Kabarole, Uganda | Kabarole district is unable to process land titles and resolve other land related matters due to the absence of a land board. It follows the expiry of the five year tenure of the substantive land board members in January this year.
In March, Kabarole district leadership sent the name of Cypriano Rwaheeru for reappointment as land board chairperson, Bob Kaganda, the former mayor Fort Portal municipality representative of urban council, Molly Florence Nyangoma, Christine Katwooki and Abel Karwanil as board members to Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development for approval.
However, URN has established that the ministry received a petition from Bishop Jimmy Katuramu, the head of the United Pentecostal Churches of Uganda in Fort Portal opposing the appointment of Kaganda and Nyangoma. In his March 13th, 2020 petition, a copy of which our reporter has seen, Katuramu argues that both Nyangoma and Kaganda are from Fort Portal municipality which contravenes the Land Act that provides for one representative for the municipality.
“We would like to have more representation from the sub counties of Kabende, Kijura, Hakibale, Kasenda or Ruteete, which are very big but have no representation. These are predominantly Bakiga yet on the new members, there is no mukiga or mukonjo,” reads part of Katuramu’s petition.
Juma Hussein, a resident of Fort Portal also petitioned the Lands Ministry through his lawyers of Sanywa, Wabwire & Co. Advocates challenging the naming of Rwaheeru for appointment to the board. In his March 10th, 2020 petition, Hussein states that on February 6, 2020, he wrote to Kabarole Chief Administrative Officer – CAO, Phiona Sanyu asking her to interdict Rwaheeru after being charged with forgery in the Fort Portal Grade One Magistrate’s court.
“What is equally surprising is that on the 6th day of March 2020, upon receipt of our complaint over the interdiction of Mr. Rwaheeru Cyprian, the district executive committee of Kabarole district sat and decided to renew Mr Rwaheeru Cyprian’s contract as the chairman Kabarole district land board,” reads part of the petition.
He argues that Rwaheeru isn’t suitable to hold the office because of the pending charges against him and shouldn’t be approved until the courts of law clear him. As a result of the petition, Dorcus Okalany, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Lands has written to the CAO informing her that the proposed land board members have been rejected partly because of the petitions.
She also notes that the creation of Fort Portal tourism city means that the names that had been submitted to represent it while it was still a municipality and under Kabarole district have to be dropped and the process started afresh to find new members. She also advised that according to the Land Act, the District Land Board should consist of a minimum of five members including a chairperson, one member representing municipal councils, one member representing urban councils and one member from each county in the district.
“We have perused your file and names of members submitted have been overtaken by events and we request that you submit following the criteria above as we have observed that Kabarole is left with one county and four town councils,” reads part of Okalany’s letter.
It is against this background that the district has to date failed to have a land board leading to a backlog of requests for land titles and other tasks that are supposed to be performed by the board. Angela Byangwa, the executive director Rwenzori Anti-Corruption Coalition says that she applied for a land tittle about seven months ago and has never got any response.
Byangwa notes that it is so frustrating and time consuming that a person can take so long to get a land title even after getting through a lengthy process simply because the district lacks a land board. The out-going deputy CAO Kabarole, Emmanuel Ssempala says there are dozens of applications for land tittles from the public but they cannot process them without a land board.
He says that as a way forward, they are considering requesting a land board from a neighboring district to handle the applications as they start the process of forming a new board. Kabarole district LCV chairperson, Richard Rwabuhinga blames the lands ministry for the lack of a land board saying there is no reason why they would submit names for approval in March and get a response at the end of July.
Rwabuhinga argues that if they had got a response on time, they would have already submitted new names. According to the 1998 Uganda Land Act, the functions of the district land board include holding and allocating land in the district which is not owned by any person or authority.
The others are to facilitate the registration and transfer of interests in land; take over the role and exercise the powers of the lessor in the case of a lease granted by a former controlling authority; and cause surveys, plans, maps, drawings and estimates to be made by or through its officers or agents.
