Human rights activists have asked the security operatives to respect human rights as measures are being enforced to curb the spread of corona virus.
The Human Rights Officer at Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) Hoima Regional Office, Hope Bagota said the commission has received many complaints of human rights violations during the period of COVID-19. She said the commission is currently investigating cases of torture by security agencies and other human rights violations so that the victims get justice.
Bagota explains that the respect of human rights is enshrined in article 221 of the Constitution of Uganda and security agencies should work in line with that.
“Human rights such as right to fair hearing, freedom from torture and others cannot be taken away by state or any other person at any circumstance,” she explained.
This was during the radio talk show on Human Rights that was held at Community Green Radio Kiboga and organised by National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) with support from Fund for Global Human Rights on May 21.
Others that attended the radio talk show included ASP Francis Magumba, the Community Liaisons Officer for Albetine Region, Surgent Lawrence Byansi, the Community Liasons Officer for Kiboga Central Police station and JescaNanyondo, a community member from Mulagi Sub County in Kyankwanzi.
During the show, many listeners accused securing officers of harassment and use of excessive force during the lockdown.
“LDUs always ask for evidence from pregnant mothers on whether they are pregnant, women in early stages of pregnancy have had rough time explaining this,” said Mildred Atuhaise from Kasanda district.
“Why do you have to wait for the COVID-19 curve to flatten for the human rights perpetrators to be charged before court yet they continue to abuse people’s rights,” Annet Kengonzi from Kaiso Tonya in Hoima district asked.
Jesca Nanyondo also mentioned that in most cases women have been the victims of torture during the lockdown and curfew due to their traditional roles of providing food and care for the families.
“Sometimes women are caught up when they are from looking for food or medicine for the children. However, it has been hard explaining some of these cases to police officers on duty,” she noted.
In defence, ASP magumba said people have misinterpreted the presidential directives and they sometimes provoke security operatives.
However, the Human Rights Officer, Bagota said all these cases, backed by evidence, should be reported to the commission so that they can be followed up.
Nanyondo appreciated the show and called upon NAPE to organize more talk shows so that people can have a better understanding of their rights and have interactions with security operatives and human rights activists.
Joan Akiza, the senior Gender and Legal Officer at NAPE noted that rights of vulnerable persons such as Persons with disabilities, women and children should be protected and it’s sad that mothers are dying as they walk to health facilities due to the ban on public & private transport. She promised to organize more talk shows aimed at sensitizing communities on how they can enjoy their rights during the covid-19 crisis.
In the recent press briefing, the Acting Chairperson UHRC, said the commission had so far received 128 complaints of human rights violations, some of which are the cases of torture by security agencies.
In the wake of rising COVID-19 cases, Community Green Radio has dedicated time and resources to provide the population with information of the pandemic, increase positivity and reduce anxiety among people.
The radio broadcasts public health messages from health officials on how communities can keep themselves safe. The radio constantly gives updates on government plans and preparations for the virus and how it has impacted on communities.
This is despite the challenges the staff are going through to deliver this noble cause. The ban on public transport has rendered some staff immobile while some of the staff working during curfew time hours have been forced to be accommodated at office.
According to the Station Manager Mr. Julius Kyamanywa, some vital programs like community dialogues and debates were cancelled. They have also changed its programming to focus on the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We had to redesign the programming to suit the government guidelines especially on staying home, social distancing and night curfew. We tremendously reduced on the guests we host in studios”, explained Mr. Kyamanywa.
The manager maintains that even when the radio has been forced to make adjustments, this has not stopped their goal of amplifying the voices of local communities.
“We have been able to give the communities a voice particularly on the impact of COVID 19 on their lives and what they expect from public office bearers. We have been using phone recorded audio to collect peoples voices”, the Manager explained.
A 50 year old Ruth Kasimba lives in Butimba village in Kikuubedistrict; a few kilometers near where Uganda’s proposed oil refinery will be constructed in Kabale parish in Uganda’s oil-rich Hoima district.
Like any other rural woman, Kasimba collects firewood for cooking- the exercise she describes as physically exhausting but also mentally draining.
