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Is gun violence and state power…determining land ownership in Uganda?


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Charles Lwanga Masengere, 51, is counting 17 years of fighting for his land and lost properties worth billions of shillings but the journey is still far From over with no sign yet of regaining his access to land and use…!

“The 17 year-fight has been coupled with kidnap and put into a car boot, violent arrests, torture and being subjected to different forms of inhumane degrading treatment throughout my entire youthful time fighting to get back my land, which has been my employer and source of livelihood for my entire family” Masengere narrated findings indicate that the grabbed 642.65 hectares hosted five villages namely Mitigyabisobyo, Katuugo, Kasagi, Katovu, and Kyerimira, Mundadde parish, Kitumbi Sub-County, Mubende district.

Masengere, 51 said he lost his ancestral land to one Moses Karangwa, whose source of backing is not yet established, he is believed to be a powerful businessman with connections to the first family and the ruling party National Resistance Movement. Masengere said that he owned fixed assets including houses, both digging and planting tractors, maize flour millers, maize garden measuring over 80 acres and family land worth billions.

“I have been in and out of police cells, incarcerated in prisons on trumped-up criminal charges after being beaten numberless times by armed personnel. My private parts were at on point squeezed, which affected my manhood and life has never been the same again. I have survived four assassinations so far and [Moses] Karangwa himself attempted to shoot me [dead]” Masengere told in an interview.

Can you imagine a rich man owning properties worth billions of money being charged with chicken and goats’ robbery and at times armed robbery? It’s a true story that Masengere faced such charges inside different courts.

Masengere who once lived a happy man besides his family told that Karangwa uses armed personnel from police and Star React, his personal security firm. “He (Karangwa) has a strong connection with top leadership especially in Mubende district namely Resident District Commissioner (RDC) and both regional and district police commanders, who provide protection and manpower anytime he wants.

Although has not confirmed yet names of people occupying public offices in a racket to protect land grabbers in the country but Masengere insisted that these individuals were purposely appointed to work in key criminal justice institutions to frustrate land grabbing cases namely in judiciary, Uganda police Force and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Masengere claims that he has on several times met his tormentors in private meetings with public officials working on his case files whenever he tried to make follow ups on his matters, who after tell him to a money offer since he’s not going to win these land cases.

So, upon completing his five-year original lease period, Masengere was allowed to extend his lease offer and registered his Mitigyabisobyo mixed farm in 1978 on top of surveying and demarcating the land on plot number 28, block 489 at Mitigyabisobyo estate. So, when he succeeded his father, Masengere rightly carried on with his father’s work.

“After succeeding him, I got letters of administration which enabled me to proceed with his farming activities on the land,” Masengere said.

He added; “In 1997, I went to Lands to check on the status of the land and I was informed that dad had surveyed it and allocated plot number 28, block 489 at Mitigyabisobyo estate. Lands allowed me to open boundaries of the land they got me the surveyor only identified as Dhaka who wrote a report to Lands.”

Trouble strikes: Although he had made strides in obtaining the title of the land he inherited, Masengere met resistance from the lands officer at Mubende district. “Before obtaining my title, one Namukoye who worked as land officer, Mubende district wrote a letter stopping me from getting it.” Masengere said.

Her reasoning was that during the process of opening the boundaries, “I encroached on Mugenyi’s land.”

Masengere says that “I later discovered that she had curved out 200 hectares out of my land and allocated it to Kabagambe, Kasamunyiga and Kanamunyiga, all casual workers who were hired to look after heads of cattle before entering into a 1-year rent agreement on my land in 1998 with my manager Anthony Kasozi.”

Upon expiration of their rent agreement, the trio adamantly “refused to vacate the land which prompted me to charge them with criminal trespass in 2000 at Mubende court.”

Though he won the case, Masengere says that it wasn’t easy ride as different people opted to “charge me with criminal offences.” But fortunately, the court ruled in Masengere’s favor.

Masengere is the heir to his father Josephat Kasozi Lubega who was shot dead at Makindye, a Kampala surburb in 1986. Before his death, Lubega acquired a lease-hold of the contested land in 1972 from the Uganda Land Commission for farming activities.

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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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