rights activists have asked government to enforce the laws in the mining sector to protect the right of women in the sector. The MPs and other stakeholders said women in the minerals sector face a lot of challenges, which need to be addressed.
The call was made during the National Dialogue on Land and Extractives, under the theme, “Harnessing citizen participation for good governance and sustainable livelihoods,” at Hotel Africana on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. The conference was attended by government officials, artisanal miners, district leaders, cultural leaders and civil society representatives among others.
Nivatiti Nandujja, Human Rights Coordinator at Action Aid Uganda (AAU), said the extractives sector is male dominated and women participation is wanting. She explained that the few women employed in mines are working under inhuman and poor working conditions with meager pay.
“Women working in mines do not enjoy the entitlement provided for by the law. They don’t get maternity leave or sick leave, but instead, when they get pregnant, they are simply laid off,” Nandujja said. She said despite the good policies and laws on gender based violence, the position of women has not improved and advocated for other interventions in addition to enforcement of policies and laws in order to ensure gender equity in extractives sector.
Catherine Nyakecho, a Geologist working with Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development disagreed with MsNandujja that the minerals sector is male dominated. She quoted a research by African Center for Energy and Mineral Policy (ACEMP) that revealed that of the sites visited, women are more into stone quarrying, salt mining, marble, limestone, and sand mining – the low value minerals, while the men are where the money is.
However, she said women in mines have been exposed to more poor working conditions than men. For instance in stone quarrying, she said women and children are engaged in crashing stones with their bare hands, which exposes them to accidents and a lot of dust, which affect their lives.
Despite spending a whole day crashing stones, women get meager pay. “Stone quarries lack toilets and therefore women during menstruation periods have to travel back home for health break – wasting a lot of their valuable time and when they fall sick, they get no payment,” she said.
Nyakacho explained that in salt mining, men wear condoms to prevent salty water from entering their bodies through their private parts, but in contrast, though women need protective gears too, they are normally not provided for, and thus enter salty water without protective gears, which has negative consequences on their health.
In gold mining, women are exposed to dangerous chemicals like mercury. Whereas the men get the ore or gold sand out of the ground, Nyakecho said women are exposed to mercury during panning for gold which affect their lives. Weighing in on mercury, one of the participants from Amudat district said there is a worrying trend that feet/legs of women working in goldmines are swelling, due to what she suspects could be prolonged exposure to mercury.
Deborah Ariong, the Natural Resources Officer, Amudat district, said she had witnessed breast-feeding mothers panning gold with mercury and then breast-feed babies thereafter. She called for strict enforcement of health and safety measures in mines like ensuring all workers wear protective gears.
Betty Atiang, programme Manager at Saferworld Uganda, told the extractives sector in Uganda is expanding, and as it expands, it is worsening existing tension and exposing new conflicts. The sector, she explained, is faced with land conflicts in form of land grabbing, contention over surface rights, conflicts that relate to allocation of royalties, environmental degradation and gender based violence among others. She observed that conflict is an impediment to good governance and implored participants to make a contribution towards promoting conflict free extractives sector, transparency, accountability, citizen’s participation in decision making.
Drawing from his experience as an artisanal miner in Mubende district, Emmanuel Kibirig said women of today can do mining, though by their nature they can’t go inside the pit. Therefore, in the pit, miners don’t employ women. He explained that in gold mining, the value chain is that men dig and go inside the pit in order to extract gold ores/sand on the ground for women to their work in the value chain.
Mukitale Mukitale, the MP Buliisa, said women artisanal miners need to form strong cooperatives or associations, through which they can demand for more protection and seek help. Weighing on the discussion, Adong Lilly, Woman MP Nwoya district, told in order to protect women rights, there is need to amend the laws and policies governing the minerals sector to cap a percentage of jobs and contracts to be given exclusively to women. This will ensure that women in the sector are empowered.
By Edward Ssekika
CSOs have organised a dialogue slated for Wednesday the 26th April 2017
Four of Uganda’s Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are hosting an annual multi-stakeholder national dialogue under the theme; Land and Extractives – harnessing citizen participation for good governance and sustainable livelihoods.
The meeting that is expected to attract more than 100 participants is aimed at ensuring that stakeholders at the grassroots interact with the leaders at both local and central government to ensure transparency and good governance of the oil, gas and mineral sector.