However, as a peasant farmer who grows different types of crops for food and sale, Kasimbacould not believe that the daily-throw away garbage like banana and cassava peelings could turn into fortune tosave women from the long distance walks to collect firewood.
In one of the Nyinabwenge radio talk shows at Community Green Radio, Kasimba learnt about how to covert peelings into charcoal briquettes.
“I learn on radio that after collecting the peelings, they are spread under the sun for some hours until they get dry. The dried peelings are then burnt slowly until they become ash,” she said.
“The ash is then mixed with soil and cassava porridge and then poured into a charcoal presser machine to come up with briquettes or one can use hands to make the briquette size of their choice,” she added.
Kasimba, who is a member of Butimba listeners club, sold the idea 15 other group members and now they are currently making briquettes for home use and are trying to expand the business for economic venture.
Kasimba is among many listeners who are trying to put into action what they listen on radio.
Away from making charcoal briquettes, Butimba listeners club is engaged in making indigenous tree nursery beds to conserve the environment.
Butimba listeners club is one of the pioneer clubs that started with Community Green Radio during its inception in 2014.The radio started with 11 listener’s clubs from Hoima, Kikube and Buliisa Oil-rich districts. Currently, more listeners clubs have been created in districts of Kyankwanzi and Buliisa.
The women-dominated listeners’ club members don’tonly listen. They put into action what they have learnt and also train other new listeners clubs about what they are doing.
PeninaRuhindi, a member of Kigaaga Community Radio listeners club in Kabale village in Homa district- which is adjacent to the oil refinery says they are putting into action the lessons from the radio to ensure sustainable agriculture by planting indigenous trees which encourage agro-forestry and also defend their rights as women.
“When we listen, we reflect on our community and identify the challenges talked about. We then try to find the solutions. Like now we are taking it upon ourselves as listeners club members to encourage women to gain confidence and speak up on issues affecting them and defend their rights. We encourage women to go on radio, as women we have started practicing boundary tree planting to defend our land from grabbers,” she said.
Norah Bahongye, a member of Kigaaga listener’s club says she is happy to listen to her favorite women’s program-Nyinabwenge in evening time when she has retired from her day’s duties on Saturday.
“This radio has changed the lives of many women. I did not know that me as Bahongye, a rural peasant farmer can be on the radio. I thank the radio management for aiming at amplifying women. I have indigenous knowledge on farming like best seed selection and pest control which I have shared on radio, and even people come looking for me to learn. I also know that as a woman I have a right to protect my crops from being sold by my husband from the garden. This has been common by the way because men knew we can’t defend ourselves. But listening to my voice on radio itself makes him think am empowered and I can do anything to protect myself,” She said.
Since the discovery of commercially viable oil deposits in Albertine Graben in Uganda in 2006, the high demand for land to pave way for oil exploitation as well as speculative investment has heavily impacted on host communities in theregion. The host communities are faced with evictions and displacements to pave way for oil developments. However, for the vulnerable groups such as women and children who largely depend on land for livelihood, the situation is worse. (The article on this link explains how women are impacted,http://www.nape.or.ug/10-blog/132-there-is-nothing-good-out-of-the-mines)
Despite the challenges faced by women, the voicesremained mute with untold suffering, their stories untold and underreported.
This is why National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), a local Non-Governmental Organisation, introduced Uganda Community Green Radio in 2014 in Bunyoro region to address human rights violations.
Nyinabwenge show- Women’s programwas put to specifically amplify the voices of rural women so that they can be heard, to engage them in policy making and protection of property rights, improve food security and address gender gaps in the environmental arena.
The program runs every Saturday evening for two hours and is done by Precious Naturinda as the main host and field reporter, Sara Kyeyune as a co-host, Julius Kyamanywa as the Program Director and Allan Kalangi as the overall radio manager.
The radio has helped women to gain confidence by recording them and inviting them in their radio show where they feel it’s a safe space for them to talk about issues affecting them without fear and hold their leaders accountable.
