|An evicted woman showed proof of her family's land ownership.|
The Road to Serfdom Series
Multi-National Corporations with murky ownership are throwing thousands of people off their land in corrupt deals with governments.
- Property Rights have no meaning as thousands of Ugandans claim they had been violently evicted from their land.
- Global Warming Carbon Credits are lining the pockets of multi-national corporations in financing land grabs.
Another story in our continuing series of the Road to Serfdom - A brave new world were multinational corporations and sovereign wealth funds work with corrupt local government to buy up or steal land, mineral rights and businesses.
According to the company’s proposal to join a United Nations clean-air program, the settlers living in this area left in a “peaceful” and “voluntary” manner.
People here remember it quite differently.
“I heard people being beaten, so I ran outside,” said Emmanuel Cyicyima, 33. “The houses were being burnt down.”
Other villagers described gun-toting soldiers and an 8-year-old child burning to death when his home was set ablaze by security officers, reports the New York Times.
“They said if we hesitated they would shoot us,” said William Bakeshisha, adding that he hid in his coffee plantation, watching his house burn down. “Smoke and fire.”
According to a report released by the aid group Oxfam on Wednesday, the Ugandan government and a British forestry company forcibly expelled more than 20,000 people from their homes here in recent years, emblematic of a global scramble for arable land.
“Too many investments have resulted in dispossession, deception, violation of human rights and destruction of livelihoods,” Oxfam said in the report. “This interest in land is not something that will pass.” As population and urbanization soar, it added, “whatever land there is will surely be prized.”
Across Africa, some of the world’s poorest people have been thrown off land to make way for foreign investors, often uprooting local farmers so that food can be grown on a commercial scale and shipped to richer countries overseas.
But in this case, the government and the company said the settlers were illegal and evicted for a good cause: to protect the environment and help fight global warming.
|A Bulldozer breaks down a house at Naguru Estate, following eviction orders.|
(New Vision of Uganda)
The case twists around an emerging multibillion-dollar market trading carbon-credits under the Kyoto Protocol, which contains mechanisms for outsourcing environmental protection to developing nations.
The company involved, New Forests Company, grows forests in African countries with the purpose of selling credits from the carbon-dioxide its trees soak up to polluters abroad. Its investors include the World Bank, through its private investment arm, and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, HSBC.
NFC’s investors include HSBC, the European Investment Bank, Agri-Vie, a French social investor, and several wealthy individuals.
In 2005, the Ugandan government granted New Forests a 50-year license to grow pine and eucalyptus forests in three districts, and the company has applied to the United Nations to trade under the mechanism. The company expects that it could earn up to $1.8 million a year.
But there was just one problem: people were living on the land where the company wanted to plant trees. Indeed, they had been there a while.
“He was a policeman for King George,” Mr. Bakeshisha said of his father, who served with British forces during World War II in Egypt.
Tensions brewed. The company and government said the residents were living illegally in a forest. Residents said they had rights. Community members took the company to court in 2009 and a temporary injunction was issued, barring evictions. Nevertheless, Oxfam and residents say, evictions continued.
Residents were given until Feb. 28, 2010, to vacate company premises while soldiers and the police kept surveillance. Company officials visited, too. From time to time a house would be burnt down, villagers said. Then came Feb. 28, a Sunday.
“We were in church,” recalled Jean-Marie Tushabe, 26, a father of two. “I heard bullets being shot into the air.”
“Cars were coming with police,” Mr. Tushabe said, sitting among the ruins of his old home. “They headed straight to the houses. They took our plates, cups, mattresses, bed, pillows. Then we saw them getting a matchbox out of their pockets.”
Homeless and hopeless, Mr. Tushabe said he took a job with the company that pushed him out. He was promised more than $100 each month, he said, but received only about $30.
A Ugandan government spokesman said residents in Namwasa were illegal encroachers, but he acknowledged and deplored the use of violence to remove them, saying it was done by corrupt politicians and police officers operating outside the law.
Olivia Mukamperezida, 28, said her house was among the first in her community to be burned down. One day in late 2009, she said, her eldest son, Friday, was sick at home, so she went out to find medicine. Villagers suddenly told her to rush back. Everything was incinerated.
“I found my house when it was completely finished,” she said. “I just cried.”
Ms. Mukamperezida never found the culprits. She buried Friday’s bones in a grave, but says she does not know if it is still there.
“They are planting trees,” she said.
For more on this story
The Road to Serfdom Series
The world is moving toward a modern form of Neo-Serfdom where everyone works for the all-powerful State or businesses controlled by the State. A world where individual property rights and economic freedom do not exist.
FREEDOM IS VANISHING: What happens when the major employers are owned by government backed investment groups, or your food comes from government owned farms, or your news is delivered by so-called "private" corporations but are in reality connected and interconnected to governments?
George Orwell had a name for it: Big Brother.
Please check out other stories in our Serfdom series.
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