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NGO rallies Karimojong to protect the environment

NGO rallies Karimojong to protect the environment

MOROTO – Advocates for Natural Resources and Development (ANARDE) a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) has on Friday, September 6 launched a campaign sensitize the community in Moroto in a bid to protect the environment.

This follows the high rate of deforestation in the district for fuel. The trees have been mainly cut as a source of firewood. The event which took place at Lavender Hotel in Moroto district was aimed at saving Karamoja region from the current situation.

Mr. Frank Tumusiime, a Lawyer and coordinator at Researcher Advocates for Natural Resource and Development noted that Karamoja region will become the worst desert in less than 20 years from now due to high rate of tree cutting if there is no action taken.

“Protecting the environment is a patriotic duty for all Ugandans. The environment is not only a socio-economic factor but also a national security paradigm,” he said.

According to Mr. Tumusiime, the campaign involves identification of community environment committees saying they will not stop until environmental protection becomes a reality in Karamoja.

He also asked the government to design programs that will benefit the local community that will enable them get alternatives sources of cooking as opposed to cutting down trees for charcoal burning.

“We have also learnt that most families in Karamoja have no other alternative means of survival that’s why they are destroying the environment, we call upon the government to look at any suitable means for the survival of our people so that they stop depending on cutting down of trees,” he noted.

Mr. John Lotyang, Moroto district’s Natural Resource Officer hailed the campaign and appealed to other development partners to join.

“The Fight for environment protection in Karamoja needs a collective effort not only by ANARDE but we should support ANARDE to achieve their goal,” he said.

Mr. Jackson Angella an opinion leader and a resident of Rupa Sub County asked the government to reduce the price of gas and electricity in the country arguing that the high prices are enabling the charcoal business to boom.

“When you do assessment you find that there is high demand for charcoal in towns because they can’t afford gas and electricity but if the price of these two things is lowered people will be using electricity and gas and nobody will use charcoal,” he asserted.

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Recognising Rights of Mother Earth: Entrenching Earth Jurisprudence in Uganda

Why the Need for Earth Jurisprudence in Uganda?

Earth Jurisprudence advocates for legal recognition and respect of all species and components of the Earth, integral for maintaining conditions for life as we know it.

Accruing Ecological Crises and Challenges

The global ecosystem has entered into a negative feedback loop, meaning our Earth systems are unravelling – climate change, devastating air and water pollution, vastly accelerated species extinction, and the dramatic loss of food and water systems which are necessary for sustaining all life on the planet. 

The defilement of Mother Earth by humans has caused untold damage to the environment, and is especially accelerated by commercial interests driven solely to increase profits by extracting as much as possible from Nature. 

Short-term human interests, fueled by an insatiable drive to accumulate money and power, have been enshrined in various laws with total disregard for the well-being of the living Earth Community. For example, most laws permit and legitimize extraction from Nature upon the simple requirement of conducting an environmental impact study and/or assessment. Western industrial law is used to legitimize destruction of Nature and human communities (Thomas Berry, The Great Work, 1999).

The growth of capitalism spreading to every part of our planet was facilitated by the legal recognition of corporations as artificial persons capable of holding rights; whereas life-giving species and components of the Earth, such as lakes, rivers, forests and mountains have been systematically denied them inherent rights to be and to flourish. Something must be done if we are not to leave our children a legacy of disaster.

The Sixth Mass Extinction and Ecosystem Collapse The industrial period of human domination of the Earth, especially over the last century, has resulted in the sixth mass extinction where the Earth is in the process of losing more than three-quarters of her species in a geologically extremely short interval. 

In addition, the challenges of climate change and social and economic inequity, further exacerbate the trend. This is a result of the radical breakdown in human principles of governance, where human law has been used to legitimize social and ecological destruction. 

The drive for profits leads to increasing consumption which is not only in excess of, but also undermines the biological systems of the Earth. Exploring human pressure on the planet and how it compares across 200 nations, data from the Global Footprint Network, an independent think tank, warns that if humankind continues to use Nature and produce waste at the current rate, “by the mid-2030s we will require the resources of two planets to meet our demands”. 

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Tororo Cement and the Communities: You call it development, I call it “thuggery”

For many years, complaints from the communities are that Tororo cement has destroyed the environment, trees cut and affected without being replaced, people being displaced without resettlement and compensation. 

