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Family seeks to reclaim 49 acres from Lyantonde district

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Byehondozo and her daughter Kakako. Photos by Davis Buyondo

LYANTONDE -A family in Lyantonde is seeking to repossess its 49.05 acres of land said to be illegally occupied by the district local government for 14 years.

The contested land is located on Block 76, plot 50, Kaliiro ward ‘A’ in Kabula county. It currently houses the district administration block and other departmental offices plus other portions subdivided and allocated to different developers.

It is currently becoming a major land row since the claimant wants the district to vacate her land and compensate her for the period the have occupied it illegally.

Copies of relevant documents obtained by the New Vision indicate Joyce Byehondozo, 81, a resident of Kaliiro ‘A’ in Lyantonde town council, is the rightful owner of the land who originally possessed a title.

She was born on this land in 1939 and inherited it from her father __late Kinanigira who also inherited it from his father.

She explained that former President Apollo Milton Obote’s government took a small portion of land and put structures including a sub-county block, the house of the sub-county chief and a toilet.

Her woes date back to 1993 when Lyantonde was still under Rakai district administration. It is said that Rakai district bought the land from Byehondozo in 1993 which land it transferred to Lyantonde when it became an independent district in 2006.

But Byehondozo disputed the claim saying she did not sell her land to Rakai district or anyone as it is claimed.

She explained that after claiming her right over the disputed land, some unscrupulous district officials asked her to avail to them the duplication certificate of the title for verification.

This was done on an understanding that after the verification process the duplicate certificate of the title would be returned back to her.

However, Byehondozo did not receive her duplicate certificate of the title for her land from Rakai District as it had been agreed.

Her daughter Florence Kakako (67) and grandchildren are following up on the matter given the fact that the old lady is weak and can hardly move.

They later learnt that the then Rakai Administration registered itself at the lands office as the actual proprietor of the land without her knowledge and consent or any payment for consideration.

“Rakai district authorities fraudulently obtained the title of the land and we are treated as illegal occupants,” Kakako recounted.

In a letter dated July 17, 2018 addressed to the land commission secretariat, Muhanga and Associates, who represent the ill-fated family, it is indicated that in 2010, Lyantonde district had been entered on to the certificate of the title as the proprietor of the land.

And to their shock, Byehondozo and her family were served with a notice to vacate the land from Christopher Okumu, the Chief Administrative Officer dated June 15, 2015.

“Some claimed we were illegal occupants and they wanted us to vacate the land to pave a way for their development projects including a subdivision of plots to allocate them to different developers,” she said.

The family further holds the Lyantonde district and the Attorney General jointly liable for the continued trespass on their land and the eventual fraud in procuring the registration of the same land in their names as well as developing it illegally.

In May 2017, Byehondozo filed a claim in the High Court at Masaka intending for eviction orders against the district and the compensation.

Nevertheless, on June 30, 2017, the district and attorney general of Uganda entered their respective defence in the main suit.

Arnold Agira, Byehondozo’s son speaking to the reporters after the family camping at the CAO’s office

Statehouse intervenes

The matter came to the attention of President Yoweri Museveni. In a letter to the Lyantonde CAO, dated February 1, 2016, Flora Kiconco,
the Principal Private Secretary to President Yoweri Museveni, the matter was brought to the attention of the president who directed that the district should not interfere in Byehodozo’s occupation of land.

However, Kiconco added, this office continued to receive complaints from the complainant that the district officials had continued trespassing on her land, cultivating on it, and in the process of fencing it to deny her use.

“The purpose of this letter is to once again inform you about H.E the president’s directive and request you to ensure that Byehondozo enjoys a quiet possession of that land without any interference,” she noted. She further requested the CAO to prevail over the district officials who interfere with Byehondozo’s occupation on the said land until when the president intervenes.

Byehondozo sleeping at th CAO’s office

Temporary injunction

On February 14, 2018, Byehondozo entered a temporary injunction restraining- both parties, their agents, assignees, and others, from leasing, alienating, selling, or harassing or in any way interfering with each other’s’ occupation until the main suit is determined.

The matter was before her Worship-Beatrice Stella Atingu, the Assistant Registrar of the High Court of Uganda at Masaka.

Although the injunction was issued, the district did not halt its operations on the land. Different people were allocated portions of land for cultivation.

Last year, people who were allocated portions of land sprayed chemicals to dry the grass but Byehondozo’s family lost two cows after eating the sprayed grass.

In another letter dated February 19, 2018, Kiconco requests the Lyatonde RDC to ensure that both parties (complainant and the defendants) abide by the court order.

And last week, according to Arnold Agira, one of Byehondozo’s children, another district staff sprayed with chemicals a portion of land measuring half an acre.

He argued that they were provoked to storm the CAO’s office due to the increasing violation of the injunction.

