10 years of impunity in Uganda: Forced eviction in Mubende
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. 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.
The Ugandan State has clearly violated its obligation to protect human rights, ensuring that Kaweri Coffee Plantation Ltd. does not deprive people of their access to land and adequate food. Moreover the state has directly violated the rights of its citizens: The eviction was ordered by the state, people’s houses were bulldozed, fields were laid waste, all the belongings of the local population were looted and the evictees had to leave their land at gunpoint.
The Kaweri Coffee Plantation Ltd. and also Neumann Kaffee Gruppe, knowingly accepted the consequences of the eviction and are therefore complicit with the human rights violations. The company was involved in the destruction of property and taking over of land without compensation to the persons concerned, it rejected any dialogue with the evictees and obstructed court proceedings and attempts to reach an extrajudicial settlement.
The evictees, who joined forces under the banner “Wake Up and Fight for Your Rights” have been filing complaints against the Ugandan government and the Kaweri Coffee Plantation since 2002, demanding compensation and restitution of their land. However, the trial in the Ugandan court has been systematically delayed. In nine years, the Court’s proceedings have not made any substantial progress and the case is still pending. The evictees have put all their financial means, effort and time in this fight against impunity, nevertheless their sufferings remain unpunished. 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 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 favor 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.
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.