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The New Vision: http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Nema-turns-down-Chinese-investor-s-sand-mining-bid/688334-4035468-q4l79w/index.html

The National Environmental Authority (Nema) has rejected a proposal by a Chinese company to excavate sand along the shores of Lake Victoria at Kawuku in Nkumba Parish, Wakiso District.
The company, Mango Tree Group Ltd, has since last year been in the spot over allegedly engaging in illegal sand mining activities in the area.

The company directors, however, sought official clearance from Nema, to conduct commercial sand mining at three sites on the lake shores at Nkumba, next to Kimi Island in Mukono District and near Kavejanja –Buusi Island, Wakiso District.
According to Nema Executive Director, Tom Okurut, the company’s activities have a negative impact on the eco-system on the lake shores, which would consequently affect the communities around Entebbe peninsular.

In his June 1 letter to Mango Tree Group directors, Dr Okurut stressed that the sites proposed for dredging are either “refugia (an area where various organisms can hide during harsh conditions) and/or spawning grounds for fish”.

He said Kimi Island is a tilapia breeding area, while Buusi and Nkumba are Nile-tilapia breeding and nursery areas respectively and also active fishing grounds which cannot be tampered with.

“ …the Nkumba and Buusi bay areas are targeted for cage fish farming so such a disturbance will impact fish stocks, the fishing industry, and consequently the livelihood of dependent communities,” he said, adding “In light of the aforementioned and the general purpose for which the projects were conceived, we found that the conditions for which a waiver under Section 34 (2) of the National Environment Act ,CAP,153 is granted, are not met, therefore, this Authority has not accepted your application for approval to dredge the proposed sites on Lake Victoria for sand.”

Mr Okurut said their field inspection of both Kimu Island and Nkumba area, revealed that the shoreline near Kimi Island has no sand, as the investor claimed and wondered why they are interested in the site.

The inspection of the sites conducted between April 10 and 12 this year was jointly done by Nema and the Directorate of Fisheries, Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines and Operation Wealth Creation.

Mango Tree Group Company Ltd had initially been granted a licence by Uganda Investment Authority to build ships, a port and ship yard at Kawuku and it is not clear how they ventured into sand dredging on the lake shores.

The dredger, which the company had so far built, had started dredging ship channels on the lake bed to open the water ways –which Nema says is dangerous to the aquatic ecosystem.
The dredger recently caught fire while being tested on the lake.

When contacted on Wednesday, Mr Stephen Cheng, the general manager of Mango Tree Group, said they were still in negotiations with Nema to discuss possibilities of okaying the project.

“It’s true our application was rejected, but right now, we have meetings with the Nema officials to see whether our application can be accepted,” he said.

Mr Emmanuel Kintu, a resident of Kasanja village in Wakiso District, said the investor had scooped all the sand on the shores rendering it dangerous for residents to walk or swim in such areas.

Wakiso District chairperson Matia Lwanga Bwanika commended Nema for taking what he described as a brave step towards restoring the degraded lakeshore.
“I have been fighting alone, but I am happy that Nema has come on board,” he said yesterday.

By Bwengye Rahab

On July 11, 2017, Uganda’s Attorney General tabled in Parliament a Bill to amend Article 26 of the 1995 Constitution (as amended) to the effect that the Government can legally displace communities anywhere in the country without prior payment of fair and adequate compensation to the victims.

That the Government should have powers to acquire any land anywhere in the country, including protected areas and no one should have a legal right to challenge such decisions on acquisition.

To be specific, the preferred position by the Government under the  proposed amendment, reads, “Where the owner of property or any other person having any interest in or right over property objects to the compensation awarded under the law made under clause (2) (b), the Government or local government shall deposit with court for the property owner or any other person having any interest or right over property, the compensation awarded for the property and the Government or local government shall take possession of the property pending determination by the court of any dispute relating to the compensation.”

Amendment of Article 26 of the Constitution of Uganda reduces citizens’ rights to only money remedies and erodes the existing legal dispensation on land governance and ecosystem protection.

The most unfortunate part of such a move is that it will automatically erode citizen’s rights to grow food, secure water and conserve biodiversity (IPGs). The move will further complicate the equation of development versus conservation since it will result in legalising people’s displacement without consent which displacement will most likely accelerate people’s encroachment on protected areas.

