Civil Society Writes To ERA Demanding For Banang's Technical Capacity Profile

Fifteen Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have written to the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) demanding that the regulator provides them with information regarding Banang Power and Energy Limited and its technical capacity and financial standing that will enable the company to undertake a feasibility study for a dam to be constructed at the Uhuru Falls in an environmental and human rights compatible manner.

The letter signed by Yoram Banyenzai, the Chairperson of Guild Presidents' Forum on Governance (GPFOG) also requested ERA to provide them with information that shows how Bonang was procured to conduct a feasibility study for a dam at Uhuru Falls.

The CSOs say that while ERA invited communities and stakeholders to make comments on Banang Power and Energy Limited application to be granted a license to establish a 360MW hydropower plant at Murchison Falls, a chorused public outcry made it clear that no hydropower dam should be erected at the falls.

The environmentalists and tourism enthusiasts enjoyed temporary victory in August when Ephraim Kamuntu told the public that the cabinet had agreed to stop the planned dam at Murchison Falls.

But only three months later, in November, the cabinet approved a feasibility study to be undertaken for the development of a dam at the Uhuru Falls which are located near Murchison Falls. Experts say a dam at Uhuru would affect Murchison Falls.

Even with protests by the public and environmentalists, the minister for energy Irene Muloni this month told journalists that an MoU had been signed with Banang to undertake the feasibility study.

It is upon this background that the CSOs are requesting that ERA provides them with information about Banang's technical and financial capacity to carry out the study and the process through which Banang was selected.

"Our requests are made in light of the fact that our investigations on Bonang Power and Energy (Pty) Ltd led us to believe that the company lacks the technical and financial track record needed to undertake a feasibility study and develop a dam in an environmental and human rights compatible manner.

"We cannot let a company whose track record on the construction of hydropower dams is unclear to touch the iconic Murchison Falls, which are visited by over 30% of the 100,000 tourists that visit Murchison Falls National Park," the letter reads in part.

The CSOs in a statement they shared say a background check on Banang revealed that the company was first registered in January 2014 with a one Ernest Moloi as director before being deregistered in April 2017 due to failure to file annual returns.

The company was then re-registered in December 2017 and filed its annual returns on June 26, 2019. Investigations by the CSOs also revealed that before relocating to a yet to be known place, Banang rented a virtual office.

"Surely, a company that seems to have no office of its own, lacks a web presence, lacks clear information on what hydropower projects it has undertaken cannot be trusted with one of Uganda’s most prized tourist attractions, the Murchison and Uhuru Falls.

An investigation of the hydropower works that Bonang Power and Energy Ltd has undertaken reveals unconvincing results. On its website before it was pulled down, the company listed hydropower projects that were ongoing in Africa,” the CSOs say in the letter. 

Climate Change Development Partners Believe Africa's Future Depends On Solidarity

There was standing room only as ministers, diplomats, activists and journalists gathered at the IFEMA conference centre in Madrid to mark Africa Day at the COP 25 climate meeting. Speakers called for a united front to tackle the challenges of climate change in Africa.

In the opening statement for Africa Day on Tuesday, Yasmin Fouad, Egypt's Minister of Environmental Affairs, on behalf of the African Union, said: "We have, and will continue to engage and to seek landing grounds on the outstanding issues.

But we must flag our concern at the apparent reluctance by our interlocutors to engage on issues of priority to developing countries, as evidenced by the large number of such issues which have simply been pushed from session to session without any progress."

Africa contributes the least to global warming emissions yet is the continent most vulnerable to climate change, as witnessed by devastating natural disasters recently. Africa Day has been held at the conference every year since COP 17 in 2011 to rally support for the continent's cause.

"The climate disaster issues confronting the continent demand a predictable and unified response," said UN ASG Mohamed Beavogui, Director General of African Risk Capacity, an agency of the African Union that helps governments respond to natural disasters.

"Africa needs to move towards market-based innovative financing models to achieve a strong, united, resilient and globally influential continent. The future of Africa depends on solidarity."

Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said the ECA would support African countries to revise their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to attract private sector investments in clean energy.

"The lack of concerted and meaningful global ambition and action to tackle climate change poses an existential threat to African populations," Songwe said.

The Paris Agreement is the guiding force of current climate negotiations. It calls on nations to curb temperature increases at 2°C by the end of this century, while attempting to contain rises within 1.5°C. The next step is to implement NDCs, which set out national targets under the Paris Agreement.

While African countries outlined bold aspirations to build climate resilient and low-carbon economies in their NDCs, the continent's position is that it should not be treated the same as developed nations as its carbon emissions constitute a fraction of the world's big economies.

