By witnessradio.org team
Faking of land titles, invading public and idle land, colluding with public officials, faking court orders, selling one piece of land to several buyers, are the key tricks land grabbers use to fleece the indigenous poor of their land, two reports by different researchers have established.
Both the witnessradio.org report and the Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC) report, reveal that the perpetrators are influential figures or private corporate entities who grab the land being used by the communities for subsistence farming to carryout commercial farming.
How much land has been grabbed?
No one really knows. A lot of reported deals are done secretly. In its inaugural report, witnessradio.org says that over 2 Million hectares of land have been grabbed in the greater Mubende region in the year 2017 alone, affecting more than 190,000 families.
Who’s doing the grabbing?
According to the two reports, economically-powerful and politically connected individuals and private corporate entities are involved in grabbing land from the natives.
“It is clear that a cartel of economically powerful and politically-connected individuals are assisted by public institutions like police, Uganda People Defense Forces, office of the Mubende District Resident Commissioner (RDC), Mubende District Land Board to grab people’s land,” witnessradio.org report reads in part.
“There is an evident pattern of highly placed individual actors precipitating land conflicts across the regions studied. The shared characteristic amongst such individuals is that they possess both political backing and sufficient funds to pursue their illicit agendas,” HURIPEC observed in its report.
The HURIPEC report that was nationwide, named individuals like Abdallah Kitatta, the NRM chairperson for Rubaga division and leader of Bodaboda 2010 who has close links with police and the state and Moses Karangwa, the NRM chairperson for Kayunga district who was accused of harassing, intimidating and evicting bonafide occupants before evicting them from hundreds of acres of land in Bbaale sub-county in Mubende district.
The same Moses Karangwa was highlighted in witnessradio.org report for grabbing 642.65 hectares of land from Charles Lwanga Masengere whom he kidnapped, tortured, resulting into his arrest on trumped-up charges of aggravated robbery.
Karangwa, is alleged to have burnt Masengere’s properties worth Shs 500M including cars, houses, among others.
Both reports highlighted that Karangwa extensively used the police to intimidate, harass and physically accosted bonafide occupants in his mission to force them to vacate the disputed land.
“It is quite clear that those involved in land-related criminality are not only highly-connected, public officials and significantly-placed non-state actors, their actions of large-scale evictions, land office forgery and various acts of bribery and coercion can only be curtailed through a vigorous process of prosecution,” HURIPEC observed in its report.
Collusion with public offices to commit human rights violations
“Public institutions like police, Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), office of the Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mubende District Land Board, Prosecutors and courts mandated to protect indigenous communities and their properties have been caught red-handed protecting workers of businessmen to commit gross human rights abuses ranging from gang-rape, torture, participating in illegal arrests and detentions, oversee the use of ungazatted detention centers to imprison community leaders ,organizing communities to oppose illegal land evictions and malicious prosecutions, among others,” witnessradio.org report found.
On its part, HURIPEC noted “an intricate involvement of the army and the police in the occurrence and exacerbation of land conflicts in all the studied regions of the country.”
In fact, its findings demonstrated that “armed security agents have been used as ready tools in the forceful eviction of persons from their land. As already mentioned, Moses Karangwa has been consistent in his use of the police to intimidate, assault and arrest bonafide occupants on land whose ownership is highly disputed in Kayunga.”
HURIPEC TO GOVERNMENT:
Ad-hoc and illegal institutions that have assumed a mandate over land governance such as the police, office of the president and state house should be immediately disbanded, or subordinated to the overall supervision of a revamped and reconstituted Uganda Land Commission. Only legitimate institutions fully-mandated by law to govern land matters should have control over land matters.
Government should adhere to the laws on compulsory acquisition vis-à-vis the prompt and prior payment of adequate compensation to persons who lose their interests in land due to legitimate exercise of the power of eminent domain
Private firms and investors must be urged and even compelled to adopt and adhere to minimum requirements of corporate responsibility with regard to their interactions with the victims of land problem, particularly evictions
Witnessradio.org TO GOVERNMENT:
Government should review the existing legal frameworks to protect land rights of indigenous communities and also empower the relevant institutions such as the land commission and the office of the Inspectorate of government to enhance the fight against corruption within the respective land divisions that are promoting forgeries of land titles
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
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 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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