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hallowing tales of Kiryandongo evictees



On April 20, Elizabeth Nafula travelled with a team of other human rights lawyers to Kiryandongo district, to collect testimonies from victims of the ongoing land evictions in the district.

She had interviewed about four women when the police arrived and arrested her together with her team and taken to Kiryandongo police station where they spent a night over charges of disobeying lawful orders, and intention to spread an infectious disease (Covid-19).

The women, who were being interviewed by the lawyers, are part of the group that claims to have been raped by a gang of men working for three multinational companies that have since 2012 been evicting people off a chunk of land measuring about 37.8 square miles to establish large scale commercial farms.

Agilis Partners, Kiryandongo Sugar Works Ltd and Great Seasons SMC Ltd are the companies behind the evictions that have left more than 35,000 people from 14 villages homeless.

Agilis Partners, a US company, is growing simsim (sesame), maize, sunflower, and soybean while Great Seasons SMC Ltd, a firm owned by Sudanese nationals is involved in coffee growing, and Kiryandongo Sugar Limited which supplies sugarcane to Hoima Sugar Works.

“There are hallowing stories of rape. Rape is one of the weapons being used to push people off their land. They [investors] use their guards to warn women of the possibility of getting raped if they remain on the land, and indeed they go ahead and rape them,” human rights lawyer Eron Kiiza said on August 25 during the launch of a report; Land grabs at gunpoint.

It was compiled through a collaborative effort by three civil society organizations; Witness Radio Uganda, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) and a Barcelona, Spain – based international non-governmental organization, GRAIN.

“The evictors are sophisticated; they work with security agencies and private security guards to intimidate the locals, journalists and human rights defenders. That is how lawyers were arrested and detained at Kiryandongo police station,” Kiiza said.

The lawyers who were arrested belong to his law firm, Kiiza & Mugisha Advocates through which the evictees have filed various court suits against the investors.

“Torture and rape should never be used as a method of solving land problems in Uganda. What is disheartening is that some of these atrocities are carried out by an American company [Agilis Partners] which claims on its website to be feeding Africa yet in actual sense, they are using rape and torture to carry out the forced evictions in Kiryandongo while spreading propaganda about how they are feeding Africa,” Kiiza said.

Some of the women Nafula interviewed, had fresh wounds on their hands which they sustained during a scuffle with a gang that wanted to rape them. Two others, a 15-year-old girl and a 30-year-old woman gave birth to children whose fathers they don’t know.

Early in March, a woman was rushed to Kiryandongo hospital after the rapists left a condom stuck inside her, causing the swelling of her abdomen.

ONLY $78

According to the report, the evictees are forced to accept as little as $78 (Shs 300,000) as compensation for their land, and those that protested, like Stella Akiteng, the secretary for women at Nyamuntende village, were arrested and detained for more than a week over charges of inciting violence, malicious damage to property, arson and aggravated robbery.

For 83-year-old David Isingoma, when the evictors raided his Kisalanda village and ordered him to vacate, he asked his children to seek the intervention of the Kiryandongo resident district commissioner’s office, but to his surprise, they were arrested and detained at the police.

“I asked my children to find out from the RDC why we were being evicted. I was shocked later when I got a phone call informing that they had been arrested and taken to police,” Isingoma said during the report launch.

The father of 25 held about 100 acres of land at Kisalanda village which he has since lost. The last time he checked, his family graveyard had been razed. Besides the police, the report pins soldiers from the UPDF’s 4th division to be involved in the violent evictions.

“They robbed us before evicting us with guns,” says 60-year-old Florence Nassaka who lost her land to Agilis Partners that has since established a vast maize plantation.

One of the eviction victims attending the report launch

In February, the NGOs wrote to foreign governments notably, Britain, USA and the Netherlands as well as organisations that support the activities of the three companies to free their assistance due to the alleged human rights violations but no response has been received.

“With the support of a human rights defense organization – Witness Radio, the communities have filed several cases at the High court in Masindi to block the evictions. The cases are currently pending hearing dates,” the report states.


In a statement issued on August 26, Agilis Partners refuted the allegations contained in the report, stating that they have never evicted anyone from land and has always been focused on empowering the communities.

“The lies contained in recent reporting are an abomination to Agilis’s core values and mission. Agilis, founded in and operating in Uganda since 2012, is a social enterprise whose mission is to empower Ugandans to feed Africa,” the company said in a statement.

