WATER-GRABBING: CONTESTATION AND SEIZURE OF WATER RESOURCES IN THE CONTEXT OF MODERNISING COMMERCIAL FISH FARMING ON CRATER LAKES
Media release of TLC
October 21, 2020, Fort Portal (Uganda) Plunder and Deception 2, Water Grabbing
In a report released today, Twerwaneho Listeners’ Club (TLC) publish the results of an investigation on the giveaway of 52 crater Lakes of Kabarole and Bunyangabu to a private investor; Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited for exclusive right of use.
The investigation reveals grave human rights abuses including denying communities access to water, shooting and maiming a human rights activist, unlawful arrests and detention of men and women among other abuses as indicated in the report.
The report Plunder and Deception 2, – WATER GRABBING: Contestation and Seizure of Water Resources in the Context of Modernizing Commercial Fish Farming on Crater Lakes of Kabarole and Bunyangabu is intended to widen and deepen the lens beyond the confines of the literature’s still limited focus on agriculture-driven resource grabbing. The report further emphasizes the need for Ferduslt Engineering Services and her promoters Kabarole District Local Government to implement remediation programs as a measure of redress for the victims of corporate abuses.
October 21, 2020, Fort Portal (Uganda) New report on Water Grabbing by Ferdsult Engineering Services in Kabarole and Fort Portal.
On the 9th May 2015, Kabarole District Local Government signed with Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) granting the later exclusive rights to use the 52 crater lakes for commercial fish farming purposes in total disregard to the rights and interests of the communities already settled and using the water and resources around as a source of livelihood.
Communities were not consulted nor involved at any point of the project; Free, Prior and Informed Consent remains a cardinal principle that can guarantee indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination and most importantly ensure that indigenous people effectively participate in processes that determine the outcome of decisions that affect them.
The fishing project was clearly imposed onto the communities at the expense of their rights.
In the following months to the signing of the MoU, it became clear that the MoU had given the company exclusive rights to use the lakes and their shores. The company hired armed private guards to patrol on and around the lakes, to evict people from their gardens around the lakes and chase them from the shores.
The Uganda Police also widely participated in the abuses. One year after the signing, complaints from community members started to emerge pointing fingers at Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited staff, the Uganda Police Force and the armed private guards.
Between the signing of the MoU and March 2018 TLC documented 123 violent incidents and at least 81 people had been denied access to 6 lakes and surrounding lands out of the 20 crater lakes that were ear marked for the first phase of fish stocking and restocking.
For instance, on 11th November 2015, six policemen confiscated all nets and boats belonging to Mr. Francis Kamara on Lake Saaka. Mr. Kamara reported a complaint to police. The boats and nets were confiscated and taken to a police camp by the lake. When the owners went to claim their equipment, they were chased away and have never recovered them.
In April 2016, the same incident happened to Mr. Deus Byabashaiza, Hilary Acleo and other residents on Lake Mwamba.
On the 26th June 2016, Mr. Donozio Turinawe was apprehended by Ferdsult hire guards, and forced to swallow bullets. Following several beatings, his knee was dislocated.
On the July 2016, 3 girls were arrested and detained for overnight at the 1980 Kabarole Youth War Veterans. The girls claimed to have been raped.
On the 6th August 2016, Mr. Stephen Nyakahuma was dragged in the mud and fined UGX 20,000/= to be set free having been found with a fishing rod and a machete near the lake Saka.
On the 12th September 2017, James Rukampena was shot in both legs by Ferdsult privately hired security guards. He later lost one of his limbs.
These and many well documented cases demonstrate the nature of harassment and abuses communities faced during the occupation of the lakes.
The investigation found the following as the most and consistently abused rights
Right to Food and Water and impact on daily life:
The most widespread manifestation of water-related violence is the deprivation of access to water and basic sanitation. Communities around the crater lakes were subjected to a situation of “structural violence” that prevented them access the crater lakes according to the findings in the report
Rights not to be arbitrarily deprived of property:
Security guards and/or police systematically confiscated fishing equipment, such as hooks, nets and boats belonging to people around the lake, even when they were not using them. They also sunk several boats. Security guards were also implicated for stealing bags of crops and local gin waragi belonging to people who had commercial activities around the lakes. They destroyed food crops as a means of discouraging activities around the lakes. Many of those confiscated items ended up unaccounted for and still remain in the custody of police and the contracted security company.
Right to freedom from forced evictions.
As a guarantee that the investments on the lakes were not at risk of community reaction, Farmers having land near the lake were, almost systematically, evicted from their land without any formal communication or compensation. Through threats, maiming locals and other forms of harassment security guards and occasionally police successfully kept communities away from the areas adjacent to the lakes.
It seems that Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited often seeks simply to reduce reputational risks for themselves while ignoring the negative impact its activities had on communities.
The company has deliberately denied any wrong doing to the point of appealing a High Court Judgement that nullified the MOU it signed with Kabarole District Local Government.
Bearing in mind the magnitude of damage on communities, several recommendations have been made to prevent similar circumstances that can lead to grave human rights abuses
The State must ensure:
- That the Constitution and other subordinate laws of Uganda are respected by private companies
- Access to justice for all its citizens by taking all necessary steps to make courts materially more accessible,
- Ensure fair trial, reducing costs to effectively access justice and eradicate corruption in the enforcement of Court decisions
The police and Ferdsult Engineering Services Limited:
- The police and Ferdsult must return all the properties that were taken from inhabitants of lakes where they operated.
- The police must respect human rights as provided in the Constitution of Uganda and the international instruments, act in the interest of Ugandan citizens, protecting their life and property as provided in the Constitution of Uganda and not for private interests
- Take all measures necessary to ensure a fair access to their services including but not limited to: allegations from citizens are duly taken into account, no money charged for police services, simple access to police post, eradication of unfair fining.
- Creation of dedicated Uganda Police Force department to fight against sexist and sexual violence against women.
The State and the District:
- A commission of inquiry must be established in order to determine compensation measures that the District, the State and Ferdsult shall give to the inhabitants of Kabarole District affected directly or indirectly by the project; including but not limited to: lost income during and after the project, loss of properties, physical and mental damages.
- An inclusive local development plan is necessary for fishers, farmers and all the inhabitants of the areas surrounding the lakes to help them use the shores sustainably. It must ensure local people are free to access the lakes
- Actors and supporters of the project must be held accountable for their actions that have caused multiple human rights violations between 2015 and 2018 via open and independent investigations
For Further Information,
Contact: Twerwaneho Listeners’ Club
Tel: +256 (0) 782499986 | +256 (0) 703181157, Website: www.tlc-uganda.org