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Land grabbers target private properties in Jinja



Jinja. On the morning of March 20, Mr Peter Kalibbala was in Lugazi Municipality on his way to Kampala when he received a call. “John is being evicted,” the caller told him.
“There must be some kind of mistake,” Mr Kalibbala thought, but still turned and sped back to Jinja District.
It was unthinkable that his associate, John Kirkwood, with whom they run the charity organisations; Tofta Education Trust, was being evicted from a property they had acquired in 2006 from the family of the late former Mayor of Jinja, J.B Lubandi.

Bailiffs had arrived at Plot 19 Wilson Avenue to effect the eviction. One Amina Negesa presented a title issued by the Lands registry on December 21, 2017, had a special certificate demanding Shs20m in rent, eviction of Mr Kirkwood and costs of the application.

That sparked off a legal battle that went from the Chief Magistrate’s Court to the High Court which on May 10 ruled in favour of Mr Kalibbala, allowing him to retake charge of the premises.
“It was a nightmare. One wonders how someone could simply show up with fake documents and lay claim to a property that she knew was not hers. I still find it hard to understand,” Mr Kalibbala says.
In Igombe Trading Centre in Buwenge Sub-county, Mr Fred Kiyuba and his family of 10 have been living as Internally Displaced Persons after being hounded out of their home by a former tenant, Mr Kato Kaziba, the NRM secretary general, in Jinja.

On November 29, 2011, he was detained at Buwenge Police Station for alleged trespass. Mr Kaziba claimed to have bought the house, but kept the agreement with Mr Kiyuba.
Since then, Mr Kiyuba has answered several cases, including assault and theft brought against him by Mr Kaziba.
In another case, Mr Moses Abdallah is battling Lt Col Frank Kyakonye who has declined to vacate a house on Plot 35 Madhvani Road in Jinja.

The house was repossessed on July 22, 1992 by Mohamedbhai Mitha who sold it and transferred its ownership to the names of Mr Moses Abdallah in July 2006.
Mr Abdallah asked the occupants to hand over the house, but Lt Col Kyakonye refused to vacate on grounds that it had been allocated to him by the Ministry of Defence.
This prompted Mr Abdallah to approach the army leadership.
On May 18, 2009, Lt Col Kyakonye signed an agreement before the then Chief of Staff of Land Forces, Brigadier, now Lt Gen Charles Angina, committing himself to leave the house within a month but did not.

The aforementioned cases, however, highlight the bigger challenge of land and property grabbing in Jinja over the last 25 years.
In the case of Wilson Road saga, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ms Dorcus Okalanyi, told Daily Monitor in an interview that: “An error could have occurred and it will be corrected if it happened, but such cases will certainly be wiped out by the computerisation of the land registry.” Some police officers have also been accused of siding with land grabbers.

Four senior police officers, Julius Twinomujuni, Edgar Nyabongo, Apollo Kateeba and Felix Mugizi have been on suspension from the Force since July 2017 for their role in the illegal demolition of a government building in Jinja Town.
However, police spokesperson Emillian Kayima says they act on orders.
“Property fights are quite tricky so the police have to play by the book. The Force supports a system. It acts on orders from the courts and in the presence of bailiffs. It does not matter whether we like you or not,” Mr Kayima says.

Most of the property fights have been centered on properties formerly under the Departed Asians Property Custodian Board (DAPCB).
The board has continued issuing “temporary allocations” even when properties were either sold or repossessed. Property owners are as a result caught up in ownership disputes with former tenants.
The Minister of Finance, Mr Matia Kasaija, acknowledges that DAPCB has been beset by problems, but adds that they are being addressed.
“We are taking stock of what is at DAPCB. There have been so many irregular transactions. I expect the report to be out by December. That should help us decisively end talk of temporary allocations and other irregularities,” Mr Kasaija says.

Source: 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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