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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

30 reasons to smile...

The White Eagle Project Monthly Reports for January and February are now published for your reading pleasure!

With 30 children heading back to school after the long holiday, there's plenty to smile about. But we've also had a Chicken Pox outbreak to contend with and some major Child Protection challenges to deal with.

Read all about what's happening with the White Eagles by downloading the report - please feel free to share with your friends, family, church, school or workplace!

Download the White Eagle Project Jan-Feb 2014 Report here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Battle for Prayer Mountain is Won!

The determined gang of land-grabbers who have forcefully tried to steal our Prayer Mountain land have been defeated - at least on paper.

Ever since buying our land for the Prayer Mountain vision (download a copy here) we have been trying to deal with claim and counter-claim from people claiming 'occupancy'. We tried to deal with claims amicably, but no-one could produce evidence of their so-called tenancy. What's more, there was no physical evidence of occupancy - like a house on the land - to back up the claim. And then last November, the 2 or 3 people we were dealing with over about a 1/3 of the land suddenly became 20+ as a gang descended on the remaining 2/3 claiming they had bought 'tenancies'.

Overnight, tree-seedlings were planted everywhere. It became unsafe for us to even go on the land - we were chased off. At one point our pick-up was badly damaged as rocks were hurled at it. We had been flung into a mighty battle for the Prayer Mountain vision.

Now, land is a big issue in Uganda. Barely a week goes by without stories in the papers of court rulings, evictions, and violence relating to land wrangles. Although the law is quite clear, the police are not particularly keen to get involved in civil issues and can be easily 'convinced' to treat even the most laughable claim as legitimate. This has enabled a small army of people to fraudulently claim tenancy on our land, present obviously home-made documents and generally get away with murder (not literally, thankfully, although they’ve threatened it).

We had to act, or we would lose the land. Cue petitions to the President, Police CID HQ, and everyone in between. For the last 3 months we've been in meetings with State House, Police, Lawyers... until now. Now we have the written report from last months final meeting on the hill held by the Director of Lands for State House (the President's representative).

The meeting had gone well enough. The Director had already reviewed all documents relating to the land - although 'documents' is too strong a word for the scraps of hand-written 'agreements' and fake receipts that were presented to her. She told the assembled claimants that they were trespassers, that they had no rightful claim to the land, and that they risked legal action if they continued to make claims. That caused quite a stir. After much shouting, gesticulating and arguing, the crowds slowly dispersed.

Ignorance of the law has very real consequences. Most of the claimants knew very well that what they were doing was fraud. But there were some who had bought fake 'tenancies' from fraudsters who are now on the run. You can not 'buy' an informal tenancy here (or anywhere I imagine) without the registered landowners permission of course - that's just common sense. But in the vacuum created when there is no effective rule of law, the loudest voice rules. And for a while, the land-grabbers shouted the loudest, despite us making daily public announcements to warn people. Some parted with hard-earned cash. In a country racked with poverty, it's outrageous that people can treat each other that way.

There's still some hard-work to do. The report entitles us to the Police protection we should always have been given in the face of aggravated trespass. Most of the trespassers have now given up - the threat of arrest and legal action being enough for them to realise that there's no quick buck to be made here. We expect the last few to give up this week, but probably with a bit of a fight. But then, finally, we can get the surveyor in, re-open the boundaries, fence the land and start developing the Prayer Centre, Church, School and Clinic - the vision that Pastor Duncan had 25 years ago.

If you want to be a part of it, get in touch!