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Covid-19: Ugandans left landless, homeless after evictions

Scores of Ugandans have been faced with evictions during this COVID-19 lockdown despite a government ban on such.

The majority of those affected by these illegal evictions are mainly women, who are widows, single mothers, and orphans. These untold evictions are against the fundamental human rights that describe the land in Uganda as the main source of livelihood and an aspect of national development. Following the increased land evictions, Food Rights Alliance Uganda organized a webinar to discuss how best to address the massive land evictions. Dubbed: "Online Panorama on Land Evictions", panellists drawn from civil society, parliamentarians, policy analysts, and land rights activists took part in the zoom meeting. Food Rights Alliance with funding from DGF and in partnership with a number of civil societies has for the last three years implemented the Promotion of equitable and inclusive land governance that promotes optimum land use and upholds people's land rights. Agnes Kirabo the Executive Director FRA in her remarks mentioned that the evictions affect women the most and that there will be no food security, human security, or even economic security if the stakeholders are not all committed to addressing the issues of land insecurity. "The industrialization agenda in the National Development Plan (NDP III) will not be possible if issues of land insecurity are not addressed. There is a need to devise strategies to support land use for national development while preserving and protecting tenure security," said Kirabo. Freda Orochi the Project officer Land and Food Security Food Rights Alliance (FRA) said currently Uganda is confronted with a lot of contestation over land ranging from the urge for development to individual demands. "Despite the existence of laws, policies, and regulations, tenure insecurity persists and has provided an avenue for land conflict, land grabs and forced evictions, all these undermining optimum land use and affecting food security," she said. Orochi noted that because many communities do not have the necessary information on the legal framework that protects their land rights, these land injustices are bound to continue. Ismail Kisemere from Hoima district said that over 5,000 people have been evicted from Kyangwali, many currently displaced and living in camps. "Most of these evictions happened during this lockdown. Many people lost their properties, while others were forced to sell them off cheaply so as to move freely," said Kisemere. The similar evictions have been reported in Kiryadongo and Atiak where over 500 families have been rendered homeless. Moses Onen from Kiryadongo said over 40 schools have been demolished by investors who have left scores of people landless. He said as activists, accessing the affected communities has been rendered impossible due to the heavy deployment of security that guards the area. "Right now, we have three cases in court following land evictions in Kiryadongo, but we can't have access to the affected land. Only district chairpersons, police officers, and other security personnel are allowed. This makes it so hard for us as activists to help these affected communities," said Onen. David Mande from Kween district told the meeting that the people of Benet are living in fear following attacks by the rangers attached to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). "I was threatened with arrest by the DPC Kween for successfully organising a demo against the continued harassment by UWA rangers," said Mande. He said many Benet residents who have lived in such conditions for the last 12 years are tortured, harassed, injured, and raped during the confrontations with UWA staff. "Imagine UWA charges sh50,000 per cow per day for grazing inside parkland. This is extortion," he said. Komakech David from Amuru district one of the districts faced with massive evictions said the situation has been made worse during this lockdown. "The evictions are continuing even despite the COVID-19 lockdown. It is worse now given the fact that only soldiers are allowed in this remote part in Apaa," he said. Olekwa Abdunassar, senior officer at the ministry of lands, informed participants that ministry was developing eviction guidelines and that no person's rights should be abused in the course of land evictions. He also mentioned that the ministry is in process of finalizing the land acquisition bill and the land acquisition rehabilitation and resettlement policy which will go a long way in solving most of the complex land challenges that communities are facing in the process of land evictions.

This article was published by New Vision.


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