Uganda Prisons, stop grabbing land from the poor and giving to the rich!
How it works. Simple trick. Come with high ranking local politicians who fear controversy and ‘rebelling’, get away with hundreds of acres. What do you do with it? Rent the same land out, with the machinery and inputs of the prisons to those who can pay, and the labor provided mostly by the children of the displaced (now inmates). If the inmates are not enough, the displaced will come from the camp nearby to weed the crops at a fee, paid by the ‘owner’. Ensure security for the farm and a harvest out of the prisons at the end of the season.
In a public meeting on 10th January 2014, officials from the Uganda Prisons made a decisive blow – in a classic case of State orchestrated land grab, albeit pleas by the people of Namalu Sub County in Karamoja to stay on the land that had belonged to them for decades, under the watch of the political elite.
While it was in clear contravention of article 26 of the Ugandan constitution, elders’ counsel, and basic human rights, hundreds of families most of them peasants were consequently evicted from the land, which is at least 300 acres. A sketch map was used as evidence to ownership.
Two hundred fifty five households were immediately evicted, affecting at least 1,255 children.
However, between February and April 2014, Namalu Prisons authorities had rented out undetermined amounts of land to dozens of wealthy and well connected individuals in Namalu and Nakapiripirit district including farmers from districts such as Kween, Kapchorwa and Sironko. According to KDF sources in 2014, at least a dozen such farmers had hired this land.
At KDF, we believe this is unfair to humanity and the Karimojong people, particularly, women who from time immemorial have customarily owned and cultivated this land, to ensure food security for their families. The fact that this land is rented out to the higher bidders adds further insult to injury and is a classic case of robbing from the poor and carting the land out to the rich.
We are afraid this trend will lead to commercialization of land grabs around Namalu Prisons and sets a bad precedent to other government institutions in Karamoja, and further violation of prisoner’s rights most of whom are from the affected families and communities, yet they must provide labor in these farms.
We therefore urge:
• The Uganda Prisons Authority and other organs of state to fully and effectively investigate this, and take action to ensure the prosecution of those involved according to existing law
• All those affected, and those who sympathize with them to urge all the authorities responsible including the political elite, the Uganda Prisons, the Local Councils of Nakapiripirit District to take necessary legal action.
In February 2015, KDF released a report “Take anything, leave our land” in to land rights violations, documenting two land acquisition cases including the violation of rights of these land owners in Namalu.
In March 2015, the Uganda Prisons Service, with support from OPM expanded the acreage of the land, causing more evictions by at least another 100 acres.
We continue to monitor and document events around this and other land rights violations in Karamoja.