The convention, organized by Action Aid Uganda (AAU), Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED), Saferworld Uganda and Transparency International Uganda (TIU), will be held at Hotel Africana on Wednesday the 26th of April, and among the invitees are delegates from Parliament, the private sector, industry players, government agencies, local government leaders, community leaders, community representatives and relevant CSOs.
The meeting arose out of findings by civil society regarding the increasing unplanned and untimely displacements and land disputes in the oil rich and mining areas, which inhumane activities affect people, particularly the less privileged, including women and children.
Instead of remedying this pattern, the government has instead recently decided to worsen the problem by proposing an amendment to Article 26 of the Constitution with the effect of allowing government to acquire land before effecting compensation to the project-affected person.
Elaborating on the expected outcomes from the meeting, Mr. Ivan Mpagi, the Extractives Governance Project Manager at ActionAid Uganda, explains that the meeting is meant to create a platform for discussing the challenges in the extractive sector by engaging policy makers on what needs to be done in order to address these challenges.
“We want to bring the oil companies together to tell Ugandans how far they are in the actual extraction of oil,” Mr. Mpagi says. “The extraction will generate employment, and it will generate revenues as well, and we as civil society want to monitor this development and hold these actors accountable.”
He further expresses hope of more transparency concerning the government’s exploration agreements with the oil companies (Tullow, CNOCC and Total), as he finds the government to have been “very secretive” until now. “Through the dialogue we hope that Ugandans can be told about the agreements made with these companies.”
By Preben A. Martensen-Larsen
The current situation for the over 200 indigenous families (1500 people) formerly evicted from Rwamutonga, Hoima District, is characterized by major problems, and it has been thus, since their return on their land in February this year, the residents claim.
A recent visit by a team from ActionAid Uganda found a suffering hungry humanity, sleeping under tattered shelter made of tarpaulin, and crying babies who appeared malnourished while many seemed to have gone hungry for days
In August 2014, families were evicted from their land of over 485 hectares on which they had lived as squatters for years, hence becoming owners. The land, whose alleged rightful owners are Robert Bansigaraho and Joshua Tibangwa, was leased to an oil waste management firm MCalester Energy Resources. In the process, the residents were evicted and left homeless and these were only saved by a good samaritan who allowed them to elect a camp on his land, to find shelter there as they awaited justice to prevail.
Recently, more than two years after the eviction, a bright light shone on the residents when justice prevailed and the long awaited judgement was made in their favour. Thanks to the court order, the local leadership, the people’s zeal and support from one of the landlords Mr Basingaraho as well.
The court ruled that the people were wrongly evicted, and there was need for fresh negotiations with the owner. Mr Basingaraho accepted the residents to return on the land arguing that he did not own the entire land, but just part of it.
And even more recently, the 1st Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Moses Ali supported the cause. He stayed police from any further re-evictions of the Rwamutonga residents unless court states so.
No water, food or medicine
Whereas the good news is that families are trying to establish themselves exactly as they were before the eviction, the darker side of this is life is very tough for them. Life here is no fairy tale.
Mothers carry their babies on the back whole day and move home to home in search of food. There are no smiles there, everyone looks angry, frustrated and lifeless – blaming it on hunger.
“The major issues at the moment are lack of food, no water, or medicine,” Gladys Ougyumoti told Oil in Uganda during the visit in early March, “We are like wild animals, we just move from place to place in search of food.”
Worse still, they are just getting back to their gardens (which have turned into bushes in the last two years) to plough, but the fruits are far from reach since the ploughing just started.
Worse still, there is hardly any permanent shelter here, as many are using tattered tarpaulin to cover the houses made of sticks. The houses get socked in water when it rains, and they are open to mosquitoes and wild animals since there are hardly any doors.
“We are drinking water with the baboons. We are living a baboon live, “Mr Rashid Amora a resident here told Oil in Uganda
And the health of everyone does not brighten up the day either. Almost everyone is coughing, and mosquitoes do not spare them either. Malaria has become a part of them; the infants are testimony to this. Many lie almost lifeless, suffering from malaria yet with no access to medicine. Reports show that an effort to access treatment from the health centres has been in vain as they are chased away by medical workers: “They look at us like dirty (filthy) people who are homeless. They tell us not to disturb them when we ask for medicine,” Ms Lucy Alungat said.
