201 families evicted to pave way for oil waste treatment plant in Hoima District

Hoima, 26 August 2014 – Global Rights Alert (GRA) strongly condemns the illegal eviction of 201 families from their land in Rwamutonga Village, Bugambe Sub County, Hoima District by businessman Joshua Tibangwa with the help of Uganda Police Force.

People were tear-gassed and shot at and children disappeared during the eviction.

Houses were broken down and burnt to ashes, clothes set on fire and property destroyed. Gardens were slashed to the ground while food and animals were looted and whatever was left was set on fire.

The eviction came as a surprise because the residents were not given a notice of eviction. Yet in fact, a directive from the office of the president signed by Mohammad Mayanja a special presidential adviser had categorically asked Tibangwa to sort out issues with bibanja holders with the help of the resident district commissioner.  Incase violence arose, and the Uganda police and bailiffs were cautioned to halt the process because of the different interests on the.

But on the morning of August 25, Tibangwa, with the help of police stormed Rwamutonga and reigned terror on the residents.

Some 201 families were violently thrown off their land totaling 485 hectares despite an injunction which was issued by the high court of Masindi staying the same.

“I was in the kitchen when I heard the sound of bullets. I ran inside the house and hid under the bed. Then I heard people breaking my house and I started scream ‘please don’t kill me, don’t break my house’ but they said ‘we have been sent to destroy your property, they said we can kill you’. They stole my goats and cut down all my banana trees and cassava plants. I was born here and this is my land, why are they forcing me to leave,” said Beatrice Ngozebwa who says she is 70 years old.

Beatrice Ngozebwa's house was broken down by Police in Rwamutonga Village, Bugambe Sub County, Hoima District to pave way for the construction of Oil Waste Treatment Plant by McAlister Energy Resources Limited

Winfred Ngabirwe the Executive Director Global Rights Alert says this is a violation of the Constitution of Uganda, the Land Act, the Uganda National Land Policy and the International Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

“These unscrupulous deals are illegal because these families have interest in the land as lawful occupants. There is a court injunction on the sale of this land pending the hearing and judgment of the main suit by Masindi High Court. This eviction will leave people’s homes, lives and sources of income destructed,” Ms Ngabirwe

The constitution protects the right of every one to own property in Uganda either as an individual or in association with others.

The law prohibits illegal land eviction that is comprised of forcible removal of a tenant, directly or indirectly, without prior court approval.

“Any such eviction should have come with due notice and adequate compensation for interests accrued on the land. Tibangwa, the police and this waste management company are therefore violating the rights of the indigenous people,” Ms Ngabirwe.

The communities in Rwamutonga Village were evicted in an inhumane manner using threats and violence. Their houses and property were destroyed rendering the land unlivable and forcing families to leave.

Hoima LC V chairman George Bagonza says while there is a court order, it has been abused because people in the community filed a case contesting the giveaway.

“This is strange to me because the matter is before the judge so how can the court registrar Jesse Byaruhanga issue a court order over the same matter? People are in disarray, they have been beaten and injured, their houses broken down,” Baguma says.

The establishment of the waste treatment plant not only threatens the lives of women, men and children but also the wild life and environment as the contested land is adjacent to Wambabya forest and would not be ideal for the kind of proposed development.

Oil exploration and Production should not tramp upon the rights of persons to a clean and healthy environment and should ensure biodiversity conversation.