The African Development Bank received complaints submitted by members of the Paten Indigenous Clan living in Ragem and Wadelai Sub County, Pakwach District

On 11 October 2021, the Independent Recourse Mechanism (IRM) at the African Development Bank Group received a Complaint from members of the Paten Indigenous Clan living in Ragem and Wadelai Sub County, Pakwach District. The complaint was in relation to the Wadelai Irrigation Scheme Project under the Farm Income Enhancement and Forestry Conservation Project – Phase 2 (FIEFOC-2).

The Paten Clan members complained about human rights violations arising from the implementation of the Wadelai Irrigation Scheme. According to the complaint sheet seen by the Albertine Watch researchers, the Paten Clan members indicated that their land is part of the area that was earmarked for the agri-business component of the FIEFOC-2, and they allege that: Their land has been forcefully acquired for the Wadelai Irrigation Scheme project against their will despite all negotiations with the project implementers. They were misled regarding the amount of land needed since they consented to offer 365 acres equivalent to 145 hectares but later they have discovered that the project would instead take up 365 hectares of their land; some members of the community are facing retaliation for their opposition to land acquisition, and the situation will impact their livelihoods.

In a virtual meeting held by the ADB with the complainants/members of Paten Clan on 21 October 2021 to obtain further information, the complainants elaborated on the issues raised in their complaint and further claimed there were a lack of proper consultations with communities and implementation of the project differently from its original design. Community members, particularly women who previously accessed the land and forest (currently occupied by the project) to collect wood, water, or for other activities, are no longer able to do so, adversely impacting the livelihood of the community members. Common grazing land for animals is no longer feasible for community members who have been forced to keep their animals close to their own property. In addition, the area of the project is being protected by security forces who threaten women and other community members. They also claimed that their Lands were taken, crops were destroyed, and community members are not able to farm for their own consumption, and yet they were not properly compensated.

The Paten clan members believe that the acquisition of their land is against the AfDB’s Operational Safeguard 2 – Involuntary resettlement: land acquisition, population displacement, and compensation. And they request IRM to review whether the project complies with AfDB’s policies and to provide the necessary support in resolving the problem.

Upon conducting a preliminary assessment of these Complaints and considering the additional information that the bank received from the Paten Clan members, the IRM has determined that the complaint falls within its mandate and meets the requirements for registration under Paragraphs 11, 12 &13 of the IRM Operating Rules and Procedures of 2021. The IRM has registered the Complaint on 5 November 2021 in the IRM Register of Complaints (Complaint Reference No. RQ2021/3) for compliance review. The notice of Registration of the complaints was sent to the Complainants, the Boards of Directors, and the President of the Bank Group. In addition, the African Development Bank is requested to submit its response to the request to the IRM within 21 business days of the receipt of the Notice of Registration, i.e., by no later than 6 December 2021.

The Management Response should indicate how the Bank has complied or intends to comply, with AfDB’s relevant policies and procedures applicable to this Project.

About Wadelai Irrigation Scheme Project

With support from the African Development Bank (AfDB) the government of Uganda is implementing a Farm Income Enhancement and Forestry Conservation Project consisting of four components namely; i) Agriculture Infrastructure Development; ii) Agribusiness Development; iii) Integrated Natural Resource Management and; iv) Project Management.

The overall goal of the Project is to contribute to poverty reduction and economic growth in Uganda through enhanced productivity and commercialization of agriculture. This seeks to improve household incomes, food security, and climate resilience through sustainable natural resources management and agricultural enterprise development.

Wadelai Irrigation scheme in Pakwach district is one of the four irrigation schemes under the Agriculture Infrastructure Development component of the project. Under this component, the project will develop five (5) new gravity-fed irrigation schemes including Wadelai (1000 ha), Mubuku II (480 ha), Doho II (1178ha), Tochi (500 ha), and Ngenge (880 ha), covering a total area of 4038ha for high-value crops; facilitate multipurpose use of water by providing livestock watering troughs and fisheries development on a case by case basis; Construct 50 km of access roads to link the schemes with the nearest road network; establish four climate stations, form water users associations, construct office blocks with water and sanitation facilities for each of the schemes and; provide capacity development opportunities for farmers and extension agents in
project-related areas of services.

The other is the Agribusiness Development component that seeks to support climate-smart livelihoods aquaculture (Fisheries), Apiculture (Honey production), seedling production, crop intensification; develop business skills especially among the youth (capacity development, market development, cooperative development, facilitate access to finance) and; development of an Agribusiness development pilot activity for the youths.

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank approved on 25 January 2016 a loan of USD 76,700,000 to finance part of the Farm Income Enhancement and Forestry Conservation Programme – Phase 2 (FIEFOC-2). The project is co-financed by the Nordic Development Fund (NDF) and the Uganda Government. The final disbursement date has been extended to 31 December 2022, while the completion date is 30 June 2023. The current disbursement rate is 74.1%.

The construction of the Wadelai Irrigation scheme is one of the five selected priority irrigation schemes under the project.

In the Proposed enhancement/mitigation, monitoring, and implementation plan of the potential environmental and social impacts of FIEOCII, it was indicated that during the Pre-construction (Planning/Design) Phase, ESIA and ESMPs for each irrigation scheme will be prepared and that all land acquisition, involuntary resettlement, and compensation will be addressed through resettlement screening, preparation, and implementation of appropriate safeguards documents. At the Construction Phase, irrigation schemes will be located on government lands and sites belonging to beneficiaries that will own the irrigation schemes.

