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Clan leadership woes fuelling land disputes in Mbale – locals



A section of Bunamwani clan land where cases of land grabbing are on the rise in Mbale City. PHOTO | FRED WAMBEDE

On October 4, 2011, the National Forestry Authority (NFA) surrendered 85 acres of land, which had been part of Mbale Central Forest Reserve in Mbale City to Bunamwani clan after a protracted court battle.

The land which neighbours the forest and runs through Bukasakye Sub-county and part of Nauyo-Bugema Town Council, was parcelled out and Bunamwani clan took 51 per cent, which was an equivalent of 43.35 acres.

The other stakeholders, including Mr Davis Wakane, who was the clan attorney,  reportedly played a role in the process of reclaiming the land from NFA and sharing the remaining acres.

The sharing was done as was agreed by the parties in their Memorandum of Understanding signed on July 24, 2012, which Daily Monitor has seen.
The clan, with more than 63 families, also parcelled out their portion to members under the leadership of then clan chairperson, Mr Lasto Masaba. Mr Masaba died in October 2016.

Parallel clan chairpersons
Daily Monitor has learnt that the vacuum created by Masaba’s death gave birth to two parallel clan chairpersons.

One faction is now led by Mr Richard Magombe, a son and heir of the late Masaba while the other is led by Mr Paul Wasike, who was reportedly elected by the general assembly in 2017 .
Leaders and residents say lack of streamlined leadership is one of factors escalating cases of land grabbing and disputes, which came into the limelight in 2018.

This was after Mr Umar Nangoli, the former Mbale Resident District Commissioner (RDC), together with the then regional police commander, Mr Jacob Opolot,  pleaded guilty to taking bribes in form of land belonging to the clan before the Catherine Bamugemereire led- commission of inquiry on February 1.

Mr Sulaiman Ogajo Baraza, the RDC, told Daily Monitor that one of the plots of land is being sold to different buyers by the different clan members, which he said was fuelling confusion and disputes over land ownership.
He added that the land wrangles on the Bunamwani land have become a security threat yet the land has several investments.

Mr Ogajo wrote to the secretary of the commission of inquiry into land matters on February 18, 2019, informing them that some clan members were land grabbers.
A walk through the roads that have been demarcated on the Bunamwani land  shows settlements.

On either sides, construction of houses is still ongoing on several plots despite the commission of inquiry halting such activities.
“We settled here last year after constructing this house but someone has taken us to court claiming he is the rightful  owner of this land,”  a woman said on condition of anonymity.

The source added that they bought the land from one of the clan members with consent from Mr Magombe but they were later told he was not the legitimate clan head.
Mr Frank Musisi, one of complainants, said he bought the land from a one Henry Nalyanya in 2012  only to find out that another person in the name of Kadiri Wamugwe had been allocated the same plot.

“I bought one acre at Shs25 million but another person trespassed on the land, claiming to have also bought it from another clansman,” Mr Musisi said.
Mr Zadoki Meya, another complainant and clan member, said the land he was allocated was grabbed.

Another developer identified as Ali Traure, a Senegalese by nationality,  said most land grabbers have titles but without sales agreements.
“They always have a secondary document, which is a land title but no sales agreement,” he said.
This newspaper found out that most of the plots have more than two people claiming ownership.

Mr Isaac Mabonga, the former secretary general of the clan, said greed among the few members belonging to the faction led by Mr Mabonga is fuelling land conflicts and damaging the image of Banamwani people.
“There are clan members who have gone on rampage to grab other people’s  land and sell it using forged signatures and stamps,” he said.

Mr Mabonga alleges that the land he was allocated as a clan member was also grabbed and sold fraudulently. When contacted, Mr Magombe declined to delve into details .
“I am the chairperson and it is true, we have cases of land grabbing,” Mr Magombe said before hanging up.
Mr Stephen Wanieye Watanga, who is the clan coordinator,  said they elected Mr Wasike as their chairperson to replace the late Masaba and claimed Mr Magombe is masquerading as their head.

“The rightful chairperson of the clan is Mr Wasike. Mr Magombe is heir of his father not of the clan as some people claim,” Mr Watanga said.
He said the current confusion has also frustrated their efforts to reclaim more 43 acres from NFA because they were supposed to get 128 acres.
“We were supposed to get 128 acres. We only got 85 acres but we cannot proceed due to the current leadership confusion,” Mr Watanga said.