“In 2017, Agilis purchased Ranch 20 and 21, a property in Kiryandongo district, from private individuals and developed the land into one of the largest maize and soybean farms in Uganda. This farm alone has replaced 3 per cent of the international maize imports to East Africa with local corn production and created employment for over 75 Ugandans,” the company further stated.

The statement signed by Emmanuel Onyango further claims that the company has never evicted anyone but rather worked with community leaders to develop a humanitarian compensation and resettlement plan for all of the illegal occupants. This, Onyango said, was after determining that occupants on the land were living on it illegally.

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Iran imposes 10-day restrictions amid sharp rise in COVID cases | Coronavirus pandemic News




Tehran, Iran – Authorities in Iran have been forced to impose fresh nationwide restrictions after lack of control over travels during the Persian new year holidays last month led to an explosive rise in COVID-19 cases.

On Saturday, authorities reported 19,666 cases across the country, with the figure only second behind the highest single-day figure of 22,478 cases registered a day earlier.

Iran has reported more than two million cases since the start of the pandemic, including 64,232 deaths, 193 of those being reported in the past 24 hours.

Starting Saturday, all regions across Iran will undergo various degrees of restrictions based on how they have been classified under a colour-coded scale denoting the severity of outbreaks.

Iran’s coronavirus map looks like a sea of red as more than 250 cities, including all 32 province centres, are now classified “red”, indicating the highest level of severity.

In these regions, only essential services can continue while educational activities, dine-in at restaurants, cinemas, shopping centres, and a variety of retail vendors will have to shut down.

Travelling to those regions using personal vehicles will also be prohibited while up to 50 percent of staff will be allowed inside offices.

A curfew is in place across the country for private vehicles from 10pm to 3am.

However, a report by state television from the streets of Tehran showed traffic jams and people crammed in public transport on their way to work on Saturday.

“They say it’s closed but everything is open,” a citizen told the state TV reporter in front of a packed bus.

Fourth wave

Last week, Iran announced the country is facing a fourth wave of infections which would be the biggest so far.

The announcement came weeks after tens of millions of people were allowed to travel across the country and make in-person visits to family and friends during two-week holidays for Nowruz, the Iranian new year, that was celebrated on March 20.

On Saturday, in a televised address during a session of the national anti-coronavirus task force, President Hassan Rouhani said the main reason for the fourth wave is the large-scale entry of the COVID-19 variant first found in the United Kingdom through the country’s western borders with Iraq.

Iranian health officials now estimate that more than half of all cases reported across Iran are of the UK variant.

The president said massively increased shopping activity prior to Nowruz, in-person visits on the day of Nowruz, and weddings in the past two months were the other big reasons behind the rise. Nowruz travels “that were made without following protocols” also contributed to the numbers, he added.

Rouhani said on average only 56 percent of people are now following health guidelines.

“If more than 90 percent of people follow protocols, then we won’t have a new wave. Our healthcare workers are tired. Our society is tired,” he said.

Iran has imported more than 1.7 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from Russia, China, India, and through COVAX, a global vaccine initiative.

Three locally manufactured candidates are also undergoing human trials and five more are in the works.

But less than 1 percent of the country’s population of more than 82 million people has been vaccinated so far.

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Iran unveils new centrifuges, civilian nuclear ‘achievements’ | Nuclear Energy News




Tehran, Iran – Iran began feeding gas to cascades of new, advanced centrifuges and unveiled dozens of “achievements” to mark its national nuclear technology day in an effort to show its nuclear programme is peaceful.

President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday launched several projects across the country via video link in Tehran that was broadcast live on national television, and an exhibition of 133 technological innovations with civilian and medical uses was also unveiled.

The display comes after the opening week of negotiations in Vienna, Austria, to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers – ended on Friday on a hopeful note, and is slated to continue from Wednesday.

In Isfahan’s Natanz, where Iran’s largest nuclear facilities are located, the order was given to feed gas to 164 all-Iranian IR6 centrifuges, with 10 SWU – separative work units that indicate the amount of separation done by an enrichment process.

The IR6 was also deemed the most sustainably efficient centrifuge Iran currently deploys, which is slated to be mass-produced on an industrial level.

It was said to be able to produce 10 times more uranium hexafluoride (UF6) than IR1, Iran’s first-generation centrifuges.

“We can industrialise these machines without any reliance outside the country,” the engineer who answered Rouhani’s questions said.

Rouhani launched an exhibition of 133 technological innovations with civilian and medical uses [Iran President’s Office]

Rouhani also gave the order to begin feeding gas to test a number of 30 IR5 centrifuges and 30 IR6s centrifuges, numbers that could grow if they are successful.