Amendment of Article 26 will further render the environmental laws of Uganda irrelevant since no one will have legal right to question the degradation of ecosystems or abuse of environmental laws and, this will further, accelerate food insecurity and push Ugandans further into abject poverty amidst worsened climate change

Maybe the right questions to ask at this stage would be: Where in Uganda has a road or any other government project failed to be located when the land owner has been adequately compensated?”

Who meets the legal costs when you compulsorily acquire a person’s land and merely deposit what you think is the right compensation in court? In short, are courts going to be a free service in this line??

Where there is forceful eviction, where will the entire family together with the children settle during this saga?

When the compensation is deposited in court since this will not be money to buy food, provide water, secure shelter; how will the evicted family be surviving? Will the Government foot such basic needs?

How will you enforce, for instance, the 2015 Environmental Monitoring Plan for the Albertine Graben, the 2016 Management Plan for Murchison Falls National Park and the 2013 Sensitivity Atlas for the oil rich Albertine Graben, if the amended Constitution “Supreme Law” will be giving exclusive rights to government to  compulsorily acquire any land be it private or protected? In short, exclusive rights to invest any where any time. All this said and done, I would think Government needs to give the proposed amendment a critical eye well weighing whether this is the right move.

This is a million-dollar question; the Government will always find difficult to convince Ugandan citizens about.

The writer works with NAPE and co-ordinates Oil Watch Africa

Government of Uganda has proposed an amendment to the Land Act and related laws thereto. Government argues that it should have authority to acquire land for timely implementation of public works, fast-track construction of the proposed 24 industrial parks and other investment projects. The rationale behind the resolution is that members of the public act as bottlenecks in the implementation of such investment projects.

The basis of government’s argument is that on many occasions, some people refuse government compensation asking for more money and in the process, they delay government projects. However, this argument is irrelevant for Section 6(5)(b) of the Land Act which provides that "Where a person awarded compensation under this Section refuses to accept payment, the High Court on the application of the Attorney General may order payment to be made into court on such conditions as it thinks appropriate.

Uganda has sufficient pieces of legislation to deal with compulsory land acquisition and there is no need for further amendment to the Land Act. The 1995 Constitution of the republic of Uganda as amended provides for the right to own property by an individual or a group by virtue of Article 26 of the same constitution. The law further provides for exceptions under which a person can compulsorily be deprived of his or her property specifically land and these include public safety, public order, morality and for health reasons.

In case any of the above exceptions is proved or justified, Government has to make a prompt payment of a fair and adequate compensation to the affected person before acquisition and taking possession of the affected land mindful of the fact that compensation should be based on the actual market value of that land at the time of acquisition. The courts in Uganda have pronounced themselves on this issue and its well settled.

Ugandans too take cognizance of the fact that government ultimately has the right to buy any land if deemed necessary, but there are some circumstances in which an objection could swing in favour of a land owner. Most land ownership in Uganda is guaranteed in the lordship of customary interest, government has no option than to employ eminent domain to acquire private rights in land without complete accepted agreement from the owners for societal benefit. The framework within which government or acquiring authority carry out the processes is highly appalling and has resulted in detrimental outcomes. There many examples where government’s attempt to take over private land has resulted into ugly scenarios, arrests and even death.

Compulsory acquisition of land in Uganda has undermined the principles of good governance. The failure to strictly adhere to the rules and procedures of the available legislative tool, and also inadequate payment of compensation has become obvious and apparent. This tantamount to land grabbing, and many people are worried that if the land policy is amended as proposed many people will lose their land rights to powerful and politically well-connected individuals and multinational companies. Ugandans have interpreted the plan as a well-calculated maneuver that will fuel land grabbing and evictions in the country. Most of which are not adequately compensated.

However, the big challenge is that Uganda does not have a land compensation policy. Policies that relate to land compensation are scattered in various instruments and papers, in Government institutions and departments, which exercise varying responsibilities over land use and management, with many conflicting and others overlapping, all of which follow no clear policy or guideline.

Government maintains that the proposed amendments were premised on the bureaucratic tendencies involved in compensation of the project-affected persons, which tend to stall projects. It is intended to shorten the processes involved by allowing government to start the projects pending negotiations on compensations with the affected persons.

But government needs to handle issue of land carefully. People entirely depend on land for their livelihood. Land has economic, social and cultural significance and is a source of pride to individuals, families and clans. It should not just be dispensed at will.

