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Investigation into the eviction of more than 20,000 Ugandans must ensure justice for affected people
Oxfam International’s Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs said:
"Oxfam welcomes the announcement by the British company The New Forests Company (NFC) to investigate the eviction of more than 20,000 people in Uganda to make way for its forestry plantations. The investigation must be carried out independently and transparently and its findings made public as soon as possible. These people lost their land and their homes and received no compensation.
“Oxfam is concerned that the New Forests Company continues to maintain that all the evictions were voluntary and peaceful, when the evidence and testimony of the people affected clearly shows otherwise. The company must wake up to the reality that something went terribly wrong in Uganda and that it has a responsibility to make amends. Only then can the men, women and children who are now struggling to survive get compensation and alternative land and begin to piece their lives back together.”
The company claims that audits by The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) show that the evictions were voluntary and peaceful. However, Oxfam believes that both processes fell well short of internationally-accepted standards and did not cover both plantations under investigation. In addition the reports do not take account of the experiences of affected communities and do not substantiate their conclusions with hard evidence.
Oxfam’s research indicates that at least 22,500 people have lost their homes and land to make way for the British timber company. Many evictees told Oxfam how they were forcibly removed and have been left destitute, without enough food or money to send their children to school.
New Forests Company statement in response to Oxfam's report (22 September 2011):
“The New Forests Company takes Oxfam’s allegations extremely seriously and will conduct an immediate and thorough investigation of them. Our understanding of these resettlements is that they were legal, voluntary and peaceful and our first hand observations of them confirmed this.
“This has been corroborated on a number of occasions by meticulous audits of the company by highly respected international organisations including the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and the IFC (International Finance Corporation, part of World Bank). The FSC concluded that: “Officials consider Namwasa one of their most peaceful and successful experiences in encouraging illegal encroachers to voluntarily leave Central Forestry Reserves and would like to use the model for controversial areas in the future.
‘NFC is puzzled by the extent to which Oxfam’s anecdotal evidence is so at odds with these findings.
‘NFC also regrets Oxfam’s decision to publish this highly prejudicial report without having given NFC the opportunity to investigate its claims.
‘In attacking the NFC Oxfam have chosen a company with an impeccable track record in community investment and development who in their short life have not only created over 2,000 jobs in remote rural Ugandan communities but been responsible for increasing access to health, education, clean water and fuel. Africa needs responsible inward investment.’’
Tricia O'Rourke, email@example.com, +44 1865 339157 or +44 7876 397915