This arises from the notion that prior to operation in the region, the communities were not consulted and consent was agreed upon. In July of last year for example, the community blocked Tororo Cement from accessing the site in Kosiroi village over low prices, land compensation and surface rights. The stormy event compelled the state minister for minerals, Peter Lokeris, to hold a crisis meeting with the parties involved including officials for the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development.

They said for a long time, Tororo Cement has been extracting marble stones in the area but refused to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the community or the district leaders. Mr David Omido, the logistics and utility manager at Tororo Cement, admitted they did not have any MoU with either the district administration or the local community.

However, former Moroto LC5 chairperson Mark Musoka said his office had drafted an MoU and asked Tororo Cement to facilitate the process. Several months later, however, there is still no formal agreement in sight, with individual interests taking centre stage. David acknowledged receipt the draft MoU but notes that his team is yet to peruse it and respond accordingly.

The political interference has clouded concerns of land acquisition by Tororo Cement. Information obtained on the ground indicates that Tororo Cement did not pay for the land surface rights as required in the Mining Act, 2003.

Community members demand that TCL should first clears the surface rights issues before any agreement is signed with the community. They acknowledge that whereas Tororo Cement tried to consult the community at first on the 12-square-kilometre piece of land, no money was paid and yet the company has kept on extending its activities to occupy more land.

Within Tapac Sub County, Tororo Cement now claims ownership of close to 50 square kilometres without any knowledge of the land owners. This is arising questions how they acquired the land, their compensation strategies, land owner displacement without consideration of their livelihoods.

On the question of acquiring a mining lease, Edwards Katto Kagimba, the head of Geological Survey and Mines in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, agreed that there were some errors at the time when Tororo Cement got a mining lease from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development.

On record, Tororo Cement has two mining leases in Tapac but no surface rights have been paid for any. The Mining Act, 2003 indicates that the company applying for the mining lease should have Secured surface rights of the land that is the subject of the application. This still raises compelling questions on how their operations run, environmental mitigation measures occupational health and safety standards and of course royalty collection to the government.


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Fostering Fair and Adequate Compensation in Uganda’s Oil sector

UWONDA SAVERIO OTWODA SILVIO V. TOTAL E&P UGANDA LIMITED, Civil Suit No. 77 OF 2016, High court of Uganda at Masindi.

Oil exploration and production world over leads to land expropriation, displacement of masses and is in most cases followed by a host of human rights violations. The project affected persons never get fair and adequate compensation or proper resettlement in accordance with international standards. Over the last decade there have been several high profile cases in the extractive industry where activities have been criticised on human rights grounds. Examples include accusations that Royal Dutch Shell has been complicit in abuses committed by the government and military in Nigeria.

In Uganda’s mineral rich Bulisa district, property of about one hundred and five (105) people was affected when Total E&P and or their agents who in the process of constructing access roads to oil wells, destroyed their crops which included cash cotton and food crops such as maize, sim sim, groundnuts and peas and did not compensate them for the loss caused even after a demand notice was duly served on them. In so doing they violated the human rights of the 105 people namely; the right to life which is a fundamental right because without it the enjoyment of other rights is impossible, the right to a livelihood; the right to food and the right to protection from deprivation of property, all rights enshrined in and guaranteed by the constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 and they also go the very root of their being.

Following a series of interfaces with the affected communities in Bulisa we gathered complaints and we tried our very best reach out to Total E & P to make good the loss but they shunned the idea of amicably settling the matter. A conclusion was then reached to file a suit against Total E & P. the case is at hearing stage and soon the project affected persons will be able to testify

The idea to take on the suit is backed by our desire to enforce the ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework which affirms the State duty to protect against human rights abuses, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights.  The need for greater access by victims to effective remedy has been developed and must be followed by investors when making investment decisions. This framework calls for prudence on the side of the investor and demands that due diligence should be initiated prior to the start of a new project or relationship, for example consultation with potentially affected groups, should be continue on an ongoing basis because human rights risks may change over time, tis should cover the adverse human rights impacts caused by the company’s own or its partners activities and draw on either internal or independent external expertise.

As is the norm the suit was referred for court assisted mediation in a bid to settle the matter amicably but the mediation did not yield anything fruitful to the affected communities.  The suit has been fixed for hearing.

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Local Government and ASM: To what extent are the local governments engaged in artisanal small scale mining?

The mining services industry is a vital source of economic activity and jobs in Uganda, and a major contributor to national income and wealth creation. Technical and business innovation is continually needed to maintain the industry’s international competitiveness and to ensure that mining is conducted in an environmentally sustainable manner that is aligned with society’s expectations. 