"The African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) remains committed to partnering with other institutions in providing the requisite support to AU member states in reviewing and updating their NDCs," said Estherine Fotabong, Director of Programmes at AUDA-NEPAD.

Barbara Creecy, South Africa's Environment Minister and current chair of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, said the Africa Day event should come up with new ideas to enhance the implementation of NDCs in Africa.

Africa is already responding positively to the challenge of climate change, said Anthony Nyong, Director for Climate Change and Green Growth at the African Development Bank, citing huge investment interest in renewables at the Bank's Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg.

"Clearly, we are a continent that has what it takes to create the Africa that we want to see happen. I believe what has been the missing link is the ability to brand right and to act on the market signals," Nyong said. "We continue to present Africa as a vulnerable case and not as a business case with opportunities. In fact, where we have attempted the latter, the results have been spot-on."

Chief Fortune Charumbira, Vice President of the Pan-African Parliament, said robust climate legislation was key.

"The world's response to the challenge has shown that legislation is imperative to cement efforts employed by various stakeholders; from the Paris Agreement to Nationally Determined Contributions," he said.

Amb. Josefa Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission, said climate change affected sectors key to Africa's socio-economic development, such as agriculture, livestock and fisheries, energy, biodiversity and tourism. She called on African countries to take stock of the Paris Agreement, and its implementation around finance capacity building and technology.

Plan For Uganda To Legalize Marijuana Growing In Final Stages

Reports coming through are indicating that the Government of Uganda is in final stages of legalizing marijuana growing for mainly medical purposes.

Media reports say that Cabinet has set up a subcommittee to inquiry into a proposal of legalizing cannabis growing in the East African country.

The State Minister of Health for General Duties, Sarah Opendi, said the subcommittee is chaired by Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.

Rugunda, according to Opendi is currently processing the proposal that will soon be discussed by cabinet to critically look at the issues of enforcement and regulation.

“We are hopeful that early next year we should be able to receive a report from this cabinet subcommittee and thereafter we should be able to make a decision,” Opendi told media.

Whereas the Ministry of Health says 14 companies have applied to acquire license to grow medical cannabis for export, reports indicate that the number of people and private companies seeking to grow and export marijuana for medical purposes has increased from 20 in April to 50 in July 2019.

The government is also under pressure from the various marijuana dealers to explain why they allowed Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd, a private company working with another Israeli-based cannabis firm to grow marijuana in Kasese and “frustrated” others through “delaying tactics”. The company was given the license in 2016.

Among the ministries that will be in charge of issuing licenses to marijuana growing companies include; Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Justice, Internal Affairs, National Drug Authority (NDA) and Uganda Investment Authority (UIA).

The National Drug Policy and Authority Act, 1993 provides that “No person shall, without the written consent of the Health Minister… cultivate any plant from, which a narcotic drug can be extracted.”    


Ruparelia Group’s Premier Hemp Eyes Marijuana Farming

Ruparelia Group will soon become medicinal cannabis (marijuana) farmers if their attempt to acquire a licensee to grow the herb is accepted by the concerned authorities.

Ruparelia Group, through Rosebud, is the leading grower and exporter of flowers and is looking to extend its agricultural prowess to growing marijuana through its subsidiary Premier Hemp.

Premier Hemp is among the over ten companies competing to get licensed to grow the medicinal herb however ministry of health and other government outlets are consulting on the impact of legalizing the growing of the herb.

In an exclusive interview with this, Rajiv Ruparelia, a director with Ruparelia Group, confirmed that they have indeed applied for a license to grow marijuana and they have also secured land where the crop will be grown.

The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 2015 that was passed by Parliament, has triggered a gold rush among prospective local and foreign marijuana entrepreneurs, who are keen to invest in the medical marijuana industry, Press Ug said.

Even when the authorities are still grappling with the idea of how to regulate the growing of medical marijuana, Daily Monitor recently reported that the number of people and private companies seeking to grow and export weed for medical purposes has increased from 20 in April to 50 in July 2019.

The government is also under pressure from the various marijuana dealers to explain why they allowed Industrial Hemp (U) Ltd, a private company working with another Israeli-based cannabis firm to grow marijuana in Kasese and “frustrated” others through “delaying tactics”. The company was given a license in 2016.

The company is also in the process of exporting marijuana, Cannabinol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with a mixture of 2.7mg THC and 2.5mg CBD for Sativex drugs approved in USA, Europe, and Canada. Oil Risin contains Dronabinol for making Marinol and syndros capsules and CBD enriched creams for various skin disorders.

Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng has for months been ambivalent about how to proceed on a matter.


