Tycoon Kahwa Francis influences on Land Grabbing and Human Rights Violation in Bullisa and Hoima Districts .
Land conflict which resembles those of Ogoni land in Niger Delta has begun to happen in the local community of Waaki and Runga in Kigorobya ,Hoima district. The local residents are calling for immediate protection from government bodies and the Civil Society organizations to save them from the brutal actions of Mr.Kahwa Francis who is in the advance stage of forcefully evicting thousands of farmers and pastoralists in Waaki and Runga. Last week at least two farmers were arrested and more than 50 ran away from the garden after they have been ambushed by police and military men that is believed could have been led by the Butiaba sub county Internal Security officer Mr.Ani . Meanwhile, Mr Kahwa Francis plans to evict thousands of local people in Waaki and Runga Villages in Kirogobya Sub County to vacate land for his personal project .He claimed that the land in question is his personal land which he bought in 2011 from Government. Ayera and onen both are residents of Waaki were arrested last week while in the garden. They were driven direct to Hoima central police station by Butiaba sub county Internal Security officer Mr. Ani who was instructed by Mr Kahwa Francis to cause arrest of farmers.They were both released after a week by the District Police Commander Hoima district without any charge.Mr Ani is currently being accused for collaborating with Kahwa Francis and Watembo-Butiaba barracks military men to torture harass and violate human rights of local people in the sub county of Kigorobya. Mr Ani has several times arrested farmers in Waaki and Runga villages and taken them to Hoima Central Police and no judgments have been passed against the victims.
Recently the Hoima district local leaders instructed the police to stop harassing and arresting farmers on accusation of Kahwa Francis and now it seems that Kahwa Francis is using a cross section of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) in Watembo –Butiaba military barracks to cause the arrest of farmers in Waaki and Runga villages. Evidence suggests that the Butiaba Internal Security officer Mr. Ani usually receive token from Kahwa Francis to cause illegal arrest of farmers. In their plan, they have agreed to cause unrest to the Alur and Baralu pastoralists living in Kigorobya Sub County so that they would vacate the land.
Kahwa Francis is one of the top business elites who are undeservedly is benefitting from the illegal land acquisition in the Albertine region of Uganda.
The local community of Waaki has appealed to Hoima district Chairperson local council five and other district leaders to intervene in the situation they are undergoing because of Mr.Kahwa’s Francis influence in the government .Its believed that Mr.Kahwa is collaborating with some wrong elements in the state House to frustrate government and civil society efforts to defend people and land rights in the Albertine region of Uganda.
Kahwa Francis could not be reached for comment as the Albertine Watch was told that he was not interested in speaking to the members of the press.
The competition is brewing over a chunk piece of land occupied by the Alur’s indigenous people which according to Kahwa Francis he claimed he has bought from President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and the former deputy prime minister Kajura.
The Alur’s people are estimated to be numbering about 10,000 families who have since been living in different fishing villages on Lake Albert in Uganda.
Rumors also have it that because Kahwa Francis has close connection with state house officials, he could be dealings directly with top government officials who at some point could also be sponsoring his land grabbing deals.
For over five years, Kahwa Francis has instituted the campaign of harassment and abuse against the farmers in a bid to force them off their land and leave the way for him to retain the ownership of the land.
Because of Oil discovery, land value has also increased throughout Albertine region particularly in Buliisa ,Hoima and Nwoya Districts, areas of oil exploration. Waaki and Runga ,Bikongoro villages have been affected in exactly this way. With the discovery of potential oil wells in Waaki there is high demand for land from wealthy members of the society.