For a while now, mining has been dominated by artisanal and small scale mining around different parts of the country. To engage these miners, District Natural Resources and Environmental officers have been brought on board to assume the central government’s position on a number of issues that affect the ASM. The government is in the process of amending the Mining Policy 2001 and Mining Act 2003. 

A draft Mining and Mineral Policy 2016 was distributed among different stakeholders for review before tabling it to Cabinet. Illegal mining has many drawbacks and no easy solutions; those who take part are often just as much victims of the industry as the country in which they operate. But, something must be done about the great loss of life that follows these illegal operations, the environmental damage and the criminal practices associated with it. Government is working towards formalizing ASMs through registration, licensing and regulation. 

This is also intended to promote ASMs’ coexistence with other mineral rights-holders in the country. The Directorate of Geological Survey and Mining has inefficiencies – they are understaffed with mining inspectors not adequately facilitated to traverse the whole country. It is therefore importantly urged for the government to work with the local government officers at such instances. 

The mineral sector in Uganda hasn’t largely been tapped. For example in most parts of the country, there are occurrences of development minerals. Development Minerals are an indispensable source of employment, providing a source of livelihood to Ugandans and the government if well regulated and monitored. 

These are minerals and materials that are mined, processed, manufactured and used domestically in industries such as construction, manufacturing, and agriculture. Development Minerals have a high degree of economic linkage and utilization close to the location where the commodity is mined. Article 224 of the Mining Act 2003, although it cites these minerals, it does not accord them similar significance as the other minerals, yet they are of high commercial value.

Development minerals are regarded as Low Value Minerals and Materials (LVMM) due to their relatively low price as a function of their weight. In areas where mostly sand mining is taking place, there are issues of destruction of the environment while using complex machinery also immensely destroying he ecosystem due to lack of compliance and land evictions. 

It is going to be a hard task for the government if it doesn’t directly involve the local governments to gather royalties from the miners. It is thus paramount for the government to come up with strategies of having record of the mined minerals plus also set up guidelines on how they should levy fees from the different mining activities. 

Joseph Ahimbisibwe

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Advocating for the right to property, shelter and housing and right to life among indigenous and the most vulnerable communities

Lokiru Felix & Lokong Paul Vs Attorney General High Court Civil suit Number 11 of 2017, Holden at Soroti Deprivation of property, displacement and irrational resettlements are at its worst among indigenous and poor communities. 

In Nakapirit district, Karamoja region, ANARDE is representing of 205 people who have filed a suit against the Attorney General for unlawful eviction, inhuman treatment by Uganda Prison Authorities.

The plaintiffs and the represented persons settled onto the land in Nyaruyon village, Kaikuk parish, Namalu Sub County in the late 1970s and early 1980s and utilized it by growing crops that included sorghum, maize, sweet potatoes, cassava, yams, groundnuts, bananas, mangoes oranges, and avocado among others.  They built homes on the same land and settled there until till February, 2014 when they were violently evicted by Uganda Prisons. 

The plaintiffs and their relatives fled into the bushes and have been living destitute lives since February 2014. The living conditions of the plaintiffs in the bush characterized by lack of shelter, food and adequate clothing has led to many contracting diseases As result of the displacement, and homelessness and hunger, over 53 people have died due to disease and malnutrition.

Uganda Prisons Service claims the land in question is owned under freehold, having been converted in the 1960s from communal land ownership in Namalu. Through mediation, we have secured services of a surveyor and through a joint survey, it has been confirmed that the disputed land does not form part of titled land owned by Uganda prisons Authority. and since February 2014, fifty three (53) people have died from pneumonia and hunger related causes.

Ugandan law requires that before an eviction the communities affected should be notified of the date of the eviction well in advance and they should be compensated for the land and any developments thereon. Government is also responsible for identifying alternative settlements for the people.

The plaintiffs and the 203 represented persons contend that their constitutional human rights namely; the right to own property and protection from deprivation of property without prior adequate compensation enshrined in Article 26, the right to life which includes the right to livelihood enshrined in Article 22, the right to food, shelter and respect of dignity and the right to freedom from torture, cruel inhuman and degrading treatment were violated and infringed by the defendant and or its agents.

In this case, the plaintiffs pray for judgment against the defendant for declarations and orders that they have a right to life, a right to livelihood, a right to property and prior, adequate and fair compensation in the event of deprivation of property for purposes provided for by the law and that that the unlawful and violent eviction from their land amounted to a violation of all the aforementioned their rights.

