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Court Condemns Government for Non-Payment of Batwa over Eviction :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Court Condemns Government for Non-Payment of Batwa over Eviction

“…the Batwa have been left disadvantaged, owing to their eviction from the said land, and also due to the nonpayment to them of adequate compensation which would have facilitated in their relocation to similar lands. This had rendered them landless and has severely affected not only their livelihoods but has destroyed their identity, dignity and self-worth as a people and as equal citizens with other Ugandans,” Justice Musoke ruled in a lead judgment.
Part of the Batwa Community in Kabale on the hills of Bunyonyo


The Constitutional Court has ruled that government is culpable for failure to compensate the Batwa for their eviction from three areas which were turned into forest reserves and national parks in South Western Uganda.

Court records show that since 1990s to date, the Batwa were evicted from three areas which were later turned into Echuya Central Forest Reserve, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.   

In a unanimous judgement, the judges; Fredrick Egonda-Ntende, Elizabeth Musoke, Cheborion Barishaki, Muzamiru Kibeedi and Irene Mulyagonja agreed that the Batwa had interest in the disputed protected forests in South Western Uganda by virtue of the native or original title.  

“…the Batwa have been left disadvantaged, owing to their eviction from the said land, and also due to the nonpayment to them of adequate compensation which would have facilitated in their relocation to similar lands. This had rendered them landless and has severely affected not only their livelihoods but has destroyed their identity, dignity and self-worth as a people and as equal citizens with other Ugandans,” Justice Musoke ruled in a lead judgment.   

The Court ruled that marginalization of Batwa has arisen due to their eviction from the present day forest lands without payment of compensation and that they are now relegated to a lesser class of citizens, inherently landless and fated to be encroachers on other people’s land.   

Justice Musoke observed that the Batwa people presented evidence that is more compelling because it charts the history of Batwa and their connection to the respective lands better than Attorney General and Uganda Wildlife Authority – UWA and National Forestry Authority – NFA.

“I reiterate that the Batwa are a group of individuals who have been marginalized on the basis of historical reasons following their eviction from the relevant lands without adequate compensation being paid to them. I find that no adequate compensation was paid to the Batwa despite the fact that some monies were paid in about 1991,” the judge observed.   

The court decision resulted from a petition in which a charitable organization and eleven individuals accused the government and her bodies of eviction, actions of excluding and dispossessing them from their ancestral forest lands which compromised their physical and cultural integrity and survival as indigenous people.

Through their lawyers of Onyango and Company Advocates, the Batwa successfully argued that the government contravened both local and international laws in contravention of their rights to life, property, self-determination, freely dispose, wealth, natural resources and means of subsistence.  

The petition was filed by local body; United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda and eleven individuals who include Elias Habyarimana, Jovanis Nyiragasigwa, Christopher Kagundu, Night Isabela, Eric Tumuheirwe, Abel Kasumba, Abe Ruzuga, David Kakuru, Geoffrey Mahano, Alice Nyamihanda and Allen Musabyi.

Their lawyer, Mr Owor Onyango argued that the actions of government have since resulted in widespread displacement, exploitation, exclusion and marginalization of Batwa in the communities they resettled in in contravention of their right to equality without discrimination.

They petitioned against the Attorney General, Uganda Wildlife Authority – UWA and National Forestry Authority – NFA. 

The Batwa are people with a population of about 6000 individuals, majority of whom live in the south western Uganda districts of Kanungu, Kisoro and Kabale.

Court documents show that their land at current Echuya Forest, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are situated was Batwa Ancestral land which was customarily owned by the Batwa for many years before the declaration of British Protectorate on Uganda. 

The petitioners told the Constitutional Court that since 1930s to the present day, successive governments have dispossessed them from their ancestral lands on which relevant protected areas were established.

They argued that the government acts include the creation of Mgahinga Gorilla Sanctuary, the creation of two crown forest reserves in Bwindi area which was subsequently amalgamated and converted to a Game Reserve at Echuya.

Court heard that the Batwa were not consulted prior to the setting up of the protected areas on land they owned and that no compensation was paid to them after extinguishing of their interests in the land issue.  

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