Forced evictions for coffee in Uganda

On August 18, 2001 the Ugandan army violently expelled over 400 local peasant families – 2,041 inhabitants – from their land in the district of Mubende. The land was leased to Kaweri Coffee Plantation Ltd., a full subsidiary of the German multinational Neumann Kaffee Gruppe.

The affected communities described the eviction process as brutal and inhuman. Evictees were beaten and forced at gunpoint to leave their villages. Five persons died during the events. Buildings were burnt and demolished, including homes, six churches and a private clinic containing medical equipment. Property was looted and crops were destroyed.

Precarious living circumstances

The forced eviction threw those affected into a very precarious situation. Their human rights to food, water, housing and their rights to access health care and education have been severely violated. Before their displacement they pursued a wide variety of economic activities. Nowadays, the displaced families are unable to sustain themselves and feed themselves adequately. Many of the evictees have been living in makeshift homes bordering the plantation since the eviction. Some of them now work for the coffee plantation on their former ancestral land to generate some income, but wages are too low to feed their families.

No legal remedy

The evictees have struggled to assert their rights peacefully through institutional and administrative channels for ten years without remedy. To date, only about 2 per cent of them have been — inadequately — compensated for the eviction and the loss of their properties. Spokesman and former village school director Peter Kayiira has been criminalized and imprisoned on false charges for his leading role in the struggle for compensation. A court case to settle the territorial dispute has been delayed several times.

FIAN’s interventions
FIAN supported the legal struggle repeatedly by sending open letters to political and legal representatives. International attention was drawn through FIAN’s urgent actions launched in December 2001, July 2002, July 2004, in 2010 and through an open letter in August 2011. As the Ugandan government continued to neglect the issue, FIAN started to increase pressure on the management of Neumann Kaffee Gruppe, asking them several times to assume responsibility and support the efforts for compensation of the victims — without success. Furthermore, the company refused to take part in 2010 talks to negotiate an extrajudicial agreement.
Complaint on OECD Guidelines

In 2009 FIAN lodged a formal complaint to the Germany’s National Contact Point (NCP) for OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. According to these guidelines, multinational enterprises should act responsibly and respect human rights in the guest country. From a legal human rights point of view, the company should have examined more carefully the consequences of their investment project before signing the contract with the Ugandan government. In 2011 the complaints procedure against Neumann Kaffee Gruppe was closed and FIAN was asked to refrain from public criticism of the actors involved. However, on various levels FIAN is still supporting the displaced farmers in their struggle for justice. In December 2011, Peter Kayiira travelled to Europe to speak at a number of public events. Lobby activities were organized at the European Parliament, national governments and embassies. Due to these activities around international pressure is maintained.

Further reading

FIAN Fact sheet Landgrabbing in Uganda. Evictions for foreign investment in coffee (2012)