Kahwa Francis, a wealthy local man in early 2010 met the twelve families at his home and he coerced them to agree that he would join them as the 13th family and undertake development on their land.The Albertine Watch has seen the Compensation Agreement and the Development Agreement signed on March 27th, 2010, according to the agreement, it’s believed that Kahwa paid the families 94,200,000/= (Shillings ninety four million two hundred thousand shillings only) as a bribe and the agreements were very poorly written as they do not clearly delineate the exact transaction and terms of agreement and reasons why Kahwa was paying the money. While neither agreement legally transfers land ownership from the families to Kahwa, the handwritten compensation agreement states, “we the twelve families…have agreed to give our land measuring 472 acres in size.”59 Similarly, the development agreement ambiguously states that the families “give him the land to develop.” Though, in neither agreement do the families state their intentions to transfer land ownership to Kahwa or provide vacant possession of the land. According to the families intentions, Kahwa was to enter as the “13th family” in shared ownership. According to Kahwa’s testimonial, the families asked him to “take over” the land for his sole development and investment.
As to be expected, this uncertainty has led to conflict. Balyesiima Biddo’s family is part of the twelve families who entered into the compensation and development agreements with Kahwa. Biddo was born on the land that was given to Kahwa although he had gone to live with his maternal relatives for some time. When he returned to his father’s land in 2010, he constructed a hut only to be told by Gladys Kahero- the Chairperson that the land belongs to Kahwa. But, Biddo’s family argued that Kahwa had only joined the twelve families as the 13th family to help develop the land and was not the sole owner.
In March 2013, supposedly upon the request of Kahwa’s lawyers, the Court Clerk of Buliisa Magistrates Court approached Biddo with an admission of facts document as well as a consent judgment document. Although Biddo is illiterate and cannot speak English, the clerk asked him to thumbprint the documents without explaining the content. Biddo complied unknowingly signing documents that stated that Kahwa was the sole owner of the land and that Biddo had indeed unlawfully trespassed on Kahwa’s land.
The Clerk then informed Biddo that he would be expected in court the next day. Upon arrival, Biddo was informed that he had admitted to facts of the complaint and had also entered into a consent judgment with Kahwa.Biddo had no knowledge that he had signed documents to this effect even though the admission of facts document assures otherwise that “the admission of facts is made on the defendant’s own free will and without any duress.” One wonders, though, how the Court Magistrate could allow such proceedings to take place wherein two unfamiliar parties who had never met could have entered into a consent agreement without the knowledge of one of the parties.
In any case, Biddo was imprisoned for trespassing on Kahwa’s land. He was sentenced to seven months imprisonment for criminal trespass. Although Biddo’s lawyer filed an appeal to the High Court of Masindi against judgment and sentence, the appeal was only decided after the appellant had served full sentence. The Masindi Court re-affirmed the conviction on the ground that the Biddo Family had acquiesced to the development agreement with Kaahwa. Interestingly, the higher court reduced the sentence from seven to five months after all the seven months had been served. In a strange twist of events, Biddo’s hut was burnt down in an arson attack while he served his prison sentence in December 2014. Biddo’s wife was able to escape with the children unharmed.
There is now division amongst the twelve families as one representative testified on behalf of Kahwa as to the legality of Kahwa’s true ownership in the court proceedings against Biddo.
This case represents only one individual claim against Francis Kahwa for landgrabbing. In 2014, a group of elders from the Balima clan petitioned the president alleging that Kahwa grabbed ancestral land near Ngiri F4 oil well pad in Kasenyi Village Ngwedo sub-county. The land in question is part of the oil well site currently being explored and developed by Total. The oil company has even been brought into civil suit against Kahwa to challenge his ownership claims regarding three Ngiri oil well sites.
Kahwa owns huge tracts of land in Buliisa, very frequently in close proximity to oil activities; most often acquired after the initiation of oil related activities. According to a public notice issued by the Buliisa district local government in December 2014, Kahwa had 27 separate applications under review for land altogether totaling over 8,200 acres under application.68
According to Oil in Uganda: “The locals freely talk about his ‘great’ wealth and power, as well as his seemingly unstoppable quest to own every single decimal of land in this oil-rich district. According to them, Mr. Kaahwa is either incredibly lucky or he has ‘connections’ to top government officials who inform his acquisitions.”
Indeed, Buliisa county MP Hon. Mukitale who opposes Kahwa’s alleged unscrupulous activity, has accused a number of MPs and local leaders of wrongful dealings with Kahwa that has caused them to “take sides” on land grabbing issues in Buliisa.
