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

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Witnessradio.org team

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

witnessradio.org 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 witnessradio.org 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 witnessradio.org 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 witnessradio.org 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.

I write Human Rights

Business & Human Rights: Industrial Park Development in Buikwe is dispossessing hundreds of Native Families…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Buikwe – Uganda – Close to 1000 families in Namabere landing site, Buikwe District are forcefully being evicted off their land to give way for an industrial park, witnessradio.org has learned.

The industrial park which measures approximately 329.5 Ha, along the shores of Lake Victoria, is the brainchild of Magan Patel, the head of Nile Group of Companies. It is not clear whether the park authorities obtained the social and environmental impact assessment from environmental regulatory bodies as it is adjacent to the lake.

witnessradio.org findings indicate that so far the park has attracted about 26 companies amongst others include; Nile Agro Ltd; Nile Aluminum Ltd; Nile Batteries Ltd; Nile Wheat Ltd; Auro Meera Paper Ltd; Modern Distillers Ltd; Modern Laminates Ltd; Nile GM Plastics Ltd;  Modern Rubber Ltd; and Cable Ltd and many others.

According to the affected persons, GM Sugar Company one of the companies targeting their land, since November 2020 with the help of Buikwe police has been forcing natives to receive payment in form of transport on a gunpoint to vacate the land. The payment ranges from 100,000 – 200,000 Ugandan shillings to residents of the area to vacate their land.

“Imagine at a gunpoint, someone is paid Uganda Shillings 100,000, his/her properties get destroyed and your forced to vacate where you earn a living. How do you feel? Do you know how hard this is?” angrily asked a 45-year-old Bayati Kafuuko.

Bayati, a mother of six (6) said that she has nowhere to go and left with nothing to feed her family since all her property was destroyed by the armed men.

“What can that money do, it can’t even meet transport costs,” added Bayati.

Several affected persons revealed that before the eviction, there was neither consultation and concession to the project nor valuation and fair compensation of their property.

“Ever since the attack started we live in fear, we cannot sleep because most of our houses were pulled down. All our fish was taken by soldiers, we have nothing to eat,” said a 58-year-old Francis Obiire.

He added that he cannot accept being illegally evicted on land he has lived on since his birth.

“My father has lived on this land since 1950. I was born here in 1962. With this little money, which land do they expect me to buy,” Obiire added.

The chairman of Namabere village Mr. Ochen Peter said his people are being intimidated without due process is followed.

He further said that workers of the investors under the protection of police carry out daily patrolling of the area just to intimidate residents.

When witnessradio.org contacted Ssekamatte Musa, one of the GM Sugar company managers, he declined to speak.

“I am busy, I will call you,” he said.

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I write Human Rights

Two Witness Radio members, 26 others have been released on bail after spending close to 3 years in jail…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Mubende – Uganda – the High Court in Mubende has released two Witness Radio members and 26 others on bail after spending 28 months in prison. In late 2018, all the 28 were targeted and arrested because of their role in empowering the community to lawfully desist an illegal eviction, charged with 9 counts including murder and aggravated robbery, and remanded.

This was the second bail attempt after the 2019 bail for two Witness Radio members Grace Nantubiro and Ronald Mugwabya was rejected by the then Mubende High Court resident Judge Justice Joseph Murangira on pretty flimsy excuses.

Before the arrest of Grace Nantubiro and Ronald Mugwabya, the duo had used the media platforms local radio stations, and community meetings to call upon Mubende district authorities to intervene and stop an illegal and forceful eviction of 3500 inhabitants off five villages namely; Kambuye, Kikono, Kyabaana, Kanseera, and Lwensanga in East Division in Mubende municipality by one Kaweesi George.

Also in the line of fighting for the protection of the community’s land, Grace Nantubiro, Ronald Mugwabya, and some members of the press at one point were waylaid and kidnapped by laborers of the businessman. Mubende police rescued them but the perpetrators remained scot-free.

Due to public pressure, the situation was arrested by the then Mubende district police commander Martin Okoyo and other leaders, stopped the eviction, and ordered the withdraw of the businessman’s casual laborers from the community’s land until the land matter is resolved.

