Witness Radio Milestones
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.
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.
Complaint against unprofessional conduct of the DPC Kiryandongo district for aiding and abetting land grabbing in kiryandongo district.
Professional Standards Unit, Uganda Police-Kampala.
RE: COMPLAINT AGAINST UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT OF THE DPC KIRYANDONGO DISTRICT FOR AIDING AND ABETTING LAND GRABBING IN NYAMUTENDE KITWARA PARISH KIRYANDONGO DISTRICT AND CARRYING OUT ILLEGAL ARRESTS AND DETENTION OF INNOCENT RESIDENTS/ BIBANJA OWNERS FOR PROTESTING AGAINST THE ILLEGAL EVICTION FROM THEIR LAND.
We act for and behalf of the Lawful and bonafide occupants of Land described as LRV MAS 2 FOLIO 8 BLOCK 8 PLOT 22 (FORMERLY KNOWN AS RANCH 22).
Our Clients are residents of Nyamutende Village, Kitwara Parish in Kiryandongo District where they have lived for more than 30 years and sometime in 2017, they applied for a lease of the said Land to Kiryandongo District Land Board through the Directorate of Land Matters State House.
As they were still awaiting their Application to be processed, they were shocked to establish that the said land had been instead leased to and registered in the names of Isingoma Julius, Mwesige Simon, John Musokota William, Tumusiime Gerald, Wabwire Messener Gabriel, Ocema Richard and Wilson Shikhama, some of whom were not known to the Complainants. A copy of the Search is attached hereto
Our clients protested the above action and appealed to relevant offices, but were shocked to discover that the above persons had gone ahead and sold the same to a one Maseruka Robert.
Aggrieved by these actions, the Complainants appealed to the RDC who advised them to institute proceedings against the said persons, and assigned them a one Mbabazi Samuel to assist them to that effect. The said Mbabazi accordingly filed Civil Suit Noa 46 of 2019 against tne said registered proprietors at Masindi High Court challenging the illegal and fraudulent registration, sale and transfer of the subject land to Maseruka Robert.
While awaiting the progress of the case mentioned hereinabove, the Complainants were surprised to find that the said Mbabazi, instead of assisting them, he went into a consent settling the said suit on their behalf without their knowledge or consent. A copy of the Consent is attached hereto.
Among the terms of the said consent Judgment was that the residents would be compensated without specifying how much and would in return vacate the Land.
As if that was not enough, Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel are going ahead to execute the said Consent Judgment by forcefully evicting the occupants without compensation which has prompted the complainants to challenge the said Consent by applying for its review and setting aside at Masindi High Court which is coming up for hearing on the 29th March 2023. A copy of the Application is attached hereto.
Sensing the imminent threat of eviction, we also filed an application for interim stay of execution of the said consent to avoid rendering their application for review nugatory but unfortunately the same could not be heard on the date it was fixed for hearing (6th February 2023). A copy of the Application is attached hereto
On Thursday last week, three tractors being operated by 6 workers of a one Mbabazi Samuel [the very person who had been entrusted to represent our Clients to secure their Land through Civil Suit No.46 of 2019] encroached close to 50 acres of our Clients’ land and started ploughing it but our Client’s protested and chased them away.
We have however been shocked to receive information from our Clients that on Sunday at Mid night, 3 police patrols invaded the community in the night and arrested community members; Mulenje Jack, Steven Kagyenji, Mulekwa David, Ntambala Geoffrey, Tumukunde Isaac 15 years, Kanunu Innocent, Mukombozi Frank, Kuzara, Rwamunyankole Enock, and took them to Kiryandongo Police Station where they are currently detained.
We strongly protest the illegal arrests and detention of our Clients as this is a carefully orchestrated land grabbing scheme by Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel who are receiving support from the DPC Kiryandongo.
The purpose of this Letter therefore is to request your good office to investigate the misconduct, abuse of office and unprofessionalism of the said DPC Kiryandongo District and all his involvement in the land grabbing schemes on land formerly known as Ranch 22.
Looking forward to your urgent intervention,
C.C The Head Police Land Protection Unit Police Head Quarters Naguru
CC The RDC Kiryandongo District
CC The Chairman LCVKityadongo District
CC The Regional Police CommanderAlbertine Region
Witness Radio Milestones
The Executive Director of Witness Radio Uganda talks about the role played by Witness Radio in protecting communities affected by large-scale agribusinesses in Kiryandongo district in an interview with the ILC.
Witness Radio Milestones
Witness Radio Uganda wins the best CSO land rights defenders award at the National Land Forum Awards.
By Witness Radio Team
Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog, Witness Radio has been awarded the best CSO land rights defender award 2022 in the recently concluded National Land Forum Awards held last week at Mestil hotel in Kampala.
Witness Radio’s executive Director, Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala attributed the award to the community land and environmental rights defenders who stand up against the intimidation and different forms of harassment from land grabbers (economically powerful and politically connected companies and individual investors).
“This is an award for defenders at a community level. They work in very deadly environments filled with harassment, torture, death threats, arrest, trumped-up charges, and kidnaps among others to advocate for community land and environment rights. This is happening at a spate where criminalization and silencing of community land rights defenders are at increase.” Jeff added.
The award has come at a time when hundreds of Ugandans in different parts of the country are accessing services provided by the organization ranging from legal service provisions, non-judicial mechanism engagements, empowerment to help them understand their rights, and using the same knowledge to use the same skills to push back against illegal and forced evictions
The chairman of the organizing committee of the second National Land Forum, Mr. Jimmy Ochom noted some progress on legislation in Uganda’s land Governance. He cited growing inequalities on land where the poor are more vulnerable.
During awards, the state minister for housing, Hon persis Namuganza revealed that the government approved the plan for 2018-2040 that maps the land use in the country.
According to the minister, the government had identified land for settlement, game reserves, wildlife, arable land for farming, and water bodies among others in the plan which she said was passed a few weeks ago.
The event was organized by Oxfam and partners and provided a platform for discussions by the different actors in the land sector on issues around land governance, including land rights, land administration, and land governance for improved collaboration, cooperation between the actors, and improved land service delivery for Ugandans under a theme “Taking stock of the National Land Policy in addressing Land inequality in addressing Land inequality in Uganda.”
Other categories of awards that were won by different organizations and individuals including Mr. Eddie Nsamba-Gayiiya for his contribution to research on land rights, Justice Centers Uganda for Promoting Access to Land Justice, and Mr. Henry Harrison Irumba for Championing Legal Reforms among others.
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