Uganda Coffee Farmers Fight For Their Land For Over 21 Years

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In 2001, 4,000 people were expelled from their country by the army in the Mubende district of Uganda. They wanted to create space for a new plantation of the Neuman-Kaffe Group from Hamburg. The coffee group is the world’s leading green coffee trader.

The Ugandan soldiers rolled down houses and huts in four villages. They destroyed fields and the food supplies of the smallholders and set fires. People lost everything they owned, and there were even deaths. The people initially fled to the adjacent forests. They later settled on open land next to the plantation, in the small settlement of Kyengeza – the village of the displaced. There they lived for years in makeshift dwellings – without clean water, medical care and without adequate nutrition. In 2002 they began to defend themselves legally against the expulsion and the theft of their land‍.

With the support of human rights organizations, they sued the Ugandan state and the Neumann Group. But the process dragged on for years. It was not until March 2013 that the High Court made a first ruling in favor of the coffee farmers/landowners.‍

It recognized the violent expulsion, promised the evictees financial compensation and also blamed the Neumann company. To this day, however, the group has denied any joint responsibility for the expulsion and is therefore not willing to participate in any compensation. ‍

The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva also dealt with the case in 2015 and called on the Ugandan government to restore the rights of the displaced people. In the same year, an appeals court overturned the first judgment and referred the case back to the High Court. The process then dragged on again, judges were transferred, new ones were not appointed for a long time, trial dates were postponed. Lengthy negotiations about an out-of-court settlement were also unsuccessful.‍

When a judge ordered an out-of-court settlement in July 2019, the chance of a solution to the conflict seemed to have come. But these negotiations are also protracted. ‍

In the meantime, the grueling struggle for compensation seems to be having an effect. In early 2020, the displaced are at odds over how to respond to a new government offer of compensation. Most families want to accept it, but others continue to complain. They continue to rate the offer as too low – for the injustice suffered, for the property destroyed and without additional funds to be able to buy new land.

Almost two decades after displacement, will people continue to fight for their rights and have to wait for compensation?‍

The case is not an isolated one, but one of the first well-documented cases of 
land grabbing in Africa. In the meantime he has become known beyond the borders of Uganda. The report accompanies this story over many years. She reconstructs the events of the displacement from the point of view of those affected, questions positions and claims in this long conflict over land in Uganda. ‍

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