The misunderstanding between the Paten Clan and the government resulted after the Coil Company Limited who is doing the construction work of the irrigation scheme went ahead and surveyed the land in question without the clan notice.

Although the Paten Clan member, through their local leaders consented to provide 365 acres of their community land for the project. However, the land required as per the project design was 365 hectares of land, an equivalent of over 730 acres of land which the community was not willing to offer despite the meetings and land surveys that the project team had conducted with the community representatives. The main reason for the denial of giving the 365 acres of land to the government was because the community realized that the land surveyed was more than what was agreed upon.

The community in Paten feels they have given a lot of land to the government including that upon which the Ragem prison land is located. They are hesitant to provide more. This is regarding the land that is to be used for infrastructural development to support Wadelai Irrigation the project.

Furthermore, there exist conflicting opinions on the role of the community members in the implementation of the project. Communities who spoke to the Albertine Watch researchers expressed willingness to provide land for the project to construct project infrastructure including the dam, canals, roads, and office blocks and as well, land for crop growing. However, inconsistencies in the compensation process, the amount to be paid to each landowner for crop growing per season and the survey process for land to be used by the project need to be addressed. The project also lacks an efficient project-level grievance redress mechanism to deal with disputes arising especially from the process of land acquisition for the project

The other community concern is that the Adiri community land in question is the only land that the community has and the increasing population of the Paten Community also increases their zeal of not giving out the small land. One of the community elders was noted saying;

Adiri is their crop farming piece of land, sourcing of firewood, herbal medicine, grasses for thatching houses, poles and reeds and bricks. With the irrigation scheme, where would they source all these materials?

A community leader from Ayavo East village expressed concern regarding the implementation of the project thus;

We thought that the project land would be tilled by its owners but we were later told that we couldn’t handle on our own but be in a group.

The day they started combining us as groups and talking of bringing in investors to use part of the land is when they started stealing our land.

In an effort to acquire land for the project, there have been conflicts arising over ownership of the different parcels of land and the amount of land surveyed for acquisition by the project. One such conflict involves the acquisition of part of the land belonging to the Jago Cak Paten Clan which they described as ‘forceful extension of Wadelai Irrigation Scheme on Paten Adiri land.’ In their submission, they stated that;

Paten clan was consulted to offer portions of their land to the project and they accepted for only a part of the Paten Adiri land in Ayom, West of the main road BUT NOT part of the land east of the road stretching to Ocayo border. However, community grievances arose when Coil Company Limited entered our land east of the road and illegally surveyed it as part of the project

Reprisal against Paten Clan members, activists and human rights defenders

Letter of summoning requesting clan member to appear before the Pakwach District’s Award and Sanction Committee

On August 10th, 2021, Sixteen members of the Paten Clan were shot at and wounded by local police and army officers of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) who started firing bullets and teargas to disperse the Clan members for questioning and protesting against the Wadelai Irrigation project. This was after the staff of the construction company -Coil Limited in charge of implementing the project, together with representatives of Pakwach district local authorities and the police, forcefully entered the community.

After the shooting, the police refused to hand them forms for documenting the injuries suffered, meaning they were unable to easily access healthcare in government health centers. The day after, UPDF officers arrested and beat up and rape four women, including one pregnant woman who was on their way to fetch water.

These attacks are some of the most latest examples of the ongoing retaliation against Paten Clan members are facing as a result of their opposition to the government’s dubious acquisition of clan’s land for agricultural production under the Agribusiness Development component of the Wadelai Irrigation Scheme Project which is against the AfDB’s Operational Safeguard 2 — Involuntary resettlement land acquisition, population displacement, and compensation.

Nine members of the community have also been criminalized following the protests. They have been accused of sabotaging the project by local police and are currently out on bail. Two human rights defenders who volunteer with local human rights organizations, Buliisa Rural Initiative for Development (BIRUDO), who are also local civil servants have also been criminalized. They have been summoned before the District’s Award and Sanction Committee and have been interdicted from their jobs – meaning they are only earning half salary, have had to hand over their passports to the Resident District Commissioner, and are not allowed to leave Pakwach district – after having supported the community’s rejection of the land acquisition.

Buliisa Rural Initiative for Development (BIRUDO), a local human rights organization that works to improve the quality of life of local communities through information sharing, sensitization, advocacy, and networking for sustainable development, has also been suspended from operating in Pakwach District by the Deputy Resident District Commissioner following their work with Paten Clan. They have been accused of supporting the community to sabotage government projects.

Despite widespread opposition to further land acquisition within the local communities, and despite the recent violence and arrests, Coil Construction Company Limited continues to forcefully take land from the Paten clan. During an initial conversation with the African Development Bank about the retaliations stated above, the bank staff questioned the community’s grievances while failing to mention, let alone acknowledge, the ongoing violence and arrests perpetrated against the community by the security forces. Action must be taken by the African Development Bank and Nordic Development Fund urgently to prevent further violence from taking place.

The Albertine Watch and dozens of Environmental defenders, land and human rights activists from the Albertine region welcomes the Independent Recourse Mechanism (IRM) decisions to seek a Response on how the Bank has complied or intends to comply, with AfDB’s relevant policies and procedures applicable to Wadelai Irrigation Project.

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