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Amend Mining, Land Acts

Mining licenses in Karamoja (Source: HRW)

Mining licenses in Karamoja (Source: HRW)

The Human Rights Watch has challenged the Uganda government to amend the country’s Mining and Land Acts so that communities can derive due benefits from ongoing mining activities in their areas.

The report, entitled How can we survive here,  also pins donors, particularly the World Bank, for failing to set a positive precedent in supporting the rights of the people of Karamoja.

The report focused on human rights abuses arising from mining activities in the Karamoja region and accuses the government and the mining companies of excluding customary land owners “from making decisions about the development of their own lands” and proceeding “without their consent.”

According to the Human Rights Watch, one of the mining companies, East African Mining Ltd., after obtaining exploration licenses from the government for more than 2,000 square kilometres of land in Kaabong and Kotido districts in 2012, went ahead and carried out exploration work without consulting the locals.

“Residents have alleged that, without consultative meetings with the community, they often found exploration teams on their land, taking soil samples from their gardens and even within their homes without any explanation and in some cases, locals indicate, destroying crops in the process,” reads the report.

Another company called Jan Mangal Uganda Ltd, adds the report, went  to Moroto district in 2012 with excavators and other mining equipment to mine gold before it had even acquired a mining license.

The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) is also accused of providing security to the mining companies, a charge the army leadership denies.

The report further questions government’s commitment to respecting humans rights in mining areas given its “opaque approach to the development of the oil sector.”

It urges government to amend the Mining and Land Acts and incorporate  human rights impact assessment.

It also urges the World Bank to “Undertake human rights due diligence for proposed development projects to avoid contributing to human rights violations.”