Shortly after the withdrawal, the laborers were secretly returned on the conflicted land in the wee hours in the following night and a fight ensued between businessman’s laborers and some locals. In a process, the life of one Yunusu Tabu was lost. Tabu was a manager of laborers.

The deadly scuffle introduced the criminalization of land rights defense and caused a random arrest that targeted Grace Nantubiro and Ronald Mugwabya because of their work. Some of the activists namely; Mugisha Focus, Ssekamana Kaloli, Mwikirize Keleti, Ssewanyana Kizza John, Tumwine Moses, Bigirwa Gilbert, Mulindwa Tadeo, Kayesu Patrick, Kyalimpa Tobias, Mugisha Stephen, Mwesigye John, Kiiza John Bosco, Byakatonda Aroon, Manirikiza Elidefunce, Tabalamule William, Kobwemi Christopher,  Kiwanuka Emmanuel, Senkula Charles, Ssemombwe George, Musinguzi Paul, Biryomumisho Fred, Maniriho Forodis,  Habimana Ernest, Byaruhanga Emmanuel, Mwesigye Julius, and Kezaala Saul were severely beaten and tortured by Mubende police during the arrest and as result, some still have visible scars all over their bodies.

The ill-planned arrest and conduct by Mubende police facilitated a land grab of more than 322.5 hectares, registered on Block 168; Plots 19, 22, and 23 in Mubende Municipality, Mubende district.

While appearing before Mubende High Court Judge Justice Isaac Muwata, all the 28 were released on a cash bail of 100,000 Uganda Shillings (one hundred thousand shillings) equivalent to about US dollars 28 while sureties were conditioned UGX 2 million not cash.

Other conditions, the 28 are required to report to the Mubende High Court registrar’s chambers every first Monday of the month.

 

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I write Human Rights

Renewing demand for justice; the 28 land rights defenders have applied for bail

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By witnessradio.org Team

Mubende – Uganda – the defense lawyers of the 28 community land rights defenders have filed new applications for bail at Mubende High Court after spending 3 years in prison.

The 28 include two staff members of Witnessradio.org‘s Nantubiro Grace and Mugwabya Ronald.

Others are; Mugisha Focus, Ssekamana Kaloli, Mwikirize Keleti, Ssewanyana Kizza John, Tumwine Moses, Bigirwa Gilbert, Mulindwa Tadeo, Kayesu Patrick, Kyalimpa Tobias, Mugisha Stephen, Mwesigye John, Kiiza John Bosco, Byakatonda Aroon, Manirikiza Elidefunce, Tabalamule William, Kobwemi Christopher,  Kiwanuka Emmanuel, Senkula Charles, Ssemombwe George, Musinguzi Paul, Biryomumisho Fred, Maniriho Forodis,  Habimana Ernest, Byaruhanga Emmanuel, Mwesigye Julius and Kezaala Saul.

They are facing 9 counts including murder, and aggravated robbery among others.

The prosecution alleges that on October 12, 2018, the accused at Kambuye-Kanseera, Mubende district, killed and robbed Yunus Kasajja Tabu of his three mobile phones.

Late Tabu allegedly died during a fight with land grab affected community whose assailants are still unknown. Tabu was a manager of local businessman one Kaweesi George, under the protection of police grabbed 322.5 hectares and violently evicted over 3500 lawful occupants on Block 168; Plot 19, 22 and 23 covering five villages namely; Kambuye, Kikono, Kyabaana, Kanseera and Lwensanga in East Division, Mubende Municipality, Mubende district. The land is adjacent to Kaweeri Coffee Plantation is covering on.

However, police carried out a random arrest and targeted land rights defenders and activists that were mobilizing and empowering the landgrab affected community to resist an illegal and forceful eviction.

In January 2019, the attempt to get bail for witnessradio.org‘s Nantubiro Grace and Mugwabya Ronald was denied High Court in Mubende’s justice Joseph Mulangira.

According to officials at Mubende High Court, bail applications will be heard this afternoon.

 

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