“We are living like how we lived in the camps. In fact, the camps were better because people would send us food, bags of posho and beans. But here, we do not receive free food anymore. We do not receive medicine,” Ms Alungat revealed.
Furthermore, Ms. Gladys Ougumort added that long distances to any kind of treatments are just some of the problems that women face.
A grime future ahead
According to Betty Kosemerwa, who is still breastfeeding her infant son, it is very difficult to give much thought about the future under the current circumstances. One thing she is certain of is that the discovery of oil will have bad effect on many people in Uganda, and the eviction in Rwamutonga is a clear example of this.
Ms Kosemere whose husband was blinded by tear gas, thanks to the fights with Police and their current landlord over this land, is responsible for the entire household, which is a big burden to her. She is therefore more concerned about getting more basic and urgent needs now.
Ms Kosemerwa requested civil society to talk to government and convince them that people, like the wrongfully evicted families in Rwamutonga, have rights over the land. “Government has to come and understand where people are and how they live,” she added.
ActionAid Uganda’s Project Manager Ivan Mpagi retaliated Ms Kosemerwa’s statement, urging government to play its part. He urged them to support the legal process to ensure that the evictees see full justice and regain back their land.
By Preben A. Martensen-Larsen and Flavia Nalubega
A group of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in the areas of Oil Governance and Transparency have implored government to end to secrecy in the oil sub sector. Read More
Civil Society Organizations working on land issues in the oil rich region have launched a sharing platform dubbed the Albertine Region Land Platform (ARLP) to devise mechanisms to curb the rampant land disputes in the region. Read More
The evicted Rwamutonga residents have returned to land from which they were evicted two years ago, Oil in Uganda has established. Read More
Ministry of Energy argues that the farm-down creates monopoly in the Albertine Graben
Officials in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) and Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) are in contention on whether Tullow Oil Plc’s farm-down to Total E&P Uganda should be approved, Oil in Uganda can reveal. Read More
President Yoweri Museveni on Monday commissioned African Gold Refinery Limited; the first State of the Art refinery in Uganda and East Africa region.
The facility, located in Entebbe, Wakiso District is 45 kilometres from Kampala and estimated to be worth $20m (about 72 billion Shillings) has been operational since 2014.
Speaking at the launch of the refinery, President Museveni urged government officials to get rid of wrong policies such as taxes on prospective investors if the mineral sector industry is to get a shot in the arm.
“I highly commend the management of AGR limited for bringing the company to Uganda. Africa produces a lot of gold but has so far attracted less of the same industries. I am calling on Africans to wake up and utilize the untapped potential,” President Museveni said.
The refinery will have a capacity to refine raw gold to 99.9% pure gold and the raw material is expected to come from different countries across the region.
According to Global Witness, an International transparency watchdog, some of the raw gold exports are likely to be from Congo and South Sudan, raising concerns over conflict minerals.
“Uganda’s gold sector is shrouded in mystery. You have to ask who is really benefiting. The gold trade was worth $200 million to the Ugandan economy last year but there are no official figures on where the gold came from or where it is going,” said George Boden, a campaigner at Global Witness.
“This raises serious questions about whether gold that may have funded conflict and human rights abuses in (eastern Congo) and South Sudan could be entering the international supply chain and whether the right taxes are being paid.”
According to Tony Goetz, a Belgian gold trader and AGRL’s main investor, the gold refinery will serve a critical role in the mining industry across the region and will employ about 75 Ugandans and with a capacity of 300kg of pure refined gold in a week and ability to increase it to 500kg.
“The refinery contains a geo chemical laboratory with high sophisticated equipment like an atmoic absorption unit. This is very vital since it traces most of the elements in the soil samples,” he said.
However, the chairman of the gold miners in Mubende District, Mr. Mark Jombwe, said the news of a gold refinery does not exactly excite them unless their operations are legalized.
“As artisanal miners, all we care about is licenses to operate legally and because of uncertainties, we cannot invest much in our operations as we are not sure of what lies ahead,” he told Oil in Uganda.
Though gold mining in Uganda is largely on small scale, the country serves as a transit point for gold exports from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has large reserves.
Uganda has been keen to attract investors to its mining sector after government surveys established the existence of minerals including gold, base metals, uranium, rare earths, iron, titanium, vermiculite and diamond in various locations.
Report by by Robert Mwesigye and Collins Hinamundi
Is a rock found in your land a mineral and therefore vested in the State?