Land Inequalities Negatively Affecting Development in Uganda – Lands Minister

By Michael W. Baluye

Prevailingland inequalities in the country have negatively affected the social and economic development of Uganda and for that matter, there is a need to review land laws and policies to correct what is wrong like land acquisition and succession, state minister for lands, Persis Namuganza has said.

The minister was Friday speaking at the launch of a report researched and authored by Oxfam Uganda titled ‘Locked out: How Unjust Land Systems Are Driving Inequality In Uganda’ at Mestil Hotel in Kampala.

Namuganza acknowledged that land is a central factor in ensuring human dignity and human rights and that any inequalities associated with land can lead to poverty, inhibit national growth and increase food insecurity.

Land inequalities like land grabbing, evictions and land pollution much of it happening backed by government policies, laws, and political influence, have dominated public discourse yet not many solutions have been provided.

Inefficient laws, disregard for laws, total lack of laws and policies and a poor justice system have been blamed on the rampant land inequalities. To some extent, cultural practices have been blamed for sideline women when it comes to land ownership and land use. Many places women are not allowed to own land.

And with the land size of Uganda not enlarging and increasing in size while the population is expected to increase to 100 million people by the year 2050, Namuganza warns that there will be increased pressure on land something that will lead to more inequalities being registered including the marginalization of women and PWDs.

The environment, according to the minister, will not be spared as evictions will lead to evicted people will find their way into wetlands and forests leading to deforestation, dumping and building in wetlands resulting in catastrophic climate change.

She, however, on the positive side, said that the government has taken steps to address the issues of land inequality through registration of customary land and issuance of a certificate of ownership and tabling of laws that aim at ensuring that women, PWDs and the poor also own land among other interventions.  

According to Oxfam Uganda country director Edward Mwebaze, the study resulting in the launched report explored how land governance and administration contribute to inequality in Uganda.

It also looked at how laws, policies, regulations and cultural practices can be made more inclusive and abate land inequalities. It analyzed land ownership trends, reviews land use impacts and provides policy proposals to address these inequalities. 

The report notes that while land can be an important resource for reducing poverty and inequality, the land laws and policies fail to make poor people’s lives better but rather empower the rich to trample on the rights of the poor.

“To achieve national and international development targets, decisions regarding land tenure, control and ownership must be inclusive and consider the interests of the poor and vulnerable – especially women,” the report reads in part.

The report asserts that land inequality worsens when the most vulnerable in society are excluded from accessing resources to improve their lives and livelihoods and influence decisions about how society is managed.

“Its causes are often historical and entrenched in a framework of laws and policies that government ownership, access and use of resources. These resources include land. Inequality may be eased or worsened by the political ideologies that define the agenda of economic development,” the report says further.

Oxfam further calls for specific interventions to resolve the current injustices against women, who dominate land-based production processes and are also a big part of the population at the bottom of the pyramid. The government should hasten to enact laws and regulations that provide for women ownership of land including succession in the event of the death of a spouse.

Download Full Report HERE

Ruparelia Group, Startimes To Provide Safe Water To Village Schools

Access to safe water by school-going children in rural areas is hard leading these youngsters to suffer all sorts of diseases and living in unhealthy conditions.

To avert these conditions in the different parts of the country, Ruparelia Group through Kampala Parents’ School is sponsoring the Kampala Kids Run this year with the theme: Safe Drinking Water in Primary Schools.

The Kampala Kids Run being organized by Startimes, a pay television services provider, is scheduled to take place on 8th December 2019 at the Uganda Museum, starting at 6 am.

Speaking at the launch of the StarTimes Kampala Kids Run 2019 in October, Rajiv Ruparelia, a director of Ruparelia Group said they are honored to sponsor the event and said pupils of Kampala Parents' School were going to actively participate.

"Let's get involved and provide safe drinking water to Primary School Children in villages," Rajiv said. Adding: “We work tirelessly to make sure we provide the best yet many children do not have the privileges we have. It is upon us to provide for them,”  

Rajiv challenged the public not to rest until safe drinking water was no longer a problem. “Children in Kampala schools get clean water but this not the case in rural communities. As a director, I am going to ensure that I sensitize children in Kampala schools on the need to help rural children,” said Ruparelia.

The Public Relations Manager of the Kampala Kids Run Bukenya Muhammed says that like last the money will be used to buy water tanks that will be given to needy schools in different rural areas.

“We are looking for money to buy water tanks that will be given to the needy schools in rural communities. Last year we gave out over 25 tanks to different schools, this time we need to give more,” he revealed.