By Betty Obbo

NAPE trains community dialogue animators

NAPE’s approach to strengthen community cultural governance is use of community dialogues. The use of approach is a realisation and appreciation that communities have for long been disconnected from their social and ecological realities, the so called ‘’modernity’’ or ‘’development’’ creates a big divide between the rural agricultural/subsistence folk and the urban ‘’educated’’, terming the later as backward, uneducated and poor. This stereotyping has led these rural communities withdraw their would-be-useful and relevant knowledge from the public domain.

The elderly who have, hither to, provided food, land; conserved ecosystems and brought up the current generation have had their knowledge systems bashed and branded out-dated and backward. Rarely do the modern development workers, agriculturalists, ecologists, and other social workers consult elders in their innovations and researches about food, land and ecosystems.

Dialogues involve identification and involvement of knowledgeable elders in seeking sustainable solutions to the current conflicts on land, food and ecosystems. The elders are the depository of knowledge and young people seek this knowledge by asking relevant and right questions. When elders, gain confidence and faith then they reveal the knowledge used in conservation of ecosystems.

Dialogues are organised in an informal structure and facilitated by a trained animator who ensures an accommodative environment for discussion. The ideas from elders are inform of a story and facilitator ensures he asks the right questions at an appropriate time.

The project works with 3 communities and the selection of animators was carefully done with the help of elders and the entire community group. The animators are part of the community group and have been participating in the dialogues specific roles of these animators will include, among others, the following;

-          Mobilising communities and organising community dialogues

-          Facilitate dialogues in coordination with the project officer

-          Facilitate recording and arrangement of dialogue information, especially drawing community and ecological maps, seasonal calendars, making community constitutions.

In a 5- day training facilitated by NAPE and Gaia staff, the animators were introduced to the theory of earth laws, regarding food, land and ecosystems conservation and organising and facilitating a dialogue. It is planned that as the animators continue participating in the dialogues which are animated by NAPE project officer, they will gain more experience and knowledge from elders. This will enable them start organising and animate the subsequent dialogues in year 2 and 3 of the project.

During the last week of March 2017, Young Friends of the earth Africa (FoEA) groups and Young Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) had a cross-regional learning meeting for groups participating in the Erasmus project of the FoEI federation in Durban South Africa. The meeting was hosted by groundwork, FoE South Africa.

The Erasmus project brings together youths from African and European regions that are partners to Friends of the Earth to strengthen the Youth Environmental Justice movement, both internally in FoEI and externally with Youth Social and Environmental Justice allies.

The project is also an opportunity to strengthen relationships and ways of working across the European and African regions, and supporting the active engagement of young people in decision-making.

The Director of groundwork, Bobby peek told the young people that one of the principles of FOEI is inclusiveness. Young people can only be included in most of the FOE work if they acquire deeper knowledge around movement building and FoEI is ready to support them.

Ms Sophie Manson, the coordinator for the Erasmus project in FOEI advised the youth to collectively identify creative strategies to enhance the engagement of diverse youth groups.

She told them the future belongs to young people and therefore young people need to critically reflect on particular role they can play in struggles against injustice. She advised them to have one firm voice through the environmental justice movement and suitable thematic campaigns that will prosper their struggles in their individual organizations

In the meeting, NAPE was represented by Peruth Atukwatse who coordinates the Youth Projects. NAPE, in 2016 started a Youth Movement for Social and Environmental Justice in Uganda. The movement is aimed at among other things:

  • Supporting   youth involvement in decision-making processes at all levels
  • Participation of young people in international fora to share experiences and deepen their knowledge on environmental justice issues to enable them advocate for social growth and environmental sustainability of their communities
  • Mobilize 7000 youths by 2018 and build their civic competence, inspire and motivate them to increase their inclusiveness in promoting and building pressure for good governance in natural resources, and
  • Promote social and economic empowerment for the youths in Uganda

NAPE believes that once the young people are in the driving seat, they can cause the change the organization and other activists and other Civil Society Organizations globally have been struggling to make. Society sometimes have a negative perception of young and because of this, young people are disengage from social, economic and political processes and feel powerless to bring about a sustainable change in their communities. NAPE stands in solidarity with young people as they demand for social and environmental justice.

The story was compiled by Peruth Atukwatse