But there was just one problem: people were living on the land where the company wanted to plant trees. The company and government said the residents were living illegally in a forest. Residents were given until Feb. 28, 2010, to vacate company premises while soldiers and the police kept surveillance. Company officials visited, too. From time to time a house would be burnt down. Olivia Mukamperezida said her house was among the first in her community to be burned down.
According to the company’ those living in the area left in a “peaceful” and “voluntary” manner.
People saw it quite differently.
“I heard people being beaten, so I ran outside,” said Emmanuel Cyicyima, 33. “The houses were being burnt down.”
Other villagers described gun-toting soldiers and an 8-year-old child burning to death when his home was set ablaze by security officers.
“They said if we hesitated they would shoot us,” said William Bakeshisha, adding that he hid in his coffee plantation, watching his house burn down. “Smoke and fire.”20,000 people were evicted from their homes.
“Too many investments have resulted in dispossession, deception, violation of human rights and destruction of livelihoods,” Oxfam said in the report. “This interest in land is not something that will pass... whatever land there is will surely be prized.”
Across Africa, some of the world’s poorest people have been thrown off land to make way for foreign investors, often uprooting local farmers so that food can be grown on a commercial scale and shipped to richer countries overseas.