StarTimes CEO Mr. Franklin Wang said the purpose of the event is to come together to support children in rural schools by providing safe drinking water. "We care about each child’s health. So let us make StarTimes Kampala Kids Run a great success.”

For a child to participate in this cause, all he or she needs to do is buy a kit at only UGX 20,000. All proceeds from the event will go to ensuring that there is safe drinking water for children in rural schools.

Besides the kids’ Run which has the 1.5km and 3km race, there will be bouncing castles, work out with Zumba dancers, kid games by the clowns and more.

Thousands of kids from different schools and their parents are expected to turn up for the one-day event at the Uganda Museum competing in 1.5 and three kilometers for kids below eight and those about nine respectively.

Bunyoro Farmers Sue Tobacco Company Over Non-Payment

By George Busiinge

At least 565 tobacco farmers have sued Continental Tobacco Company Limited for failing to pay shillings 2.5 billion for tobacco they supplied to the company.

The farmers from districts of Buliisa and Kiryandongo on Wednesday filed their petition before the Civil Division of High Court through their lawyers from Kabega, Bogezi and Company Advocates.

The farmers note that they signed contracts for them to grow and sell the tobacco to the company and not to any other company.

According to contracts tendered before court, the company also extended loans to the farmers in form of tobacco seeds fertilizers, seedlings among others.

The farmers now contend that the company has since the purchase of Tobacco in 2017 neglected or refused to pay them.

Attorney General, on the other hand, is being sued for having failed to carry out his statutory supervisory duties relating to the performance of the contracts.

He is also faulted for failing to ensure that the farmers” interests are promoted and safeguarded in the growing and supply of tobacco.

The farmers are now seeking general damages of shillings 500 million for inconveniences and mental anguish since tobacco growing was their only source of livelihood.

The farmers also want court to order the respondents to pay the monies owed to them as money due and owing arising from the tobacco supply to the Continental Tobacco Company Limited.

Continental Tobacco Company Limited and the Attorney General have been summoned to file their defence in the matter within fifteen days before the case is allocated to the Judge who will be fixing it for hearing.

100 Households In Hoima Lose Property, Crops To Rain

Reports from Hoima district indicate that more than 100 households in Bombo Sub County are counting losses following heavy rains that destroyed their property and crop gardens.

The affected are residents of Katugo, Marongo, Bincon, Bugoma, Isiriza and Buhirigi villages in the parishes of Buhirigi and Marongo in Bombo Sub County.

The rains that lasted for over two hours on Tuesday evening destroyed more than 20 houses and several acres of bananas, sorghum, cassava, Irish potatoes, beans, cabbages, rice, sugarcane and maize among others.

The rains also swept away Nyakasandara Bridge that connects Bincon and Katugo to Hanga Market paralyzing transport in the area.

This has forced several residents to stay home since the only bridge that connects to the nearby Kitemba Primary school was washed away.

Some of the affected people have pitched camp at the nearby churches.

Felix Ongi, the Bombo Sub county LC 5 Councilor, says they are recording the affected persons together with the damage they have suffered so that they can forward the details to the office of the Prime Minister.

He calls on government to come to the rescue of the area residents more especially those whose houses were destroyed by providing them some relief items.

Farmers Want Government To Implement Of Organic Farming Policy

Farmers across the country want the government to start implementing the recently passed National Organic Agricultural Policy that was passed by the cabinet in July 2019.

The farmers also want government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries to sensitize farmers about the policy.

They say that since its enactment government has not come out to create awareness of the policy to the stakeholders (farmers and Extension Service providers) who are the technical people to implement the objectives of the policy.

Christopher Wali, a former agricultural extension services providers and also a farmer from Mukono District, says that failure by the government to create more awareness about the policy and implementation delays may delay local farmers to embrace organic farming practices.

Many smallholder farmers are willing to embrace organic farming due to its social, environmental and health values.

“Many rural farmers are not aware of the policy yet the document guides farmers and policy implementers on how to practice organic farming. The government should wake up and carry out massive sensitization about the policy. This will guide the farmers to make decisions on which farming practices they should adopt,” Wali said

The agriculturalist noted that Uganda has a comparative advantage in practising organic agriculture because of its favorable weather and also the high demand for organically produced agricultural produces on the local, region and international market.

On July 29th 2019, cabinet approved the approved the National Organic Agriculture Policy whose objectives are; to strengthen organic agriculture research, appropriate technology development and utilization, to promote production, processing and marketing for organic products among other objectives of the policy is to enhance appropriate post-harvest handling practices and value addition to organic agricultural products and lastly to  strengthen environmental conservation, indigenous biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources.

