Catholic Diocese Raises Alarm Over Massive Displacements by Multinationals in Uganda

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Powerful multinational companies are on a displacement spree in Northern Uganda, and are uprooting locals from their homes where they are setting up large agricultural ventures, the Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) of the Catholic Archdiocese of Gulu, which serves the communities under attack has said.

In a report shared with ACI Africa on Wednesday, August 31, the JPC officials observe that land among the subtribes of the Acholi people in Northern Uganda who have always been farmers “is currently undergoing an agricultural transformation.”

“Foreign and local investors are investing heavily in large scale agriculture, accompanied by numerous land conflicts between them and local communities. Amuru, Nwoya and Lamwo are some of the centers of this conflict over large scale investors,” the JPC officials say.

They add, “In Gulu Archdiocese, many community members whom we have been in contact with especially in Nwoya and Amuru Districts are all saying the same thing that their land is being taken away from them by the investors.”

Locals who have shared their frustration with the Archdiocesan JPC department have said that many illegal “mark stones” are being put on their land boundaries without following proper procedures on land acquisition.


Additionally, many locals have been beaten up, dragged to court and their land taken away by the investors, the JPC of the Archdiocese of Gulu has been told. 

In a report last year, Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI) of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC), revealed that forced evictions in Northern Uganda are followed by mass deforestation where ancient forests are being decimated for the wood to be exported to China.

The organization that is investigating and documenting growing human rights violations in Uganda in partnership with the Catholic Archdiocese of Gulu noted in the report that the abuses were intensified during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“The situation is getting worse as the populations of entire districts people are being forcefully removed from their land. The forced evictions are a clear indication that people’s rights are not respected,” DHPI said in the report that was shared with ACI Africa.

It added, “The abuses intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic gave a lot of opportunists an advantage to easily access millions of hectares of land with the backing of the government and influential politicians in the country.”

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According to the report, foreign firms acquired large areas of natural forests and farmland from the government under the pretext of development and employment.

DHPI gave the example of a cotton processing firm in Gulu, which was cultivating people’s land with an Army General in charge.

With the support of the army, the management of the cotton firm is said to have forcefully removed the people from their homes before embarking on its activities.

Another case involved a former Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) commander who is said to have chased away a whole Catholic Parish in Apaa, a village in Northern Uganda. The area has now been made a game reserve, DHPI reported.

The peace entity of SACBC noted that grabbing was leading to environmental degradation, explaining, “A vast number of shea nut trees have been cut. One of the areas where trees have been decimated is Adilang Sub-County, where close to 500 people from the different parts of the country have been camped in the area.”


In the August 31 report, JPC officials in the Archdiocese of Gulu also highlight challenges of the IDP situation in Uganda, which has in the past been described as the friendliest country in the region to refugees in the region.

In particular, they make reference to the Palabek refugee settlement, one of the newest refugee settlements in Uganda officially set up in April 2016 to reduce congestion in larger refugee camps in the north western corner of Uganda.

Today, the camp hosts over 50,000 refugees primarily from South Sudan with 85 percent of arrivals composed of women and children, according to the Nations Development programme Human Development report. 

The JPC officials express concern that “trees are being depleted by the refugees from South Sudan in the nearby area of the camps” and also report on the “stealing of animals, birds and crops from the community who are near to the Palabek refugee camp.”

Additionally, host community members who move at night near the camp have reported of being physically assaulted and allegedly being thoroughly beaten by the refugees.

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The refugees, the JPC officials say, “are very harsh on the host community.”

Inside the camps, on the other hand, women and girls experience high levels of sexual gender- based violence, the JPC officials say in the August 31 report.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.