Women are engaged in conservation efforts and addressing climate change being leading by examples in their communities and disseminating their expertise using the radio. Butimba listeners club in Kikuube district, Kigaaga listeners club in Hoima district and Ngwedo listeners club in Buliisa among others are all engaged in raising indigenous trees and distributing to community members. They are also engage in food security and seed sovereignty campaigns by constructing granaries at households and having group seed multiplication gardens(of indigenous seeds which are facing extinct) which are then distributed amongst themselves.
The radio started with affiliation through another radio but last year, National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) purchased Radio Kiboga FM which is being rebranded to Community Green Radio.
According to Allan Kalangi, the officer in charge of the Radio at NAPE, many women contribute a lot towards development but their contributions and success are underreported. However, giving them a program has become a platform for them to sensitize others and they feel they are recognized in society.
Uganda community radio has won 2020 Liz Hughes award from Farm Radio International for the radio’s effort in amplifying the voices of women and addressing local gender equality issues.
The radio was awarded in recognition of its Nyinabwenge women’s program that specifically amplifies the voices of rural women so that they can be heard, take part in policy-making and protection of their rights, improve food security and address gender gaps in environmental arena among others.
“I would like to congratulate you on winning the 2020 Liz Hughes Award for Her Farm Radio. We received more than 60 applications, and your were chosen as this year’s winner. Your application clearly shows that you have identified gender equality issues in your community and are working with women, men and gender experts to discuss and even change these dynamics. You also dedicate a lot of airtime to your women’s program, and make sure to air it at a time and in a language that is convenient for your audience. I congratulate you on your hard work on the program and your fantastic storytelling,” read part of the mail from Katie Burnham, the resource coordinator for Farm Radio International.
Uganda community radio came up as winners beating RTB Gaoua from Burkina Faso, Radio Munyu from Burkina Faso, Radio Kwizera from Tanzania, KituloFm from Tanzania and Fana Broadcasting Cooperation from Ethiopia.
Farm Radio is expected to hand over the award to Uganda Community Green Radio on 8th March in a colorful ceremony that will be held at the radio officers in Kiboga district in Uganda.
Nyinabwenge program runs every Saturday for two hours. It has helped women to gain confidence and is trying to change the narrative on gender roles.
The Liz Hughes Award for her Farm Radio is an award given by Farm Radio International to recognize radio programs that address gender equality and create opportunities to share the voices of rural women.
Allan Kalangi, the officer in charge of Community Green Radio at National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) expressed excitement over the award saying it depicts the great mile stone achieved in amplifying the voices of rural women and promoting gender equality.
Uganda Community Green Radio: Winner of the Liz Hughes Award for Her Farm Radio
Residents of Kyakaboga resettlement camp in Buseruka Sub County in Hoima district have decried the devastating conditions in the camp in addition to injustices resulting from delayed promises from government.
The residents, who opted for resettlement after being evicted from their land to pave way for oil refinery in Kabaale parish, say they are fed up with government’s ‘empty promises’ offirst class marrumroads, land titles and safe water as it was indicated in the Resettlement Action Plan.
SadamTekakwo, the Chairperson of the Resettled residents says they feel insecure without land titles in the oil-rich district where land grabbing is high.
“Seven people in the resettlement camp have been affected by the oil pipeline, however, they have failed to sign consent forms because they have no land titles. Even us who prefer to sell our houses in the camp due to poor living conditions and shift to other places, can’t sell due to lack of land titles,” says Tekakwo.
PhabisShabohurira, a resident says poor roads have cut off access to markets for their produce affecting their livelihood. She adds that though they have water tanks, women trek long distances to water points where one has to even join a long cue.
“The roads are very poor; we are forced to sell our produce cheaply because we have no option. This is affecting us women since most of us depend on agriculture for livelihood,” she decries.
The residents also say that congestion in the camp has led to conflicts and poor hygiene.
“The toilets, which are close to the houses, have already started smelling with in just 2 years of our stay here. Besides that Buseruka is known for having cholera outbreak during rainy season. We are worried the future is not bright for us,” says KetraMusinguzi.
Grace Cupato another resident says conflicts among residents are on increase due to cultural differences and congestion.
“One cannot live a goat or chicken at home, you find when it has been either stolen or killed,’ says Cupato
Innocent Tumwebaze, the secretary for Oil Refinery Affected Residents Association (ORRA) says they are continuing to put pressure on government to ensure that the promises made are fulfilled.
