Mining and Marginalization in Karamoja

A boom in Uganda's Foreign Direct Investments has caused a surge in human rights abuses - this is counteracted by supporting local activists!

© Robert Odongo

The Issue

A surge in Uganda’s Foreign Direct Investments (FDI’s) – primarily in the power, agriculture, and construction sectors – has led to issues of environmental degradation, labor rights, and land rights. Reports show massive land grabbing for agribusiness and mineral extraction, with communities in Kiryandongo, Kikuube, Mubende, and Moroto experiencing massive evictions during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Over 60% of Karamoja’s land is under mineral concessions for investors, disproportionately impacting marginalized groups like women, girls, and children. Limited corporate and government accountability creates intersectional inequalities, and communities lack the power to challenge investors or advocate for local development.

Community and individual Land and Environmental Defenders (LED’s) play a crucial role in protecting the environment and defending land rights in Uganda. However, they are often branded as ‘enemies of development’ by the Ugandan President.

The country’s civic space situation is repressed, posing difficulties for Human Rights Defenders challenging business operations that violate community rights.

There has been documented attacks on LED’s in Uganda, including those challenging community rights under EACOP (The East African Crude Oil Pipeline) and Kiryandongo Sugar. 28 land defenders in Mubende and those in the oil and gas sector have been arrested. Evidence shows that those defending their land rights are being sued by the government for unfair compensation. However, there is a weak capacity at the grassroots level to monitor and document specific human rights violations. Reports show incomplete documentation and non-existent investigations in Uganda, leading to a culture of impunity in corporate violations and attacks on human rights defenders (HRD’s). This has resulted in increased risks for LED’s, perpetrated by both government and businesses.

The Project

This Action addresses land and environmental rights violations in Uganda by promoting accountability and a multi-stakeholder approach. It addresses the limited capacity among LEDs to address these violations, particularly the disproportionate effects of government actions on indigenous communities and marginalized groups. The Action also aims to provide credible information about the impacts of the environment and natural resources sector on violations, ensuring that violations are reported, documented, or investigated.

Communities and LEDs continue to face risks and threats, such as arbitrary arrests and physical attacks from business and government actors. This is counteracted by safeguards for HRDs and ensuring that they safely can carry out their role of protecting people’s rights and the environment. This will establish synergies with EU implementing partners, focusing on child labor, and foster collaboration at national, regional, and global levels. It will contribute to various platforms, such as the National Annual BHR Symposium, the East Africa BHR Dialogue, the Africa BHR Forum, and the UN Forum on BHR. Partners will work with relevant actors to enhance the capacities and networks of LED’s, improve monitoring and documentation, and report on LED’s.

The Change

The Action aims to create a mass of land and rights defenders in communities and districts, allowing them to participate in policymaking and development processes. This involves sub-regional HRD’s, community LED’s, and consortium partners, ensuring community members are aware of legal frameworks protecting their rights and environment.

Another component that will be improved is the economic opportunities for communities through responsible investments, sustainable use of environment and natural resources, secure land access, income-generating activities, livelihood security, and reduced vulnerability to environmental shocks.

This action aims to address land and environmental rights violations among 510,000 community members, focusing on those at risk. Implemented by 570 HRD’s and community LED’s, it will ensure protection for frontline HRD’s, contribute to an accountability culture and reduce corporate impunity through documented evidence and online documentation.

The Action aims to protect land and environmental rights, including those of community LED’s, by implementing legal and policy frameworks. It will improve efficiency, involve private sector and community social structures, build LED capacity, raise awareness of human rights policies, and promote specific policies. It will empower stakeholders, establish community-driven advocacy structures, and contribute to the national agenda by prioritizing sustainable development and natural resource governance policies.

Thematic Relevance

Fighting Extreme Inequality is the goal responsible for advancing private sector engagements, economic justice, and civic space including the protection of HRD’s which directly speak to the Action.

About this project

Project Title: Monitoring, Documentation and Advocacy for Human Rights in Uganda

Timeline: 2023 to 2026

Local Partners: National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders Uganda (NCHRD-U) and Witness Radio (WR)

Amount: 750,000 EUR

Outreach: 590 Human Rights Defenders

Donors: European Union (main donor) and Danida

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