Kasenyi Local Council Chairperson, Eriakimi Kaseegu has been battling Francis Kahwa on multiple land disputes for years including one conflict over Tullow Oil’s Kasemene 3 land that resulted in violence against the local communities and arbitrary arrests. Kaseegu describes local sentiment: “The whole of Buliisa and Hoima districts are being tortured by this man Kahwa Francis “
Waaki village is located on the shore of Lake Albert in Kigorobya Sub county, Hoima district approximately 2 kilometers away from Butiaba in Bullisa district .It is not clear when the village was first established, but evidence suggests that settlements in the village occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Sveral times there have been the reports of conflicts in this area in which Baralu pastoralists were the main factors. Baralu’scattle would stray onto peoples’ gardens, which caused discontent in the community. This ongoing conflict even led some people to migrate from the village to settle in other areas of Runga, Kapapi and Kihungya.
Alur’s are the fishermen and subsistence farmers who reside in most of the rural areas on the shore of Lake Albert in Uganda and some part of North Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. They plant crops and raise livestock as well as they practice small scale fishing’s activities in Waaki and various other landing sites on the Lake Albert .For over 80 years, they have settled on different landing sites on Lake Albert .In 2004 agents of Kahwa Francis,the former deputy prime minister Kajura and Birahwa Mukitale Steven ousted the Alur’s from Bunyoro region so that they could claim the ownership of their land after which they would sell those land to Oil explorations companies and foreign investors interested in the Oil project. Since then Kahwa Francis,Birahwa ,Kajura and now David Karubanga of Kigorobya county are playing seek and hide game to harass ,evict and confiscate lands and farmers properties .Baralu have also been frequently attacked by Kahwa and Birahwa Steven Mukitale agents.They have been threatened and their properties and possessions have been destroyed and others have been killed and thrown in Lake Albert
In 2017 last year, the Alur’s community called on president Museveni to intervene in what they have described as genocide being perpetrated against them by Birahawa Mukitale and Kinene.Media report also indicated that local gangs of people were been formed in Bullisa (Waiga) to perpetrate killings of Alur farmers and Baralu pastoralists.
Equally in 2006, a group of Bagungu led by Bullisa county MP Birahwa Mukitale Steven clashed with the pastoralists and in the process more than 10 Bagungu including Mr.Birahwa Mukitale Steven got injured. Media reports also revealed that they were bickering over a chunk of land covering the villages of Waiga ,Bugana,Kichoke and Kataleba in Bullisa district.
The nascent oil sector has created a state of lawlessness and impunity in the Albertineregion. These stories clearly highlight an eroding rule of law in the oil region. In most of the cases, critical rights are being sidelined as those in power break the law for personal gain. Laws are not only broken on paper; in some cases criminal acts are being committed. The presence of the Butiaba Internal Security officer (GISO) and the Watembu-Butiaba Barracks commander at a violent and unlawful eviction and brutal arrest of farmers resulting in injuries, missing persons and mass displacement, merits serious examination in itself. All of these cases show that the laws do not apply in the oil region for those with power and money. In multiple instances, individuals interested in cashing in on some form of oil benefits are able to completely circumvent necessary legal protocols and procedures in order to secure their oil-based profit with little inconvenience. The inconvenience is instead, born by the local communities who feel the consequences of these activities.
The evidence that key institutions mandated to uphold and protect the rule of law including regional police officers, courts and government entities are allowing and even committing these offenses poses a significant threat to the maintenance of any semblance of a rule of law in the oil region. A strong rule of law regime must be restored in the oil region and enforced by credible, strong and impartial local leadership committed to protecting the rights of local citizens. There are a number of oil related projects still set to commence including the pipeline and future exploration block sites that could necessitate further land acquisitions. If things continue unchanged, local people in the oil region, and throughout the country, will remain in a very vulnerable position at risk of further disenfranchisement due to the impacts of oil.