A family in Oyam District has sued the Government of Uganda and Sino Hydro Corporation Ltd for unlawfully crushing ‘its’ rock into aggregate and using it to construct Karuma hydro-electric power dam without compensation, Oil in Uganda exclusively reveals.
In the suit Etot Paul and others Vs Attorney General and Sino Hydro Corporation Ltd, filed in 2015 in the Land Division of the High Court, the family of Mzee Etot wants court to compel Government and Sino Hydro Corporation Ltd – a Chinese company constructing the 600 megawatts Karuma dam, to pay for aggregate derived from the family rock.
According to the family, it all started in 2012, when the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development decided to compulsorily acquire land near and around Karuma to pave way for the construction of the dam.
“Part of Mzee Etot’s land was among parcels that government acquired for construction of the dam. However, government only assessed the value of the land and development on it without taking into consideration the value of the rock on the land,” family spokesperson told Oil in Uganda.
The family claims that since it owns the land, it also owns the rock on the land, and therefore deserves compensation for the value of the rock.
“Consequently, government unlawfully took over the family’s parcels of land adjacent to river Nile, and handed it to Sino Hydro Corporation Ltd for the construction of the dam,” the plaint reads, further noting that part of the land which also contains a rock is also their property.
Through their lawyer, George Omunyokol, the family claims Sino Hydro Corporation brought a rock crusher and crushed the rock into aggregate that it is using to construct Karuma hydro-electric power dam free of charge.
Omunyokol argues that stones and rocks are not minerals and therefore government should compensate the family for unlawful use of its rock.
“The stone/rock in our clients land is not a mineral because the Constitution excludes it from minerals,” he states in the plaint.
Omunyokol’s argument is premised on Article 244(1) of the Constitution of Uganda that vests the entire property in and control of all minerals and petroleum in government on behalf of the Citizens.
Article 244 (5) of the Constitution excludes clay, murram, sand or any stone commonly used for building or similar purposes. “So, clearly, the Constitution is clear, it excludes stones from minerals,” Omunyokol told Oil in Uganda.
Consequently, the family hired professional geologists to quantify the value of the rock and according to the technical evaluation report seen by Oil in Uganda, puts the value of the rock at $ 6.5million (approximately Shs 22 billion).
According to the geologists, the rock has capacity to produce about 650,000 tons of aggregates. Therefore, at a market value of $10 (about Shs 33,000/=) per ton, the rock is worth $ 6.5 million (about Shs 22bn). Therefore, in the suit, the family wants court to order government to pay $ 6.5 million in compensation.
In addition, the Chief Government Valuer conducted valuation of the entire family property which includes; the value of crops, buildings and land to worth 813million Uganda shillings. These monies have not been paid to date.
Oil in Uganda has established that government withheld payment of the compensation, due to the standoff over the rock.
The family seeks a declaration that the actions of Sino Hydro Corporation quarrying the family’s rock, crushing it into aggregates and using the aggregates for the construction without compensation is unlawful and unconstitutional and seek compensation for the value of the crushed rock at the market rate.
However, the Attorney General, in a Written Statement of Defense to the suit, insists that a rock is a mineral and therefore vested in government and the family is not entitled to any compensation so court should dismiss the suit with costs.
“In respect of the claim for compensation for the rocks found on the suits, the plaintiffs [family] are not entitled to compensation in view of the provisions of the Constitution read together with various provisions of the Mining Act 2003,” the AG argues in the defense.
According to Andrew Karamagi, the legal argument by George Omunyokol is sound since rock is part of land and is not a mineral, hence its value should be factored into the computation for the final value of the said piece of land.
“There is a Latin maxim about land which argues to the effect that cujus est solum ejus usque ad coelum (translated to mean- he who owns the land owns everything above and below it). In mutatis mutandis with the Constitution of Uganda which precludes minerals, it is clear that this rock is on the land and is therefore part of the impugned land,” he told Oil in Uganda.
Last year, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), was embroiled in wrangle with businessman Pius Mugalaasi, over the value of a rock on the Entebbe- Express highway on his land. The Roads Authority was eventually forced to divert the road.
The value of rocks found on land is becoming an issue given the demand of aggregate for various on-going projects. If for instance the court rules that a rock is not a mineral, and therefore a property of the land owner, even when exploited for commercial purposes, will set a precedent that could raise the value of rocky lands.
Report by Edward Ssekika.