Daily Monitor has seen documents signed by Mr Wasike and Mr Magombe on behalf of Bunamwani clan.
However, Mr Fred Masaba Kuranga,  Mr Magombe’s brother, dismissed allegations that Mr Wasike is chairperson.
“Since the death of my father, we have never elected a new chairperson. The instruments and tools of power are still at our late father’s home,” he said.

Illegally operating
Mr Kuranga, who is also the LC3 chairperson of Nauyo-Bugema Town Council, added that Mr Magombe and Mr Wasike are operating illegally.
Mr Kuranga said before the NFA handed the land to the clan, the encroachers had already grabbed part of it.
He also dismissed allegations that there are cases of land grabbing orchestrated by his brother in which he is an accomplice.
Mr Wasike said he is aware of the cases but denied being involved.

However, Mr Soita Jamba,  a clan mobiliser, said there are more than 50 complaints filed at Mbale Central Police Station on illegal sale of land for the past four months but police are too slow to act because of corruption.
“Police have been compromised and they are part of the problem,” he said.
Mr John Masika, a resident of Marale Village, said the State House Anti-Corruption Unit led by Lt Col Edith Nakalema should take over the matter.

“The police top leadership has been compromised. When people file their cases, they just ‘sit’ on the files and solicit bribes from the accused,” Mr Masika said.
However, Mr Rogers Taitika, the Elgon police spokesperson, refuted allegations that  police officers handling land dispute have been compromised.
The land currently houses University Link High School,  Cream Nursery and Primary School and the offices of JENGA, an NGO, among others.

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Breaking: Witness Radio and Partners to Launch Human Rights Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy Project Tomorrow.



By Witness Radio Team.

Witness Radio, in collaboration with Dan Church Aid (DCA) and the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD), is set to launch the Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy for Human Rights in Uganda (MDA-HRU) project tomorrow, 22nd February 2024, at Kabalega Resort Hotel in Hoima District.

The project, funded by the European Union, aims to promote the protection and respect for human rights, and enable access to remedy where violations occur especially in the Mid-Western and Karamoja sub-regions where private sector actors are increasingly involved in land-based investments (LBIs) through improved documentation, and evidence-based advocacy.

The three-year project, which commenced in October 2023, focuses its activities in the Mid-Western sub-region, covering Bulisa, Hoima, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Kikuube, Kagadi, Kibale, and Mubende districts, and Karamoja sub-region, covering Moroto, Napak, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Nabilatuk, Abim, Kaabong, Kotido, and Karenga districts.

The project targets individuals and groups at high risk of human rights violations, including Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs). It also engages government duty bearers such as policymakers and implementers in relevant ministries and local governments, recognizing their crucial role in securing land and environmental rights. Additionally, the project involves officials from institutional duty bearers including the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), Equal Opportunities Commission, and courts, among others.

Representatives from the international community, faith leaders, and business actors are also included in the project’s scope, particularly those involved in land-based investments (LBIs) impacting the environment.

The project was initially launched in Moroto for the Karamoja region on the 19th of this month with the leadership of the National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD).

According to the project implementors,  the action is organized into four activity packages aimed at; enhancing the capacity and skills of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and Land and Environmental Defenders (LEDs) in monitoring, documentation, reporting (MDR), and protection, establishing and reinforcing reporting and documentation mechanisms for advocacy and demand for corporate and government accountability;  providing response and support to HRDs and marginalized communities; and lastly facilitating collaboration and multi-stakeholder engagements that link local and national issues to national and international frameworks and spaces.

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Kiryandongo leadership agree to partner with Witness Radio Uganda to end rampant forced land evictions in the district.



By Witness Radio team.

Kiryandongo district leaders have embraced Witness Radio’s collaboration with the Kiryandongo district aimed at ending the rampant violent and illegal land evictions that have significantly harmed the livelihoods of the local communities in the area.

The warm welcome was made at the dialogue organized by Witness Radio Uganda, Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog at the Kiryandongo district headquarters, intended to reflect on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

Speaking at the high-level dialogue, that was participated in by technical officers, policy implementers, religious leaders, leaders of project affected persons (PAPs), politicians, media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and development partners that support land and environment rights as well as the Land Based Investments (LBIs) Companies in the Kiryandongo district, the leaders led by the District Local Council 5 Chairperson, Ms. Edith Aliguma Adyeri appreciated the efforts taken by Witness Radio organization to organize the dialogue meeting aimed at bringing together stakeholders to safeguard community land and environmental rights in order address the escalating vice of land grabbing in the area.