Tumwebaze says with empowerment from National Association Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) they willcontinue to petition government in quest for justice.
“If we do not fight for ourselves, no one will fight for us. Recently when I contacted one of the officials from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, he told me they are still processing our land titles. We shall not give up until we get what we were promised,” says Tumwebaze
Poor and delayed compensation has frustrated the livelihoods of the residents affected by Central Processing Facility (CPF) in Ngwedo Sub County in Buliisa district.
Government acquired land measuring about 310 hectares which will host CPF, access road and base camp during the petroleum activities, according to the Resettlement Action Plan, leaving over 700 people affected.
According to Ngwedo Sub County Chairperson, Steven KaliisaMunange, compensation for property has been marred by delays and low rates, which has adversely affected residents especially women, who derive their livelihood from agriculture.
He explains, “Three years down the road, government has gone silent on 8 people who preferred cash compensation for their land after rejecting 3.5 million shillings per acre. Those who preferred land to land compensation have waited in vain while those who were compensated for crops and property were inadequately compensated.”
Margret Nyakato, 42, a mother of 8 says she was given 20 million shillings as compensation for the crops and a single roomed house which is undergoing construction.
She says she thought the money given to her would help her acquire her own land but due to delayed compensation, the money found her in debts. She says she has now resorted to selling firewood for survival since she has nowhere to cultivate.
She also wonders how she will stay in a single roomed house constructed to her with the 8 children.
“I had my cassava, oranges and jack fruit trees which I would sell and get school fees and income. But now I am stuck that’s why I have resorted to selling firewood. They stopped us from cultivating early yet they delayed to compensate us. This left me with no other option but get a loan so when the compensation money came, it cleared the loan and I remained with nothing,” Nyakato explained.
Margret Asiimwe, 52, says she was supposed to get a house and cash compensation for the land but has since waited in vain despite being stopped from using the land. She says she is now surviving on selling firewood and grass for food since she has nowhere to go.
“I am affected twice. I am HIV positive and my land was taken away from me. Why can’t government give me my money so that I can buy land for my children before I die?” she said.
For Dorothy Mbabazi, who preferred land to land compensation, government identified land which was rejected by residents saying it was not fertile. She says since then, government has remained silent.
“I don’t know whether government has forgotten us or when they will help us. They should rather let us use the land since it is lying idle until they start using it,” she said.
Kaliisa says Ngwedo is the main food basket for the entire district since it is the only area for agriculture. He says tampering with agricultural land in the area affects food security in the entire district.
He suggests that since the land that was acquired for the pipeline was idle, government should allow the affected residents to continue using the land until they get set to start the developments.
Alice Kazimura, the Executive Directive for Kakindo Orphans Care, a local advocacy group that works with National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) says they continue to advocate for the rights of communities by engaging government and oil companies. She says they are also sensitizing women to come up with alternative income generating activities apart from selling grass and firewood
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the president of Uganda has attacked investors encroaching on wetlands and forests accusing them of contributing to climate change at its negative impacts.
While presiding over the 2019 High Level Uganda Responsible Investment Summit and award ceremony that was held at Equatorial Hotel on 22nd November, the president expressed concern over some irresponsible investors who have degraded forests and wetlands thinking they are promoting sustainable development saying he will not tolerate them.
“As I was walking around, I found people degrading forests and wetlands. I will not tolerate them. I am coming for them,” the president said.
He further told the private sector companies that, “it is useless and shallow thinking when you think of going to degrade forests and wetlands and then you want to think about sustainable development.”
At the ceremony that was organised by Public Opinions and Office of the Minister of State for Privatization and Investment, National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) won the Uganda Responsible Investment (URI) award as the best environmental protection organization.
The NAPE Executive Director, Frank Muramuzi who was franked by the NAPE team received the award.
Mr. Muramuzi said expressed excitement saying it manifests the achievements that are seen by anybody especially in areas of environment protection and human rights.
“Now that the government can recognize NAPE, it means it has hit its target and goals as an environmental organization,” Muramuzi said.