“We honored the injunction but the district is still allocating people land. We have reached the RDC’s office, CAO, Police but no one has bothered assisting us,” he said.

However, Byehondozo’s family has appealed to Col. Edith Nakalema, the head of the Anti-Corruption Unit of State House, to investigate the corruption and increasing theft of land in Lyantonde especially their 49.05 acres which the district took.

District intervenes

A delegation of top district officials toured the land on Tuesday.

They include Catherine Kamwiine, the Resident District Commissioner, David Lubuuka, the Chief Administrative Officer, Jamal Kanyesigye, the District Police Commander, DISO- and Fred Muhangi, the Lyantonde LC5 chairperson.

Led by Kamwiine, the officials first held a closed meeting with the family members to dialogue over the longstanding grievances.

They later toured the land and halted several activities mainly farming as well as warning people who were cultivating the land illegally.

Former RDC speaks

Sulaiman Tuguragara Matojo, the former Lyantonde RDC, said that the matter came to his office and statehouse intervened and built her a new house on the land as they wait for the court decision on the matter.

He explained that his office had earlier advised the two parties to sit and agree on the compensation plan but the family wanted eviction of the district headquarters which has cost over a billion shillings to build.

He explained that the family was only paid sh11m as compensated for the portion of land measuring about half an acre which Obote’s government has occupied.

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MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK

How Kiryandongo land conflict has affected children

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Parents affected by the seven-year-old land conflict in Kiryandongo District have said hundreds of their children are facing hunger and lack of education.

The children have been forced out of school since 2017 and their parents, who derived livelihood mainly from cultivation, are now struggling to put food on the table since their land is now occupied by a ranch.

Currently, the farming families are now trapped in the middle of farms belonging to Agilis Partners, Great Season SMC Limited, and Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, who have set up ranches measuring about 9,300 acres in Mutunda and Kiryandongo sub-counties.

The ranch land had for long been occupied and farmed by more than 35,000 families who came to the area after they fled war and natural calamities from other districts in Uganda, according to Witness Radio, a non- governmental organisation.

Ms Esther Namuganza, a resident of Kimogoro Village, Mutunda Sub-county, lives with her five children in an area known as Ranch 20.

She recalls that on November 23, 2017, agents of Agilis Partners told the people living within Ranch 20 and 21 that it had acquired the land and that they would have to vacate.

“The first eviction took place on November 23, 2017. It was a Thursday. We grew big-headed and refused to vacate the ranches because we are the citizens of Uganda, we have nowhere to go,” she says.

Her family is one of a few that still remain on the land but with nowhere to grow food.

“We eat one meal a day and even at times we just take porridge. We don’t eat during the day to save for tomorrow. If you say I’m going to have lunch and supper, what about tomorrow?” Ms Namuganza wonders.

Annet Muganyizi, a former Senior Four student who dropped out of school in 2017, says all the schools, health facilities and water sources on the land have all been destroyed.

Mr John Byaruhanga of Nyamutende Village in Kiryandongo Sub-county said agriculture used to be their only source of livelihood in the ranches.

“When Agilis Partners came, everything changed for the worse. We were beaten, tortured and evicted at gunpoint. When we ask those armed men where they want us to go with our children and cattle, they just tell us to vacate. When you try to resist, they arrest you. I am one of those who have been arrested twice,” he says.

However, the spokesperson of Agilis Partners, Mr Emmanuel Onyango, earlier dismissed the allegations of unending forceful evictions.

“To be honest, I don’t know why people keep on accusing us of evictions yet we still have people residing on Ranch 20 and 21,” Mr Onyango said . He explained that if indeed they were evicting people, “there wouldn’t be anyone left on the land.”

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the Kiryandongo deputy RDC, said the Bunyoro land question cannot be sorted out without thinking about its history.

“We had 38 ranches here, which, on guidance of these international organisations, told the government to restructure the ranches. The ranches were restructured, people settled there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he said.

Source: Daily Monitor

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MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK

Chip in to take Bayer down!

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If the lawsuits keep on coming, it could finish off this brutal corporation – and send its bee-killing, cancer-linked chemicals into history.

But many of Bayer’s victims don’t have enough money to take them to court and get the justice they deserve. That’s where we come in.

If everyone reading this chips in just a small amount, we’d have enough to launch a powerful legal fund for Bayer’s victims – helping more desperate people access legal advice and get their day in court. Every win will get us closer to a future free of poisonous pesticides.

Can you chip in now to help take Bayer down?

Anything extra raised will power Ekō and our campaigns worldwide fighting for people and the planet.

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Oil project-affected persons express disappointment in Uganda judiciary

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The Tilenga and EACOP oil project-affected households have expressed deep disappointment over the failure of key stakeholders in Uganda’s judicial system to grant them audience to discuss their grievances stemming from a lawsuit filed against them by the government in December 2023.