The officer made the remarks during the official launch of the 5years Ecological Organic Agriculture (EOA) project at the Ntenjeru sub-county Community Center in Mukono District recently.

The overall goal of the project is to mainstream EOA into agricultural production system by 2025 in order to improve agricultural productivity, food security access to markets and sustainable development.

The project is being implemented in 9 African countries including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal, Benin and Nigeria. In Uganda, the project will be implemented in four Districts namely Mukono, Luwero, Masaka and Wakiso.

The ecological project will be spearheaded by Eastern and Southern Smallscale Farmers Forum Uganda chapter in collaboration with other institutions such as Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi, Kulika Uganda and PELUM Uganda.

Speaking at the launch of the project, Hakim Baliraine, the ESAFF Uganda chairperson, noted that once Ugandan farmers adopt organic farming this will help in mitigating the high rates of environmental and biodiversity degradation and also save many lives Ugandans.

“Conventional farming has played a big role in degrading our environment because of the pollution from the inorganic agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, herbicides among other agricultural inputs.

Apart from degrading the environment, foods grown in conventional practice have health hazards that is why we are seeing many Ugandans suffering from dangerous diseases like cancer,” he said

He challenged  agricultural extension services providers across the country to mainstream organic agricultural practices in their extension services this will help farmers to understand the economic importance of organic farming.

Rashida Kabanda, the project manager for EOA, stated that the project has four pillars and once they are well implemented it will change the farmers mind towards  Organic farming practices.

 The four pillars according to the project managers are Research and Applied Knowledge, Information Communication and Extension, Value chain and market Development and lastly Support and cementing, management, coordination and Governance.  

Africa Governments Declare Climate Ambitions In Accra

2000 representatives of the African cities, local and regional governments and non-state actors gathered in ACCRA at the 2nd African Climate Chance Summit, featuring the Conference of the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa (CoM SSA) which was organized between 16 and 18 October 2019.

The conference was opened by The Minister for Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), Hon. Hajia Alima Mahama, under the theme "Towards the Institutionalization of Local Climate Action and Access to Finance".

The CoM SSA initiative uses a bottom-up approach pioneered by funders the European Union that mobilizes local actors for sustainable energy access, to elaborate and implement climate action plans. Furthermore, the objectives of the conference were to inspire and enable policymakers, donors, local governments and key actors involved in the implementation of CoM SSA to accelerate the pace and scale of transformational change and the mobilization of cities. It is for this reason that working with national associations and CSOs are critical for the acceleration of action on the ground.

Jean-Pierre Elong-Mbassi Secretary-General of the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa who chaired the first day's opening highlighted four key messages from the Conference i) Correct the imbalance in financing Climate Adaptation to enable Africa to achieve its ambitious climate action plans, with Africa demanding more adaptation finance; ii) Ghana to position itself as Africa's Climate Hub and champion the localization of Nationally Determined Contributions. The Mayor of Accra who is also The Global Covenant's Executive Board member and UCLG Africa's Climate Task Force co-chair, is well-positioned to take these messages to the international stage; iii) The Climate Chance Summit Africa to become the preparation conference for COPs representing cities, local governments and non-state actors in Africa to formulate and deliver their messages, declarations and recommendations at an international level where these ambitious climate plans are now called "The Accra Climate Dialogue"; iv) and the most critical of messages from the conference is to ensure climate finance is accessible at the local level.

His Excellency NANA ADDU DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO, President of the Republic of Ghana, officially opened the Summit on 17 October, in the presence of His Excellency John KUFFOUR, former President of the Republic of Ghana. President Nana Akudo-Addo highlighted that "we, in Africa, suffer the most because our weak economies are most susceptible to the effects of climate change, and our capacity to withstand its damage is low". He further stated that "Africa is the region of the world with the lowest access to energy and the least equipped to face extreme climate events brought about by climate change" and he singled out the work of CoM SSA over the last four years as testimony to the benefits the initiative has had on cities and municipalities.

During the closing ceremony on the 18 October, the challenge of access to finance was further reiterated by the Minister for Local Government, Hon. Hajia Alima Mahama. She called for establishing a dedicated financing window for local authorities to implement their climate change priority action plans. "The imbalance between mitigation actions represents an effort of over 600 billion dollars put by the international community compared to 200 billion for adaptation that must be addressed". The Declaration read by Mr. Bismark Baisie Nkum, President, NALAG also highlighted access to finance as a key recommendation.

The CoM SSA initiative will continue to support cities and local governments through vertical integration and political advocacy; technical assistance and capacity building for cities and supporting organisations such as National Associations of local governments, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs); and the promotion, communication, dissemination, awareness-raising and visibility of the initiative.

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