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Inside battle for land to resettle Bududa victims



KAMPALA. As government prepares to resettle victims of the Bududa mudslide disaster on a disputed Shs8b land at Mabaale Village, Bunambutye Sub-county in Bulambuli District, the claimants say they must first be paid and resettled.
The claimants that comprise 18 clans say their quest for justice has been frustrated by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and other government authorities.

The group also say they have petitioned in vain the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters chaired by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire to intervene in the dispute between them and Simu Oil (U) Ltd, a company they say allegedly forged land titles to sell their land.

Mr Hakim Chemsuto Konyi, the secretary of the land owners, says Justice Bamugemereire has not called them to testify about the alleged fraudulent sale of their land by Mr Mudimi Wamakuyu, the Elgon County MP, through his company Simu Oil (U) Ltd.
Mr Konyi told Daily Monitor yesterday that their first petition under reference MBL/18/2017 was filed last November when the land commission camped in Mbale. He says their second petition under reference LI/41/2018 was filed in Kampala early this year but both files have never been acted on.

“The Commission has never written to us to show they are investigating our complaint following the two petitions. We recently wrote to the Secretary to the Commission to seek information about the status of our petitions but got no response,” Mr Konyi said.

“After the mudslides of last week, we have heard that the government is taking the people of Bududa to our land. This is not acceptable because the same government has never listened to our grievances,” he added.
Cabinet has already approved more than Shs32 billion to be used to urgently resettle 6,300 victims of the October 11 mudslides.
Mr Ebert Byenkya, the spokesperson of the land probe, yesterday confirmed that they received the petitions but have not been able to commence investigations because of financial constraints.

“It appears we have the files. They have not been investigated yet due to resource constraints. Unfortunately, we have a huge number of complaints and investigating all simultaneously is difficult,” Mr Byenkya said.
Asked what action the land probe will take now that the government has moved to resettle the victims of the mudslides on the contested land, Mr Byenkya said their team will prioritise the matter and investigate it.

Claimants attack government 
The land claimants say they only learnt of the government move to buy the 2,800 acres of land through the newspapers because Mr Mudimi has never engaged them and neither is he a member of their community.
“No one is going to bring these people on the land before we are both compensated and at the same time resettled elsewhere. We shall defend this land because there are people in government who benefitted from the fraudulent sale,” Mr Konyi said.

In September 2014, the State minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness, Mr Musa Ecweru, and other OPM officials were forced to flee after a charged crowd attempted to lynch them when the team went to open the land boundaries.
Armed with clubs, the residents of Tobagony Village in Bunambutye Sub-county chased Mr Ecweru, OPM permanent secretary Christine Guwatudde Kintu, assistant commissioner Rose Nakabugo and others from the land bought for resettlement of Mt Elgon mudslide victims.

This newspaper has seen a copy of a letter issued on August 21, 2017, by Ms Mary Namusilo, the secretary to Bulambuli District Land Board, stating that the lower local governments are in support of the 18 families who they consider the rightful owners of the contested land.
The group, which includes communities from Bagisu, Nandi, Banyoli, Sabiny, and Masai, were displaced from the land by armed Karimojong cattle rustlers in 1965.

Asked about claims that she superintended over the purchase of a contested land for the resettlement of the landslide victims, Ms Guwatudde said she had received genuine land titles from the selling company.
“It is impossible because I inspected the land myself and I have the land titles. Nothing else I can say about that because I have my land titles, but people just want to talk about what they do not know,” she said by telephone yesterday.

Original seller speaks
Mr Wamakuyu was not available for a comment yesterday. However, in a February interview, he denied allegations of forging the title for the land.
He admitted that Simu Oil (U) Ltd, a company where his wife is a director, sold the 1,680 acres on plot 10 to OPM but said the land title in question was issued to Bamasaba Cooperative Union by the Uganda Land Commission in 1971. He said the land title was later transferred to his wife’s company when it bought the land in 2012.

“Whoever says the land title is forged should ask the Uganda Land Commission, which gave out the title to Bamasaba Cooperative Union in 1971. And the land is not for those who are claiming it. They are masqueraders and should be asked to produce the forged title. The claims they are talking about were investigated and cleared,” Mr Wamakuyu said.

Daily Monitor


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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