In a press conference organized at Hotel Africana in Kampala, some members of the 42 of the families sued by the government claimed having travelled from Buliisa district to Kampala with the aim of meeting Norbert Mao, the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo and the deputy chief justice.

They also intended to meet the principal judge, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and others. Additionally, the households wanted to meet Total Energies’ managing director. However, they were unable to meet any of them, stating that their refusal indicated lack of responsiveness and dialogue on critical issues affecting the rights and livelihoods of project-affected people in the oil region.

According to a one Bamutuleki, one of the affected members, they had written letters to various stakeholders, including the ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the chief justice, deputy chief justice, principal judge, Judicial Service Commission (JSC), and Total Energies, seeking for a meeting to discuss their grievances. However, they were unable to meet any of them for a crucial discussion.

“This lack of interaction leaves us feeling neglected and unheard in our quest for justice and fair treatment in the face of potential evictions related to the oil projects,” Bamutuleki said.

Julius Asiimwe, another oil project-affected person, raised similar concerns about their failure to meet the key stakeholders in the judiciary to address their grievances.

“We are not happy with all these offices. We are aggrieved. We wrote them letters requesting for meetings on specific dates and none of them wrote back to us. Based on the reception we received at the offices we visited, we don’t think that the judiciary understands the implications of its actions on our families, and our children,” Asiimwe said.

The failure to meet any of the officials leaves the future of the affected households in uncertainty after the High court in Hoima gave the government a go-ahead to evict them from their land.

GENESIS

In December 2023, the government filed a lawsuit against the households affected by the Tilenga and East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) projects in Uganda. This was after the affected households had rejected the compensation offered by Total Energies, a French company, which was acquiring the land on behalf of the ministry of Energy, citing it as inadequate, unfair and low.

The affected people said the government valuation did not reflect the value of their land, and the impact of losing their property. They expressed their preference for land in exchange for their property rather than monetary compensation in order to maintain their livelihoods.

Additionally, they claimed it was a violation of Article 26 of the Ugandan Constitution, which protects property rights and ensures fair compensation. However, the rushed court processes led by Justice Jesse Byaruhanga of the High court in Hoima resulted in a judgment against the households within four days of the case being filed, which is arguably one of the fastest court cases to be resolved in Uganda in recent memory.

The court ruling stated that the people’s compensation could be deposited in court and the government could proceed and gain vacant possession of their land.

The affected households did not participate in the court hearing because some of them were even unaware that they had been sued.
According Bamutuleki, other project- affected persons could not travel to the court in Hoima, which was far away from Buliisa, due to the short notice provided for the hearing and their lack of financial resources to cover transportation costs.

“This lack of adequate notice and financial constraints hindered our ability to participate in the legal proceedings and defend our interests,” Bamutuleki pointed out.

Additionally, Bamutuleki stated that they were given a pile of legal documents by the court and no one was there to make the interpretation for them. Most of the project-affected persons are illiterate, a factor that made it harder for them to get a fair hearing.

UNCERTAINTY

Many families say their eviction from land for the Tilenga and East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) projects makes their future unknown given that land is their primary source of income.

While at the press conference, Jelousy Mugisha stated that their daily lives depend on the land for various aspects such as generating income, sending children to school, and accessing medical assistance.

“I have been using my land for many years now to take care of my family because I don’t earn any monthly salary. So, the government giving me money to leave my land and get a smaller one is completely unfair and unconstitutional,” he said.

The families highlighted that they weren’t fighting the government and its projects but only want a fair compensation for their land, which will restore them to their former positions. Mugisha stated that the money the government proposed in compensation for their land is completely low compared to the market prices of the land in the area.

“The size of my land that was acquired is 2.5 acres. The government wants to give me Shs 5 million per acre yet the market price for one acre is Shs 20 million in my area,” Mugisha said.

“If the government really wants the land, let it get us another land equivalent to what we had and we shall agree,” he said.

Dickens Kamugisha, the executive director of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), an organization that has been supporting the affected families for a long time, expressed deep concern over the plight of the poor families from the oil region who are facing injustices.

He emphasized the importance of all Ugandans to take a keen interest in their struggles, highlighting the broader implications of the government’s actions and court precedents that allow for the violation of constitutional rights and unfair treatment of landowners.

“As these poor families from the oil region suffer injustices today, all Ugandans should take a keen interest in their plight. With courts setting bad precedents that allow the government to violate Article 26 and other human rights provisions of the Ugandan Constitution, where affected landowners are forced to accept low, unfair, and inadequate compensation, and courts deny people fair hearings, any Ugandan could suffer the same fate,” he warned.

Despite facing legal battles, evictions, and disruptions to their livelihoods, these individuals remain resolute in their pursuit of a just resolution to their grievances.

Source: The Observer.

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