During the dialogue, participants shared harrowing accounts of the impacts of land evictions and environmental degradation, including tragic deaths, families torn asunder, young girls forced into marriage, a surge in teenage pregnancies, limited access to education, and significant environmental damage which have profoundly affected the lives of the local population in Kiryandongo.

Participants attending the dialogue.

In recent years, Kiryandongo district has been embroiled in violent land evictions orchestrated to accommodate multinational large-scale agriculture plantations and wealthy individuals leaving the poor marginalized.

According to various reports, including findings from Witness Radio’s 2020 research Land Grabs at a Gun Point, the forceful land acquisitions in Kiryandongo have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 individuals have been displaced from their land to make room for land-based investments in the Kiryandongo district. However, leaders in the district also revealed in the dialogue that women and children are affected most.

The Kiryandongo Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Jonathan Akweteireho, emphasized that all offices within the Kiryandongo district are actively involved in addressing the prevalent land conflicts. He also extended a welcome to Witness Radio, acknowledging their collaborative efforts in tackling and resolving land and environmental issues in the district.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we all know that the land rights together with environmental rights have been violated in our district, but because we don’t know what our rights are, because we have not directly done what we could to safeguard our rights and now this is the time that Witness Radio has brought us together to safeguard our rights. I want to welcome you in Kiryandongo and be rest assured that we shall give you all the necessary support to help us manage these rampant cases,” Ms. Adyeri said in her remarks during the dialogue meeting.

The team leader at Witness Radio Uganda, Mr. Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala expressed gratitude to the participants for their active involvement in the dialogue and revealed that Witness Radio’s objective is to find a holistic solution to the escalating land disputes in Kiryandongo district serving as an example to other districts.

“We are here to assist Kiryandongo district in attaining peace and stability because it stands as a hotspot for land grabbers in Uganda. Mismanagement of land conflicts in Uganda could potentially lead to a significant internal conflict. Everywhere you turn, voices are lamenting the loss of their land and property. Kiryandongo, abundant with ranches, suffers from a lack of a structured framework, which amplifies these land conflicts. The influx of wealthy investors further complicates the situation,” Mr. Ssebaggala disclosed.

Within the dialogue, Mr. Ssebaggala emphasized the need for the Kiryandongo district council to pass a by-law aimed at curbing land evictions as an initial step in addressing the prevalent land injustices.

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Kiryandongo authorities decry rising cases of land disputes



The LC5 chairperson of Kiryandongo, Ms Edith Aliguma Adyeri, has saidnland dispute has impacted on people’s lives, dignity and children’s education in the district.

Just like other parts of Uganda, conflicts over land in Kiryandongo arise when individuals – who often are blood relatives – compete for use of the same parcel of land or when members of the community lay claim over ownership of unutilised government land.

Ms Adyeri further said land and environmental rights affect people both directly and indirectly, “and we are not hearing it from afar. It is already together with us [here], it has already affected us!”

She was speaking at a meeting which sought to discuss alternative remedies to salvage the appalling land and environmental rights situation in Kiryandongo at the district headquarters on Thursday.

The one-day dialogue was aimed at reflecting on the plight of land and environmental rights defenders, local and indigenous communities and the role of responsible land-based investments in protecting people and the planet.

It was attended by private companies, members of civil society and local government officials and organised by Witness Radio – an advocate for land and environmental rights in Uganda – in partnership with Oxfam, and Kiryandongo District leadership.

“Some people have even died, families are broken up, and brothers are not seeing eye-to-eye because of land rights. Access to justice is equally becoming very difficult because when you hire one lawyer that
lawyer will talk to learned friends, and they agree. They leave you in suspense,” Ms Adyeri said.

According to her, some children have not accessed education because of land and environmental rights.

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the deputy Resident District Commissioner of Kiryandongo, said enlightened people especially should be sensitive to the historical injustice of this area.

“We can never handle the Bonyoro land question without thinking about that history. It will be an injustice to the incomers, to the government and to the leaders who don’t understand,” he said.

“We had 38 ranches here which on the guidance of these international organisations, especially the World Bank, the government restructured them, allowing people to settle there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he added.

Mr Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala, the executive director of Witness Radio, said that a well-functional land sector supports land users or holders and investors, reduces inefficiencies and provides mechanisms to resolve land disputes.

Mr David Kyategeka, the secretary to the Kiryandongo District Land Board, said the issue of land rights is very clear but the major challenge has been sensitising the locals to know what rights he or she expects to enjoy out of this very important resource.


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