Legal aid service providers under the Network of Public Interest Lawyers (NETPIL) have expressed disappointment in government’s delay to deliver justice to the people of Kaweri in Mubende District who were evicted from their land 18 years ago to allow for the establishment of Kaweri coffee plantation.
NETPIL Coordinator, Arthur Nsereko told SoftPower News that the case which dates back to 2001 has left a number of victims in dire conditions.
Nsereko said that between August 17 and 21, 2001 UPDF soldiers accompanied by the RDC of Mubende district, Perezi Katamba, unlawfully encroached on the customary holdings of over 4,000 people and started assaulting and chasing them away.
Nsereko noted that through a high handed eviction, the said UPDF soldiers burnt and demolished people’s houses and other properties ordering them to vacate the land they had occupied lawfully for a very long time.
The victims made a claim of Shs 3.8bn in 2001 as compensation for the damages that were caused which has not been settled to date.
The Executive Director, Witness Radio Organization (WRO), Geoffrey Ssebaggala Wokulira noted that the case was successfully tried before High Court in Kampala and court ordered to have the over 4,000 people compensated.
“This case was successfully argued at the High Court in Kampala before Justice Singh Anup Choudry who ruled that the victims were indeed wrongfully and illegally evicted, ordering for their due compensation. However, an appeal was filed in the Court of Appeal by government and a panel of judges ruled in favour of nullifying the earlier ruling and that the case be heard afresh,” Wokulira said.
Wokulira noted that the case is now set for mediation before Justice Henry Kaweesa Isabirye and the victims are represented by counsels Joseph Wandabwa, Derrick Lutalo among others.
“We have hope that despite the resumption of the case, government is under obligation to fulfill the recommendation that was put up by the UN committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and we know that the case will be handled expeditiously,” Wokulira said.
The UN committee reports highlighted that, “The Committee is concerned about repeated cases of forced evictions of communities as well as lack of compensation to those communities or provision of alternative housing”.
“The Committee is particularly concerned about the case of Mubende district, whose inhabitants were evicted from their homes in 2001 because of the Kaweri coffee plantation, and about the fact that so far, the legal redress that the district’s inhabitants were able to obtain did not include restitution of land rights”.
UN ordered government to immediately take measures to ensure that the rights of the Mubende community, as well as that of all other forcibly evicted communities are restored.
Wokulir added that worse still, about 100 people evicted from Kaweri were relocated and resettled in Kambuye but these have also since been evicted from the land where they had been resettled. The matter is also before court.