By witnessradio.org team
Muwereza Mugabi owns a kibanja (plot) on the bigger tract of land comprising 2-square miles situated on Block 168 plot 19, 22, 23 covering two villages; Kawula and Kambuye, Kansera ward, East Division Mubende Municipality in Mubende District.
For 38 years, this plot has provided Mugabi and his family with shelter, maize, coffee, bananas, and beans, “everything we can eat.” Mugabi said that even his neighbors use the land to graze their domestic animals that are grass-fed.
The plot of land provides his daily subsistence, and farming is the only job he has ever known.
There is nowhere else Mugabi would go, nothing else he can do for survival, than “living here foreverwith my family,” until his last days on earth.
But Mugabi has got a problem: Mugabi is among the tens of thousands of subsistence farmers in Mubende district who are either threatened by eviction or evicted daily. Mugabis says that he acquired the land in 1970 when he purchased from E.B Kayiwa and he is a title holder.
And now, three other people; only identified as Waswa, Nabukeera, and Nyanzi seek not only his plot, but the entire 2-square mile tract of land. They all claim to own titles to the disputed land.
It’s a familiar story in Mubende district, where land disputes have disrupted lives and livelihoods of thousands of people. Many of the affected are the small-scale farmers who grow their own food.
“Without land, we cannot have means to provide ourselves with the basic requirements for a decent life,” a visibly distressed Mugabi said.
Many land feuds in Mubende district begin on paper, but lead to physical fights and at various occasions, the worst have ended in deaths.
Begin on paper, because officers at lands offices in Mubende district issue multi titles on the same piece of land.
“I thought, the land, I live on belonged to E.B Kayiwa who is still alive, but here we are- all these people are claiming it with various titles. I wonder how the District Land Board could issue four titles on the same land,” wondered Mugabi.
One of the landlords has ordered all residents to vacate his land with immediate effect or face forceful eviction because he wants to use land for his own production.
Villagers in Mubende, often protest against forced evictions, but they eventually fail when faced with armed police personnel or soldiers.
“All we have are sticks and pangas, but the police who in most cases side with land grabbers have guns,” said Antonio Ssemakula, another farmer who is facing eviction.
Like Mugabi, Ssemakula purchased his plot on the same land from E.B Kayiwa in 1995 and he has settled peacefully on the disputed land until recently when claimants emerged to disrupts his and fellow residents’ lives.
What is most outstanding these days is that all rich people seeking to evict people from their land in Mubende district use cattle which they graze into the already struggling poor people’s gardens-and within few minutes, the gardens are no more.
This trend has exposed these people to extreme hunger because they are being left with nothing like crops that would provide them with food to feed themselves.
At the time of writing this story, the affected persons could hardly do any kind of farming, because wealthy men would unleash their cattle into their gardens to destroy them.
“We are still afraid of working,” Mugabi said. Villagers are already hungry and as it is, the villagers eat only twice a day, “morning and evening,” Mugabi says.
“For the midday, we don’t eat because I don’t have enough food.” In the aftermath of the richer man’s cows destroying of their gardens, often, a piece of maize and cup of dry tea constitutes a meal for most of the residents in these two villages.
Mugabi wonders why wealthy men want their land, but more hurt by the “inability” by their leaders to come to their rescue.
Often, local leaders and security personnel like police, army officers, and other officials in the various government offices side with land grabbers to evict farmers from their land and forcibly.
Complaint against unprofessional conduct of the DPC Kiryandongo district for aiding and abetting land grabbing in kiryandongo district.
Professional Standards Unit, Uganda Police-Kampala.
RE: COMPLAINT AGAINST UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT OF THE DPC KIRYANDONGO DISTRICT FOR AIDING AND ABETTING LAND GRABBING IN NYAMUTENDE KITWARA PARISH KIRYANDONGO DISTRICT AND CARRYING OUT ILLEGAL ARRESTS AND DETENTION OF INNOCENT RESIDENTS/ BIBANJA OWNERS FOR PROTESTING AGAINST THE ILLEGAL EVICTION FROM THEIR LAND.
We act for and behalf of the Lawful and bonafide occupants of Land described as LRV MAS 2 FOLIO 8 BLOCK 8 PLOT 22 (FORMERLY KNOWN AS RANCH 22).
Our Clients are residents of Nyamutende Village, Kitwara Parish in Kiryandongo District where they have lived for more than 30 years and sometime in 2017, they applied for a lease of the said Land to Kiryandongo District Land Board through the Directorate of Land Matters State House.
As they were still awaiting their Application to be processed, they were shocked to establish that the said land had been instead leased to and registered in the names of Isingoma Julius, Mwesige Simon, John Musokota William, Tumusiime Gerald, Wabwire Messener Gabriel, Ocema Richard and Wilson Shikhama, some of whom were not known to the Complainants. A copy of the Search is attached hereto
Our clients protested the above action and appealed to relevant offices, but were shocked to discover that the above persons had gone ahead and sold the same to a one Maseruka Robert.