Rajab Bwengye, the Coordinator of Projects at NAPE said receiving the award means that NAPE has excelled in environmental protection.
He said that all that NAPE wants is constructive engagement with private sectors so that as they produce and manufacture their products and offer their services, they should give the environment the first priority.
National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) has been awarded as the best environmental protection organization in Uganda.
NAPE was recognized and appreciated for its contribution towards attainment of Uganda Vision 2040 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SGDs) through promoting and upholding international best practices and standards.
The certificate of award was received by the NAPE Executive Director, Mr. Frank Muramuzi on 22nd November during the 2019 High Level Uganda Responsible Investment Summit and award ceremony that was presided over by Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. The ceremony that was held at Equatorial Hotel in Kampala was organized by Public Opinions and Office of the Minister of State for Privatization and Investment.
Addressing the investors, President Museveni expressed concern over massive degradation of wetlands and forests which he said he will not tolerate. He attacked irresponsible investors who have degraded forests and wetlands thinking they are promoting sustainable development yet they are greatly contributing to climate change.
Mr. Muramuzi said the award manifests the visible achievements by the organization especially in areas of environment protection and human rights.
“Now that the government can recognize NAPE, it means it (NAPE) has hit its target and goals as an environmental organization,” Muramuzi said while addressing staff.
Rajab Bwengye, the Coordinator of Projects at NAPE said receiving the award means that NAPE has excelled in environmental protection.
“NAPE has been criticizing big environmental polluters and degraders, manufacturing industries, mining companies, oil companies, companies producing consumer products using chemicals and others. So being awarded as the best environmental organization in the presence of sector players is an indicator that we have done our part to ensure that these private sector companies observe the laws, guidelines and best practices for environmental protection,” Mr. Bwengye said.
Mr. Bwengye added that all that NAPE wants is constructive engagement with private sectors so that as they produce and manufacture their products and offer their services, they should give the environment the first priority.
NAPE was also recognized by Buliisa district local government for being a key partner towards the development of the district. The certificate was handed over to Ms.Sostine Namanya, the NAPE officer in charge of gender and food security by the District Community Development Officer, Bernard Barugahara on 13th November.
NAPE has been at the forefront of campaigns against environmental degradation among which includes campaign to save Mabira Forest, campaign against Bujagali dam and save Bugoma Forest.
In 2007, NAPE disputed the giveaway of around 27 square kilometers of Mabira forest to Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL) owned by Mehta Group of Companies for sugarcane plantations. The government in collaboration with SCOUL had proposed to de-gazette this part of the forested land and transfer its ownership to the sugar company. NAPE in conjunction with other civil society groups formed a pressure group codenamed ‘Save Mabira Crusade’ which mobilized Ugandans across the country and beyond to protest the forest de-gazettement plan. The government bowed to pressure and abandoned the plan to de-gazette the forest. However, in 2011, the government again attempted to resurrect the de-gazettement plan but NAPE and other civil society met the president who suggested a joint research between the activists and State House on economic values of the forest which would inform the government on their next step. Since then, the government has kept silent on the Mabira forest issues.
NAPE was also against the construction of Bujagali power dam saying it would not benefit Ugandans and it presented numerous social, economic and environmental problems. However, the Government and World Bank did not listen to the concerns of environmental activists and went ahead to approve the dam project in 2001. Today the dam that was expected to add 250 MW to the national grid is unable to produce 180 MW and electricity demand continues to rise in the country. NAPE warned that Bujagali would not generate the projected megawatts.
In Albertine Region, NAPE has campaigns against Bugoma forest give-away for Sugar cane plantation, campaign on food security and seed sovereignty and protection of sacred natural sites.
Women in Hoima and Kikuube districts have called on government to come up with stringent measures of protecting Bugoma Central Forest Reserve against massive destruction.
The forest is currently threatened by massive encroachment for cultivation, timber cutting, charcoal burning and lumbering. This contributes to about 100,000 hectares of forest cover that Uganda loses every year.
While appearing in Nyinabwenge – Women’s show at Ugandan Community Green Radio in Kiboga district, Beatrice Rukayanga, the National Steering Committee member of Rural Women’s Movement and the Chairperson of Kwataniza women’s group in Hoima said continued destruction and change of use of the forest will affect the climate and water sources. She notes that this will largely affect women since most of them heavily depend on natural resources for their livelihood.
