A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Oxfam is launching a campaign calling for the New Forests Company to respond to concerns that have been raised for the safety of people who were evicted to make way for the British company’s forestry plantations in Uganda.
Oxfam has felt obliged to go public with its concerns following reports that the affected communities in Mubende and Kibogo districts are feeling harassed and intimidated by NFC staff.
Oxfam published a report on 22nd September on international land grabs that included a Ugandan case study detailing how at least 22,500 people were evicted – some violently and all without compensation to make way for the NFC plantation.
Since publication, the international aid agency has received reports that individuals who have spoken to media about their evictions have been approached by NFC staff for questioning. Community members have also been asked to take company staff to the sites of violent evictions. One man has reported that NFC staff took his cattle and only returned the livestock when he paid for their return, although he has since been refunded by the company.
New Forests Company has previously announced it will launch an independent investigation into Oxfam’s allegations yet these actions by company workers undermine confidence in NFC's commitment and ability to do so. Oxfam is calling for the investigation to be led by an independent chairperson, who has the power to select the investigatory body and who can ensure that the input and protection of the communities is guaranteed in the process.
Oxfam GB’s Chief Executive Barbara Stocking said: “Many people in these communities are clearly feeling intimidated by the actions of NFC, which are totally at odds with the principles of an independent and transparent investigation. They have already lost their homes and land and many have been subjected to violent behaviour. They need a credible investigation not further pressure.
“NFC must show that they are serious about the allegations that have been made by setting up a truly independent investigation.”
Notes to editors
Oxfam is asking people to send an email to Robert Devereux, Chairman of the New Forests Company, demanding he take immediate action, against any harassment and intimidation and to set up a truly independent investigation.
For more information contact Lucy Brinicombe / +44(0)7786110054 / +44 (0)1865 472192 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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Uganda land case update, 8 July 2013
In September 2011, Oxfam profiled a land deal in Uganda in which villagers were being evicted to make way for timber plantations. Read an update about the case.