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Ugandan community reports intimidation by UK forestry company workers

By Ben Grossman-Cohen

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Washington D.C.- Oxfam has launched a new campaign asking individuals to send a letter to the CEO of the New Forests Company demanding that they respond to new concerns that have been raised about the safety of people who were evicted to make way for the British company’s forestry plantations in Uganda.

New reports from the affected communities in Mubende and Kibogo districts have shown that members of the community are feeling harassed and intimidated by NFC staff.  Oxfam published a report on September 22nd 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.

“We have heard from many people in these communities that they are feeling intimidated by the recent actions of NFC, which are totally at odds with the principles of an independent and transparent investigation,” said Vicky Rateau, Campaign Manager for Oxfam America’s GROW campaign. “They have already lost their homes and land and many have been subjected to violent behavior.   They need a credible investigation not further pressure.”

Since publication, the international relief and development organization 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.

NFC 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.

“NFC must show that they are serious about the allegations that have been made by setting up a truly independent investigation,” said Rateau.  “Nobody deserves to feel intimidated.”

/ENDS

Last month Oxfam revealed that major corporations are pushing poor farmers in the developing world off of their land and into hunger and poverty:
www.oxfamamerica.org/landgrab
Full Report: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/publications/land-and-power

Oxfam America has launched an action asking individuals to send a letter to the CEO of the New Forests Company, 20% of which is owned by the major international bank HSBC, demanding that he take immediate action now to bring justice to these communities:
https://secure.oxfamamerica.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1273