Mining threatens Karamoja pastoralists in Uganda
The Karamoja region of eastern Uganda is marked by a history of conflict and low levels of development. Many of the roughly 1.2 million residents are pastoralists and agropastoralists. Their livelihoods are increasingly jeopardised by extractive industries, as the region is thought to be rich in minerals. The Ugandan Government promotes private investment in mining as a way to develop the region: to create jobs and improve security, water access, roads and other basic infrastructure. But to what extent will the people of Karamoja benefit? Land is held communally and, as companies start exploring and mining the area, local people voice fears of land grabbing and environmental damage. They lack information about how to prevent, or gain compensation for, encroachment on their land. This is highlighted by the report “How can we survive here?” The impact of mining on human rights in Karamoja, Uganda published by Human Rights Watch.
The 140-page report with separate summary and recommendations, is based on more than 135 interviews conducted in Moroto, Kotido and Kaabong Districts of Karamoja and in the capital city Kampala. It examines the human rights impacts of Karamoja’s nascent mining industry, using cases of three companies working in the region to illustrate potential challenges and problems associated with failure to respect the rights of the Karamoja people. It shows how the Ugandan Government has not upheld its obligation to ensure that the local people benefit from the development process. It asks the Government to reform its laws to ensure that free, prior, and informed consent of communities is obtained before exploration begins and throughout the life of the mining operations, and that risks of future human rights abuses associated with mining are mitigated. Companies seeking to work in Karamoja should also uphold their responsibility to respect human rights, including land and resource rights of the local people. Uganda’s international partners should press the Government to create a robust regulatory regime to ensure that mining does not become an obstacle to realising social and economic rights, including the right to development, or a potential driver of inter-communal conflict.