Aggrieved by these actions, the Complainants appealed to the RDC who advised them to institute proceedings against the said persons, and assigned them a one Mbabazi Samuel to assist them to that effect. The said Mbabazi accordingly filed Civil Suit Noa 46 of 2019 against tne said registered proprietors at Masindi High Court challenging the illegal and fraudulent registration, sale and transfer of the subject land to Maseruka Robert.
While awaiting the progress of the case mentioned hereinabove, the Complainants were surprised to find that the said Mbabazi, instead of assisting them, he went into a consent settling the said suit on their behalf without their knowledge or consent. A copy of the Consent is attached hereto.
Among the terms of the said consent Judgment was that the residents would be compensated without specifying how much and would in return vacate the Land.
As if that was not enough, Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel are going ahead to execute the said Consent Judgment by forcefully evicting the occupants without compensation which has prompted the complainants to challenge the said Consent by applying for its review and setting aside at Masindi High Court which is coming up for hearing on the 29th March 2023. A copy of the Application is attached hereto.
Sensing the imminent threat of eviction, we also filed an application for interim stay of execution of the said consent to avoid rendering their application for review nugatory but unfortunately the same could not be heard on the date it was fixed for hearing (6th February 2023). A copy of the Application is attached hereto
On Thursday last week, three tractors being operated by 6 workers of a one Mbabazi Samuel [the very person who had been entrusted to represent our Clients to secure their Land through Civil Suit No.46 of 2019] encroached close to 50 acres of our Clients’ land and started ploughing it but our Client’s protested and chased them away.
We have however been shocked to receive information from our Clients that on Sunday at Mid night, 3 police patrols invaded the community in the night and arrested community members; Mulenje Jack, Steven Kagyenji, Mulekwa David, Ntambala Geoffrey, Tumukunde Isaac 15 years, Kanunu Innocent, Mukombozi Frank, Kuzara, Rwamunyankole Enock, and took them to Kiryandongo Police Station where they are currently detained.
We strongly protest the illegal arrests and detention of our Clients as this is a carefully orchestrated land grabbing scheme by Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel who are receiving support from the DPC Kiryandongo.
The purpose of this Letter therefore is to request your good office to investigate the misconduct, abuse of office and unprofessionalism of the said DPC Kiryandongo District and all his involvement in the land grabbing schemes on land formerly known as Ranch 22.
Looking forward to your urgent intervention,
C.C The Head Police Land Protection Unit Police Head Quarters Naguru
CC The RDC Kiryandongo District
CC The Chairman LCVKityadongo District
CC The Regional Police CommanderAlbertine Region
The Executive Director of Witness Radio Uganda talks about the role played by Witness Radio in protecting communities affected by large-scale agribusinesses in Kiryandongo district in an interview with the ILC.
Witness Radio Uganda wins the best CSO land rights defenders award at the National Land Forum Awards.
By Witness Radio Team
Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog, Witness Radio has been awarded the best CSO land rights defender award 2022 in the recently concluded National Land Forum Awards held last week at Mestil hotel in Kampala.
Witness Radio’s executive Director, Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala attributed the award to the community land and environmental rights defenders who stand up against the intimidation and different forms of harassment from land grabbers (economically powerful and politically connected companies and individual investors).
“This is an award for defenders at a community level. They work in very deadly environments filled with harassment, torture, death threats, arrest, trumped-up charges, and kidnaps among others to advocate for community land and environment rights. This is happening at a spate where criminalization and silencing of community land rights defenders are at increase.” Jeff added.
The award has come at a time when hundreds of Ugandans in different parts of the country are accessing services provided by the organization ranging from legal service provisions, non-judicial mechanism engagements, empowerment to help them understand their rights, and using the same knowledge to use the same skills to push back against illegal and forced evictions
The chairman of the organizing committee of the second National Land Forum, Mr. Jimmy Ochom noted some progress on legislation in Uganda’s land Governance. He cited growing inequalities on land where the poor are more vulnerable.
During awards, the state minister for housing, Hon persis Namuganza revealed that the government approved the plan for 2018-2040 that maps the land use in the country.
According to the minister, the government had identified land for settlement, game reserves, wildlife, arable land for farming, and water bodies among others in the plan which she said was passed a few weeks ago.
The event was organized by Oxfam and partners and provided a platform for discussions by the different actors in the land sector on issues around land governance, including land rights, land administration, and land governance for improved collaboration, cooperation between the actors, and improved land service delivery for Ugandans under a theme “Taking stock of the National Land Policy in addressing Land inequality in addressing Land inequality in Uganda.”
Other categories of awards that were won by different organizations and individuals including Mr. Eddie Nsamba-Gayiiya for his contribution to research on land rights, Justice Centers Uganda for Promoting Access to Land Justice, and Mr. Henry Harrison Irumba for Championing Legal Reforms among others.
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