Original Post: Independent Uganda
Land grabs: Officials in Mubende district are colluding with economically powerful and politically connected people to grab local communities’ land.
By Witness Radio Team
Justine Nakachwa (not her real name) had never thought of losing land she and her family had happily lived on for decades. Her dream of owning farmland had come true.
The land passed down to generations of descendants from the late 1970s was now being claimed by a renowned businessman. She got staggered.
“I was shocked by this news because I have spent most of my life here. Am wondering how he could acquire the land without the knowledge of the whole village.” She painfully revealed this while speaking to a Witness Radio-Uganda reporter.
The sixty-year-old is one of the community members of over 800 smallholder farmers in the three villages; Biwaalwe, Kabaale, and Kyagaranyi in Kanyogoga parish, Butologo sub-county in Mubende district currently facing eviction by Tubikaku Uganda Limited, a company owned by City businessman Desh Kananura.
The smallholder farmers have been practicing subsistence farming on this land to earn a living since the 1970s.
Intending to secure ownership and legalize it, they conducted a search and due diligence, which revealed that the land had no encumbrances. In 2012, they applied for a lease. Sadly, the Mubende District Land Board declined to grant their request and instead awarded the lease of 906.4 hectares to a ghost company Tubikaku Uganda Limited.
The economically powerful and politically connected to grabbing the downtrodden land with the assistance of land board officials is rapidly growing in Uganda. With the aid of district land boards, cartels are increasingly disposing of smallholder farmers. This practice is now predominant in many districts in the country, especially Mubende district.
It is alleged that the District Land Board has previously leased people’s land to tycoons without following proper legal land acquisition procedures.
Seven years ago, a community’s land in Lwebigajji village in Mubende district of 226.5 hectares were grabbed by a local investor with the help of district land board officials. The community had lived on their land for over 30 years.
When the community showed interest in acquiring a leasehold on the land, the district land board of Mubende hurriedly offered the title to one Deo Semwogerere Mutyaba, a local businessman, who does not even own a decimal on the land.
Consequently, over 2000 families were affected. “In 2014, we requested the Mubende district lands board for a lease on this land, got surveyed using our efforts and resources, however upon returning the leasehold title in 2015, it had Semwogerere’s names as the owner of the land.” Grace Nantubiro, one of the community leaders said.
Samuel Wambi Mamali, a local businessman was also helped by the Mubende district land board officials to allegedly steal local community’s land covering three villages. These include Kyamukoona, Kijojolo, and Kalagala in Mubende District that have been occupied by locals for decades. The villages accommodate over 800 families.
The villagers indicated that Maamali fraudulently acquired a lease title he never applied for, did not consult community members on the land, nor at parish, or sub-county land committees that should have advised and guided on whether the land was lawfully being occupied and cultivated.
The few listed cases above are among several cases of grabbed land by wealthy and politically connected people in the Mubende district. The trend of district land boards facilitating land grabs has left many local and indigenous communities landless.
A community of over 300 smallholder farmers conned as their land is sold to a local investor without their consent.
By Witness Radio Team
As foreign agribusinesses take over Kiryandongo communities’ fertile land, other local investors are also eyeing the remaining land occupied by the poor families in the southwestern district of Uganda to grab their land.
A community of over 300 smallholder farmers in Ranch 22, Nyamuntende village in Kiryandongo district is being evicted by a local businessman Maseruka Robert who claims ownership of the land some have lived on for decades. Mr. Maseruka connived with some leaders in the community to grab land from the poor.
The evictions that started in August this year have caused the displacement of over 50 households so far on land measuring over 2000 acres without consultations or being fairly compensated. Crops belonging to residents, and houses were razed.
When evictions by multinationals soared in Uganda, the community acted swiftly to protect the interest on the land and avert a land grab. And in 2015, they applied for a lease of 49 years on the land from the Kiryandongo district land board which was granted to them.
