Carbon credits drive brutal land grabRichard Treadgold | September 25, 2011
Ugandans left homeless, child dies
The UN’s ingenious global warming money-making scheme, called the clean development mechanism (CDM), was predicted to lead to abuse and fraud. The essence of the CDM is built around trust, so you just know it’s headed for disaster. Another scandal has come to light, in Uganda.
A reader posted a link to a dramatic headline at Prison Planet, Armed Troops Burn Down Homes, Kill Children To Evict Ugandans In Name Of Global Warming. Which quickly took my attention away from the All Blacks’ fine win against France.
The Prison Planet story was taken from a NY Times story with a milder headline: In Scramble for Land, Group Says, Company Pushed Ugandans Out. In that story, it turns out that a single child was murdered when his house was burned down.
The NY Times article, in turn, was taken from an Oxfam report about land grabs. So some of the lurid flavour of the story has been watered down, though there’s plenty left of concern.
According to the Oxfam report released on Wednesday, more than 20,000 people say they were evicted from their Ugandan homes in recent years to make way for a tree plantation run by a British forestry company.
The company concerned, New Forests Company, promises a thorough investigation. In 2005, the Ugandan government granted New Forests a 50-year licence to grow pine and eucalyptus forests in three districts, and the company has applied to the United Nations to trade under the mechanism. The company expects that it could earn up to $1.8 million a year.
People had apparently been living on some of the land involved for many years. They disputed the government’s order to leave, saying they had rights, but were eventually driven off the land and their houses burned down by New Forests security men, assisted by police and soldiers. It’s easy to imagine that officials were bribed to accomplish this.
The government there is certainly corrupt to some degree, or the company wouldn’t have stood a chance of interfering, even if the residents had been squatters.
Here’s how the Times begins its coverage:
KICUCULA, Uganda — According to the company’s proposal to join a United Nations clean-air program, the settlers living in this area left in a “peaceful” and “voluntary” manner.
People here remember it quite differently.
“I heard people being beaten, so I ran outside,” said Emmanuel Cyicyima, 33. “The houses were being burnt down.”
Other villagers described gun-toting soldiers and an 8-year-old child burning to death when his home was set ablaze by security officers.
“They said if we hesitated they would shoot us,” said William Bakeshisha, adding that he hid in his coffee plantation, watching his house burn down. “Smoke and fire.”
A nasty story, on any level. Of course, it has nothing to do with saving the planet from global warming — only with ruthlessly making the most of a commercial opportunity.
Let us hope there is a good investigation promptly. Let us hope (surely against all reason) that the Ugandan government will recognise its duty to protect each of its citizens.
Regrettably, I know of no government in Africa which already does this, so Uganda would have to be a pioneer. Though I would be very happy to be corrected on that point.