A history of violent evictions
“We were scared, fearing we would be put in prison. We thought if we resisted we would be punished, so we surrendered our crops in fear.” Village woman, Mayuge District
The eviction of people from the land began prior to the arrival of Green Resources, driven in part by national policies to facilitate the privatization and commodification of natural resources and land (see our post: Uganda and Carbon Markets). There are various accounts of eviction at both sites that span over four decades, beginning in the 1980s and early 1990s, coinciding with the introduction of nationwide policy driving the privatization of land for reforestation.
New laws create ambiguity
While this policy shift legitimized the exclusion of agriculture and other subsistence farming activities previously permitted on central government land, it created ambiguity about local people’s access and use rights. For example, national land laws recognize local people’s customary, user and access rights, yet corporate land licenses provide a legal mandate to enforce the protection of Green Resources’ borders from human activity.
Community members describe a mix of government employees, as well as the army, military, and police, as responsible for forced evictions on land now licensed to Green Resources. While local villagers were not clear on who was driving the eviction processes, they were unified in their descriptions of it as a distressing and life-changing event, backed by one local government representative who described it as a “violent take-over of land,”[i] with people forcibly removed from land vital for their livelihoods.
Loss of livelihood
At Kachung and Bukaleba Central Forest Reserves, community members and local leaders recounted stories of people being “chased away” and “thrown out,” thereby making way for private investors. One woman described her family’s experience of having their livelihood activities extinguished from the land in the 1990s: “We were scared, fearing we would be put in prison. We thought if we resisted we would be punished, so we surrendered our crops in fear.”[ii]
Many community members accused the police, National Forestry Authority staff, and later company staff, as using extreme force, especially against those people who wished to stay. In one village, community members described a violent eviction process that was driven by “people with guns.”[iii]
i Senior man, Focus group discussion, Mayuge district, July 29, 2013.
ii Middle-aged woman, Focus group discussion, Mayuge district, July 30, 2013.
iii Middle-aged man, Focus group discussion, Mayuge district, July 27, 2013.