WITNESS RADIO MILESTONES
Farming Families’ land is being targeted by invisible power as six people are framed and charged with murder
By witnessradio.org Team
In defiance of a court order, a Catholic Church priest and five other people have been charged with murder, in a Grade one court found in the central district of Mityana. Three of the five are coming from one family.
The decision by the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to charge the six came after the very court’s Chief Magistrate had ordered, on August, 26, 2019, for their “unconditional release” reasoning that accused had been held unconstitutionally in police cells for a long time without being formally charged in any court of law. Once the Chief Magistrate ordered that victims should regain their freedoms, Alex Mwine Mukono, the Mityana police head and other officers reacted by fleeing the police station. The said cops only returned to their offices after the six were arraigned in the Grade one court, which is of a lower rank than a Chief Magistrate Court, which had earlier ordered for their release.
Those now languishing in jail, in utter abuse of court orders, are Reverend Father Lawrence Muduse, a Catholic Church priest attached to Kiyinda-Mityana Diocese- who was on police bond, John Kulumba Senior together with his son John Kulumba Junior and his wife Jane Nankabirwa Kulumba. Others are Minana Local Council One Chairperson Ibrahim Muyingo, his Vice-Chairperson Robert Ssenyanja and his Defense Secretary John Kasule.
All the accused are community land defenders and According to witnessradio.org findings, their troubles stem from owning huge chunks of land which is now wanted by powerful land grabbers.
Kulumba Sr, for example, owns over 70 acres of titled land he inherited from his father. Before he could be apprehended his family members were the first to test the viciousness of police. They were rounded up and arrested from their marital home by Mityana police. Before the brutality could be meted out on him, Kulumba Sr had been tossed from one public office to another as the authorities were strangely questioned his land ownership. Since he owns a land title the ministry of lands would ‘exonerated’ him of any malfeasance. “I didn’t know owning land in Uganda is enough to land you jail. This is a matter I have no idea about,” explained Kulumba Sr.
Just Like Kulumba Sr, Muduse and others own reasonable size of titled land. The manner under which all victims were arrested raises more questions than answers. The three local leaders, for instance, were only arrested at Mityana central police after they had gone to report and record a statement about the murder of one Mulinde Kamada Kimbugwe, which occurred near their village.
“The script is used to grab land from families that are engaged in farming was written a few years ago and its smartly being applied and those who apply it know when and how to apply. It’s very clear that land grabbing manifests in different ways” Wokulira Geoffrey Ssebaggala, Executive Director, witnessradio.org explains.
According to prosecution, on August 7, 2019, victims attacked and killed Muhammad Kamada Kimbugwe, a 50-year-old resident of Minaana Village, Tamu Division, Mityana Municipality. It’s alleged that Kimbugwe was murdered as he moved around the village, distributing letters to ‘tenants occupying his one-square-mile piece of land’.
Appearing before Mityana Grade One Magistrate Juliana Kimono on August 30, 2019, all victims were not allowed to take plea since Kimono’s court does not have jurisdiction to hear their plea. They were remanded to prison until September 19, 2019, since the DPP is still claiming to be investigating the case.
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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