A land grab case against Agilis Ranch 20 and 21 Limited kicks off next week.
A human rights enforcement suit filed against Agilis Ranch 20 and 21, a subsidiary of Agilis Partners Limited, is set to take off on the 20th of April 2022 at the High Court in Masindi. Agilis Ranch 20 and 21 Limited is part of a group of multinationals grabbing land in the Kiryandongo district for large scale commercial farming.,
In 2021, hundreds of families affected by Agilis’s violent land grab ran to court seeking its intervention to block the ongoing illegal evictions by the company. Through their lawyers, Messrs. Kiiza and Mugisha advocates, the communities demand compensation for damages for the human rights violations by the company and its agents.
Hon. Mr. Justice Byaruhanga Jessie, the Resident Judge at the Masindi High Court, fixed 20th April 2022 for the hearing of High Court Miscellaneous Cause No. 11 of 2020 of Joseph Mangfu and 11 others vs. Agilis Partners.
Agilis is one of the three multinational companies that have been implicated in the land grabbing scandal which has rendered thousands of smallholder farmers homeless in the Kiryandongo district. The others are Kiryandongo Sugar Company and Great Seasons SMC limited.
The company is owned by American twin brothers, Philipp Prinz and Benjamin Prinz. It owns Joseph Initiative, a beneficiary of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) financial support and Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) based in the Netherlands, and supplies food to United Nations’ World Food Program. The company deals in large-scale plantations of grains and oilseed. At the height of the evictions, the company received the 2019 United States Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence in Sustainable Operations (ACE), something that did not go well with the victim of its land grab.
Since 2017, Over 2500 residents have been evicted by the company on more than 2000 hectares. The victims claim they were violently, forcefully, and illegally evicted off their land without any compensation or resettlement.
Homes were burnt, crops were destroyed and women were raped during the evictions. And many members of the local community have been rendered homeless.
“We sought the court’s attention to intervene since we have suffered a lot. We have lost our gardens, we lost schools and our children have since dropped out of school. We are arrested, beaten, and charged for our resistance to vacate our land, we want all this to end and regain back our land.” Said, Sam Kusiima, a community land rights defender.
He added that as a community, they are excited to hear about a hearing date of the case with high hopes that violence is going to stop.
A 45-year-old Namala Zedekiah is one of the community members that have recently tested the wrath. Mr. Namala told Witness Radio that his cows were stolen at gunpoint by the company workers and later demanded a ransom of one Million Ugandan Shillings for their return. “My cows were found grazing before were forcefully taken. They demanded two million to return them.”
During the lockdown, gross human rights violations/abuses were meted out against the community. These include; torture, kidnaps, arbitrary arrest and detention, and fly-grazing, and recently the company has rented out land that was grabbed from poor communities to rich people to further the eviction.
The overwhelming violence continues despite the court’s schedule for hearing the company’s gross abuses. Despite this, the community is not willing to give up on their land. “We don’t want their money; we want our land. We went to court to get justice.” One of the aggrieved smallholder farmers told Witness Radio.
The hearing of the case is scheduled to start at 10am local time.