Watchdog censures mining firms in Uganda for ignoring locals’ rights

Watchdog censors mining firms in Uganda for ignoring locals’ rights

Basic survival is very difficult for the 1.2 million people who live in Karamoja, a remote region in northeastern Uganda.

New York-based group Human Rights Watch has accused three mining companies in Uganda's Karamoja region of exploring for minerals and mining on land without the approval of the people who own it.

In a 140-page report published Monday, the watchdog called on the Ugandan government to make reforms and for the companies to respect indigenous people's rights.

The region is marked by severe poverty. About 82% of the population lives on less than $1 a day and 45% of children face chronic malnutrition. Uganda’s government has promoted private investment in mining as the answer, but without involving the people living there, Human Rights Watch said.

While the firms addressed in the report — East African Mining, Jan Mangal and DAO Uganda— are not among the big players, they have secure an important stake in an area that boasts considerable mineral deposits and appears on the verge of a mining boom, the group noted.

Several companies had gone to Karamoja in the past two years seeking natural resources, particularly gold, marble and oil.

While foreign investment in the African nation has escalated in recent years, development of the oil sector in the western part of the country has renewed concerns about political patronage, the ability of civil society to critique government development plans, and corruption. The mining in Karamoja raises similar concerns, Human Rights Watch said.

“‘How Can We Survive Here?’ The Impact of Mining on Human Rights in Karamoja, Uganda,” is based on research conducted in the country from May to November 2013, including 137 interviews. From those, 61 were with people living in areas where companies are exploring for minerals or actively mining.

Human Rights Watch said it also interviewed representatives of the companies central and local governments, the army, national and international nongovernmental organizations, as well as donor governments and agencies.

Image courtesy of HRW