Just last August, we followed a historic win for the Batwa people. Uganda's Constitutional Court ordered the High Court to determine appropriate compensation measures for the Batwa for their illegal eviction from their land. Moreover, this same court also ruled that the government and its agencies, the National Forestry Authority (NFA) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) acted illegally when they evicted the Batwa from their land. The court further voiced that failure from the Uganda government in appropriately compensating the Batwa left this ages-old indigenous people disadvantaged and marginalized. The United Organization for Batwa Development in Uganda, along with 11 other individuals, brought the case to Uganda's courts through a petition claiming that since the 1930s to the present day, successive governments have dispossessed the Batwa from their ancestral lands to established protected areas.
Our work with the Batwa has made us very aware of the egregious human rights violations they've suffered and continue to endure. That's why we welcomed this news with such joy and a sense of some, even if very little, justice served. We reached out to this incredible, indigenous-led, grassroots organization to learn more about their work.
We learned they're headquartered in Kisoro and were born in 2000, with the help of the Forest Peoples Programme and as a response to the cultural and spiritual erosion and the widespread social, political, and economic marginalization they faced because of the forced eviction from their ancestral homeland. Mr. Yeremiah Dusabe, UOBDU's chairperson, was kind enough to answer a few questions. We edited the interview, slightly, for clarity and briefness.
What's UOBDU's main focus?
UOBDU aims to address the Batwa Land problem and help the community develop alternative means of livelihood.
What do you consider your organization's most significant achievements so far?
Of course, we have many more on record, but I'll list the most important ones here.
To get our organization started, we established a permanent address and an office structure and then developed community outreaches and sensitization campaigns that included radio shows and institutional spot messages. More recently, we also found premises for future development of skills of members of our organization.
In the area of WASH, we've improved access to clean or safe water by providing rain harvesting water tanks, distributing sanitation and hygiene supplies, and building pit latrines in communities.
We've also distributed energy-saving stoves and developed agricultural practices. And last but certainly not least, we've accomplished great things in land rights and advocacy, like the recent court ruling.
What are the most significant challenges your organization and the Batwa people face?
The most significant, I'd say, is the lack of adequate funds to cater to all Batwa needs. Next, there's the matter of complicated access to health services for communities who live in distant and remote areas and the lack of health insurance coverage for the Batwa in general. Also, there's the issue of the poor state of the vehicles we use to deliver services to the Batwa, the problems of discrimination and marginalization, and certainly the landlessness of the Batwa who live as squatters.
Learn more about our partnership to improve access to healthcare among the Batwa.