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Uganda: Government threatens to de-register the Uganda Land Alliance
On 4 June 2012, members of the Uganda Land Alliance held a meeting with officials of the Ugandan Ministry of Internal Affairs in connection with a long-standing threat of de-registration.
It was anticipated that the meeting would ease the threat that was reportedly triggered by the the Uganda Land Alliance (ULA)'s campaign against land-grabbing in Uganda.
However approximately one week after the meeting, the ULA received a letter from the Ministry, dated 31 May, with new threats to de-register the organisation if its findings on land grabs were not retracted and a formal apology issued. The ULA is a coalition of over 60 national, regional and international organisations and individuals who advocate for land rights and fair land laws in Uganda, particularly for the disadvantaged and poor.
In late April 2012, the ULA played a leading role in a week-long campaign against land grabbing held in Kampala, which attracted national and international attention. Activists involved in the campaign submitted a petition to the Ugandan Parliament and arranged for testimonies to be presented from individuals whose land was reportedly seized by the government.
On 26 April 2012, the Minister of Internal Affairs summoned the representatives of the NGOs involved in the campaign, including the ULA, and accused them of running a false campaign as “land grabbing does not exist in Uganda”. The Minister also launched an enquiry into the ULA's campaigns and produced a 19-page report which claimed that the ULA's investigations into land grabbing had brought the President's name into disrepute, and had portrayed the government as a regime that condones gross human rights abuses. The report contained a number of recommendations, one of which was that the ULA should retract its claims on land grabbing and formally apologise. In response to the report, the ULA issued a public statement on 30 April 2012 stating that it had no reason to apologise and calling for an open debate on the issue of land grabbing in Uganda.
In a related development, on 31 May 2011, while launching a two-day fair for civil society organisations in Kampala, the Minister of Internal Affairs accused the ULA and another human rights organisation of operating as “undercover politicians”.
The threat of de-registation from the government is believed to have originated from an OXFAM report of September 2011 on land rights, which examined land grabs in Uganda as a case study. The report exposed the plight of thousands of victims of evictions, an issue that the ULA has heavily focused on in its campaigning.
Front Line Defenders is concerned at the continued threat of de-registration of the Uganda Land Alliance made by the Ugandan Ministry of Internal Affairs, and calls for the ULA's important and legitimate role in defending land rights in Uganda to be recognised.