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Image: Uganda: Profits over people

Uganda: Profits over people

In August 2001, the Ugandan army forcefully evicted more than 2000 people from their land in the Mubende district to make way for a vast coffee plantation operated by Kaweri Coffee Plantation Ltd., a subsidiary of the Hamburg-based Neumann Kaffee Gruppe. To this day, the evictees continue to suffer from the loss of their land.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012, by HRH Oslo Based on Fian International information

Since the time of their eviction, many of the evictees have been living at the edge of the plantation in makeshift homes they have constructed there. Although some evictees have turned to temporary small-scale farming along the lands of the coffee plantation, they are not able to provide their families with adequate food. After ten years those driven off their lands still live in poverty and face hunger. 

Legal process fails

Soldiers burnt down houses, coffee and banana plants. More than 2000 people had to leave behind all their belongings. "To date, none of the evictees have been compensated, neither for their loss of land, nor for the extreme state of emergency under which they have lived from the day the eviction took place", said Gertrud Falk of FIAN Germany.

FIAN has supported the peaceful struggle of the evictees, who joined forces under the banner “Wake Up and Fight for Your Rights” and have been filing complaints against the Ugandan government and the Kaweri Coffee Plantation since 2002, demanding compensation and restitution of their land.  The process, however, has been delayed on numerous occasions, sometimes because of dubious legal actions. It is also difficult to hold the German parent company accountable.

Within the German legal system, it is still virtually impossible to sue German companies for human rights violations abroad. “The German legal system is lagging behind, not taking into account economic reality and the therewith interlinked human rights violations", said Falk. "With accordingly adopted laws one could force companies such as Neumann to accept responsibility in cases like Mubende".

"The evictees must be compensated and the land that was illegally taken must be given back to its owners. It simply is a scandal that eleven years after the eviction took place neither Kaweri and Neumann, nor the Ugandan government has paid any kind of compensation for the evictees", concluded Falk. FIAN will continue to bring attention to this injustice with yearly actions, until the evictees have been compensated.

Another chapter in this long history of impunity in Mubende is the latest attempt of the evictees in 2009 to strive for justice by filing a complaint with the support of FIAN to the German National Contact Point (NCP) of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. They claimed that the German Neumann Kaffee Gruppe had breached the OECD Guidelines being complicit with human rights obligations occurring during and due to the evictions. The company did not take part in talks initiated in 2010 by the Ugandan Attorney General to negotiate an extrajudicial agreement, nor did its representatives attend the last three court dates. In April 2011, the NCP declared the closure of the complaint process in favuor of Neumann Kaffee Gruppe, calling on “Wake Up and Fight for Your Rights” and FIAN to stop public criticism of the eviction and its consequences, thereby guaranteeing once again that the company as one main perpetrator remains unpunished. 

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FIAN’s local and international efforts are oriented towards supporting the evictees in claiming their rights by holding the state of Uganda and together Kaweri coffee plantation and Neuman Kaffee Gruppe accountable under international human rights law and finally putting an end to impunity.

HRH Oslo Based on Fian International information

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