Moreover, mechanical tests began on the top-of-the-line IR9 centrifuge that has a separative capacity of 50 SWU.

Also in Natanz, a unit to assemble and evaluate advanced centrifuges was launched, where the presenting engineer said more than half of all operations are currently industrialised.

The “terrorist move” to blow up parts of the nuclear facilities in Natanz last year in an attack Israel has been suspected of orchestrating did not stop the progress, the engineer said.

In Arak, the second phase of industrial production of deuterium compounds at the Arak Heavy Water Reactor Facility was launched by the president, who also oversaw the launch of a first-of-its-kind emergency unit aimed at treating radiation burns.

A series of achievements were introduced at the National Centre for Laser Science and Technology in the Alborz province, while the president next discussed advances at a national centre to research stable isotope separation.

‘Ill-placed concerns’

After the new projects were launched, the president delivered a televised address in which he once more emphasised Iran does not seek nuclear weapons, and railed against Western powers for acting based on the presumption that it did.

“These ill-placed concerns have created many problems for our people in the past 15 years,” Rouhani said, referring to multilateral sanctions imposed on Iran prior to its nuclear deal that provided sanctions relief for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Western intelligence maintains that Iran sought to weaponise its nuclear programme, plans that it abandoned in 2003.

President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday launched several projects across the country [Iran President’s Office]

Israel still repeatedly claims Iran is after nuclear weapons despite thorough inspections of its nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Rouhani also harshly criticised world powers and the IAEA for their lack of assistance in developing Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme.

“We don’t owe them, they owe us,” the president said, adding they should have assisted Iran as part of commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Hours before the unveiling of Tehran’s latest nuclear advances, Reuters news agency cited a confidential IAEA report that Iran has produced a small amount of fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, containing 20 percent enriched uranium.

The IAEA reportedly said in its report that Iran aims to produce molybdenum, which has many civilian uses, including in medical imaging.

As part of the nuclear deal, Iran’s enrichment of uranium was capped at 3.67 percent, a limit that it started gradually scaling back in 2019, one year after then-United States President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal and reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran.

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10 Myanmar police killed in attack by ethnic armies: Reports | Conflict News




Fighters from an alliance of rebel groups reportedly attack a police station in a new escalation after the military coup.

An alliance of ethnic armies in Myanmar that has opposed the general’s crackdown on anti-coup protests attacked a police station in the east on Saturday and killed at least 10 policemen, local media said.

The police station at Naungmon in Shan state was attacked early in the morning by fighters from an alliance that includes the Arakan Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, media reported.

Shan News said at least 10 policemen were killed, while the Shwe Phee Myay news outlet put the death toll at 14.

A spokesman for the military did not return calls asking for comment.

Al Jazeera’s Tony Cheng, reporting from neighbouring Thailand, noted the ethnic armies are some of the oldest in the world, having battled central government forces for decades.

“Since the coup, there has been a lot of talk about armed groups operating together but we have not actually seen it before. Today it’s claimed three acted together, joined forces, attacked this outpost manned by Myanmar police, killing a number of policemen,” said Cheng, adding the assault occurred over two hours early on Saturday.

More than 600 people have been killed by the military in the crackdown on protests against the February 1 coup, according to a monitoring group. As violence has escalated, about a dozen armed groups have condemned the coup-makers as illegitimate and pledged to stand with the protesters.

Civilian lawmakers, most of whom are in hiding after their removal, have announced plans to form a “national unity government” – with key roles for ethnic leaders – and are holding online talks about joint resistance to the generals.

Dozens of bodies

Meanwhile, reports from Myanmar say dozens of people may have been killed in a military assault on anti-coup protesters in the city of Bago. About 60 people may have died in the clashes in the city, about 60km (32 miles) northeast of Yangon, according to Radio Free Asia citing witnesses.

News site Myanmar Now cited a protest leader as saying dozens of bodies had been brought inside a pagoda compound where the military was based. Witnesses cited by both media outlets reported hours of gunfire that started early on Friday.

Protests against the February coup continued on Saturday in Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Sagaing, Myeik and many other cities.

The military crackdown has also included reports of protesters being tortured in detention and harsh sentences.

The military issued death sentences on 19 people from Yangon’s North Okkalapa township on Friday. They were charged with beating an army captain, according to Radio Free Asia.

The military coup dismissed the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently under house arrest.

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