“The forest is important to everyone but most importantly to rural women who are farmers and derive their livelihood from agriculture,” she said.
Rukanyanga notes that continued destruction of the forest when Uganda is heading towards production phase of the oil in the region is uncalled for since it would be crucial in absorbing the toxic gases that will be originating from oil waste.
Mbabazi Aidah, Member of Kaseeta Collaborative Forest Management group says communities adjacent to the forest have for long protected and supported the conservation due to its benefits. She expresses concern that letting it away to encroachers frustrates the conservation efforts by the local communities.
“We have for long taken part in protecting the forest against timber cutters by acting as whistleblowers. We are also taking part in massive tree planting around the forest. We are frustrated by the government officials who offer land titles in the forest and also allow sugarcane growers to frustrate it,” she decried.
Mbabazi said women are already faced with climate change challenges like drought and change of seasons which have affected them economically and further destruction means women will continue to suffer.
The women are calling on government leaders to support the conservation efforts by the local communities and also put up strong measures to conserve it for good.
Rukanyanga said it’s high time women teamed up to fight against climate injustices which are leaving women in untold suffering and force government to take action on protecting the forests.
“ As rural women’s movement we are coming up to fight injustices such climate and land injustices, that’s why we need more women to join us in the struggle,” she noted .
Responding to some of issues raised, Stuart Maniraguha, the Director for Plantation Development in the National Forestry Authority says NFA is already partnering with development partners to restore part of Bugoma forest. He says he supports women organizing to fight against forest destruction; which is one of the core objectives of NFA.
“We are working hard to ensure that the forest is protected. We have already partnered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees-UNHR to restore about 100 of the 150 hectares of the degraded forest land,” he said.
The Nyinabwenge show which was held on 17th August was looking at “How Bugoma Forest Giveaway to pave way for sugarcane growing affects women and how women can take part in protecting the forests”.
The show was also being filmed by Thomas Lenta, a journalist from Mongaby Media Services.
Lenta said he was interested in the show due to its unique nature of giving a platform to women express themselves and to talk about the issues affecting them.
Nyinabwenge show that runs every Saturday from 17:00 to 19:00 is a gender program which gives women platform to discuss issues affecting them and also contribute towards development of the society.
Members of Community Green Radio listener’s clubs in Bunyoro oil-rich districts have been urged to lead by example in raising their voices against human rights violations by government and oil-companies as they intensify oil developments in the region.
During their visit to learn how sustainability school and radio listeners clubs work in promoting the rights of communities in Bunyoro region, Malcom Mpamizo from Civic Source Africa and the Greg Regagnon from Wellspring, who are also friends to National Association of Professional Environmentalists, said communities have a right to prior and fair compensation, prior informed consent and right to a clean and health environment.
During their visit to Kigaaga listeners’ club in Buseruka Sub County Hoima district and Butimba sustainability school in Kikuube district, Greg said the members need to work as a team and stay strong in engaging and challenging government on human rights violations.
“These oil companies do not have the right to profit from communities’ human rights violations. You have a right to say no and you should not bow to poor compensation,” Greg noted
His comments followed concerns that were raised by members of poor and delayed compensation to residents affected by pipeline and road projects in the districts.
“We have challenges as a result of oil developments but as empowered members of community, we are mobilizing others to ensure that these issues are solved. We have already prepared our petition on poor compensation on road project and it awaiting hand over to our member of parliament,” Rev. Fred Musimenta, a chairperson of Butimba sustainability Conservation Association noted.
Musimenta said NAPE has greatly empowered them to stand up and fight against injustices, resist land grabbers and lead the environmental protection campaign and restoring indigenous seeds.
“Before NAPE came, we could not stand up and oppose any government leader. But they have trained us to act; it has been so good to us. Now we are on the campaign against Bugoma forest giveaway to sugarcane growers, promoting indigenous seeds and fighting against human rights violations by oil companies,” he said.
Greg commended NAPE for supporting communities and urged it to continue advocating for the rights of communities.