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Mubende gold artisan miners’ case forwarded to Judge

Mediations Frustrated over non appearance of the defendants, including the Attorney General and three others.

The team of lawyers and plaintiffs at Mubende High Court await to meet the Magistrate. Photo by Josephine Nnabbale

The team of lawyers and plaintiffs at Mubende High Court await to meet the Magistrate. Photo by Josephine Nnabbale

The civil suit filed against the state attorney and 4 other parties over brutal and forceful eviction of over 20,000 artisanal miners in Mubende district has changed trend over frustrated mediations.

The registrar Mubende high court her worship Deborah Wanume explained that;” the Attorney General and three other parties were served with notices to appear in court for mediations but unfortunately none of these parties has turned up.”

“This was an opportunity for all the parties to solve the issue amicably but it’s evident enough that the mediation has been frustrated by their non appearance in court.This case has therefore now been forwarded to the judge Mubende high court for hearing.” M/s Wanume confirmed

Counsel Ojok Geoffrey, one of the lead lawyers in the matter, representing the complainants(plaintiffs who filed the suite) confirmed that parties cannot be forced into mediation if they don’t show interest.

“Since they have not filled their defence and have also not appeared in court, the plaintiffs cannot mediate alone. The process of justice cannot be curtailed; we pray that the case should be forwarded to the judge for hearing.”

This comes after a civil suit number 072 was filed on 11/Oct/2017 at Mubende high court against Attorney General, AUC Mining Uganda, Gemstone International limited, col. Joseph Balikuddembe the commander who was in- charge of the evictions in Mubende district, Mr Edwards Kato the Director, Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM) in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development. The case was filed by  Action Aid Uganda, African Center for Energy and Mineral Policy , Ssingo Artisanal and Small Scale Miners Association, Emmauel Kibirige and Bukya John Bosco over brutal and forceful eviction of artisanal gold miners of Mubende without a fair hearing.

The evictions followed the presidential directive to get rid of all the small scale and artisanal gold miners miners from this district on grounds that they were not registered hence illegal. He claimed that  government was unable to track this business as they are unaware of the amount of gold they are getting out from this area, yet the business is largely carried out by non Ugandans and as well, increased environmental degradation which is a threat to the nearby communities.

 

Earlier, before the presidential directive, Ministry of Energy had written a warning letter alerting the artisan miners about government’s plan of putting in place intervention measures to enable all the local miners be registered in all mining areas of Kitumbi and Bukuya sub counties so that they can be organised into groups that shall ultimately be regulated.

The intervention was anticipated to take 3 months which would subsequently help the Ministry of Energy and Mineral development to re-organise mining activities supported by Uganda police force, Uganda Peoples Defence Forces, Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control under the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Interventions in the matter so-far

Artisan miners interfaced with the President on the matter a month after their eviction. Mr Yoweri Museveni cautioned them to get organized, but also promised to award them another mining area within Mubende, so that they do not operate in an ‘illegal’ area, whose license is held by Gemstone international.

The Miners however did not buy into this idea as there are confirmations that the area does not have exploitable gold resources. This revelation was made by the Commissioner of Geological Survey and Mines in MEMD Zachary Baguma. He confirmed this during the Ministry’s meeting with miners, that was sanctioned by the Mubende district Member of Parliament Hon. Bena Bugembe and was also attended by State Minister of Minerals Peter Lokeris.

As a result of the meeting, the ministers promised to engage with the president to look into re-awarding miners the former mining area and also compensation for the losses made since their eviction.

 By Josephine Nnabbaale

oilinuganda@actionaid.org