However, unbeknownst to them, schemers would take advantage of this opportunity to grab their land. Earlier, the residents whose land is located on Ranch 22 Block 8 Bunyoro Ranching Scheme entrusted Wilson Sikhama, Ochema Richard, and a few other community members as their leaders in 2016 during the requisition of the land.
According to the residents, initially, the application processes unfolded as they had planned, however, Sikhama and Ochema allegedly connived with other people not known to the community to drop the names of some of the community members whom they had entrusted and replaced them with Julius Isingoma, Gerald Tumusiime, Messanger Gabriel Wabwire, Musokota William John and Simon Mwesige.
Residents further added that the land was titled in the names of the seven people who excluded the villagers. In 2019, when the community expected the location forms of the land per person, they understood that the land they had acquired was sold to one Maseruka Robert without their notification by Sikhama and the group.
In the same year 2019, the community ran to court seeking its intervention to regain the ownership of their land. The community was led by one of their own Mbabazi Samuel. In a blink of an eye, Mbabazi allegedly reached an agreement with the aforementioned group. On the 22nd of October 2020, he allegedly sold the said land to a group of people (Mr. Sikhama’s group) at One Hundred Million Shillings (100,000,000 equivalent to USD 26,483.79) without the approval of the community he represented.
After completion of the sale, the group of schemers sold the land to Maseruka who is now evicting the community.
In our interview with Maseruka, he failed to explain how he acquired the land but, insisted that he wanted the community to leave his land. “These people should leave my land because I want to use it, this is my land.” He maintained.
Some of the evictees whose houses were destroyed had relocated to their neighbors’ homes for fear of what would befall them. A 42-year-old widow and a mother of 10 said Maseruka’s accomplices destroyed her house leaving her destitute.
“These people wanted to give me 700,000/= (185.39) for the 15 acres of my land. When I resisted, they began destroying what they found including my house. They told me the money they were giving me was enough for me to vacate.” She explained.
The chairperson of the affected community, Mushija Caleb said his people are being forcefully evicted because they refused the peanuts given to them as compensation. He reiterated that his people don’t want to leave their land.
“They should not think of compensation irrespective of the amounts they are willing to offer because people are not interested in surrendering their land,” he added.
A self-claimed landlord who caused the imprisonment of six community land rights defenders on false charges was aligned before the court and charged with 28 counts.
By Witness Radio Team
A magistrate court at Mubende has charged a self-claimed landlord with 28 counts plus murder. Naava Milly Namutebi caused the arrest of six community land rights defenders, falsely accused them of murder, and got imprisoned for three years without trial.
Naava’s appearance before the court followed shortly after the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) dropped murder charges against six community land rights defenders. These include; Tumusiime Benjamin, Bagirana Innocent, Habana Domoro, Miyingo Gerald, Byangaramani Charles, and Byekwaso Fred.
Naava was charged along with Bulasio Musoke, Richard Mugagga, Henry Kaaya, among others. They were not allowed to answer any charges as the court had no power to make legal decisions and judgments on charges read to them.
The prosecution alleges that Naava and others still at large, committed offenses in areas of Mubende and Kampala districts between 2006 and 2021.
From 2012 to date, Naava got help from the senior army, police, and other public officers in Mubende orchestrated violence and committed human rights violations/abuses while forcefully evicting over 4,000 people off their land.
The land being targeted measures 3.5 square miles covering villages including Kirwanyi central, Kirwanyi East, Kirwanyi West, Nakasagazi, Kituule A, Kituule B, Kibalagazi A, Kibalagazi B, Kakkanembe, Bukyambuzi A, Bukyambuzi B, Kisende, Mulanda, Kituule central, Kirwanyi A, and Butayunja in Kirwanyi and Kituule parishes in Butoloogo Sub County in Mubende district.
Naava and others accused were remanded to Kaweeri prison until 19th/July/2022.
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