They also pray that the defendant compensates them fairly, timely and adequately for their respective tracts of land that were entered into, their crops and the property that was destroyed. Due to the wanton eviction, the plaintiff pray for punitive damages for gross abuse of their rights. Hearing of the case is on 30th August 2018.

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Outreach for Women and PWDS, Women in Morulem discuss issues women go through around mining in Karamoja

Women in Morulem discuss issues women go through around mining in Karamoja
Under its current project, ANARDE is working to build up the power of vulnerable people to act by enabling them to access justice effectively. The project aims to strengthen access to justice through promoting justice, rights and accountability in those regions.
The project includes a combination of interventions intended to have a short- and medium-term impact by tangibly improving access to justice for target groups and a long-term impact by building the capacity of key actors.

Under outreach specific; for Women and PWD’s ANARDE carried out a presentation and a needs assessment in Abim and Moroto districts. The target participants were women in leadership and women in mining areas.  This activity was carried out to identify the needs that women need to be addressed and also to find the hotspots in those areas. Issues identified included exploitation, widow inheritance, land grabbing, poverty, and environmental degradation. The methodology used was basically an open discussion with the target group and some protestations on women, extractives, environment and land in Karamoja context.

Women in mining areas:  Moroto District and ABIM district

The meeting took place on 5th and 6th respectively. A total of 22 women participated in this meeting. 12 women form Tapac and 10 women form Morulem sub county Abim District. For both districts, women carry out mining in those places and that is basically their domestic job.

The approach to the meetings was that; the opening remarks were made by Shallon Asiimire Project Assistant (Gender and Advocacy) who introduced ANARDE, their strategy on specific outreach on women and PWDs, Joseph Ahimbisibwe the project Assistant (Extractive and Nature Conservation) gave a brief over view on the relation between women, extractives and the environment, Michael Omara the project Advocate, gave a presentation on Women and their rights to own land and other resources.

The floor was then open for women to discuss on how they can gain for this project. ANARDE used this platform to carry out a needs assessment where a number of gaps facing women in both districts were identified.

Gaps and challenges
Widows and women have little or knowledge on land ownership – there is need for land rights sensitization and creating a link to gender based violence as well as power relations.

The women at the mining areas are extremely exploited. Also to note, what could be other contributing factors to this? Take for instance, what are the major market trends in relation to exploitation aspects through small markets – there is a need to sensitize them on how to organize themselves into mining associations which will help to solve issues of licensing and exploitation.

There is an urgency of addressing the links relating women with health issues since most of the mining companies are not providing them with protective gears. Women sensitization meetings should be with the right entries – engaging key departments like the community development officers and women leaders like in schools. Deteriorating weather patterns attributed to deforestation. This greatly impacts on the livelihoods of the communities in region. Poverty makes women destroy the environment to take care of their families
The meeting concluded with remarks form the representatives who mostly emphasized on a window inheritance situation that has left most of the windows landless when they refuse to be inherited.

Women in leadership:

The meeting was attended by 23 women leaders. In Abim district there were 12 participants who included the Distract Vice Chairperson, Secretary in charge of Education, Secretary Natural Resources Councilor PWDs, Secretary Production and different councilors from the sub counties in Abim district.

In Moroto, the meeting was attended by 11 women in leadership. The participants included DCDO, Gender Officer, Vice Chairperson, and Youth Councilor, Deputy Head teacher, EMTCT/HIV Coordinator and councilors in the district.
The presentations then rose in discussion where hotspots form Abim district were identified in terms of environment, land and extractives. The meeting was then closed by the District vice chairperson from both districts who thanked ANARDE for thinking about women and PWDs in that area. She pointed out that women need a lot of sensitization on how they can understand their rights in owning resources and also need legal aid especially those who were chased away from their land when they lose their husbands.

The needs assessment meeting provided an opportunity for ANARDE to find out the gaps that need to be addressed and also the strategies that can be adopted for ANARDE to promote women and PWDs legal outreach in Karamoja. Because it was hosted only at the district and mining areas and a few participants were chosen at random, women however suggested that we need to hold other sensitization meetings where many of them should attend to understand their rights especially the grass root.

The district women leaders and women form mining areas applauded the activity as the first of its kind and got hopes of gaining a lot from it and recommended that it should not just stop from their but they are eagerly waiting for their involvement in this project.

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