Entebbe Municipal Council town clerk, Charles Magumba
The Commission of Inquiry into land matters detained the Entebbe Municipal Council town clerk, Charles Magumba over Isimba hydropower dam double compensation claims.
Magumba is one of the people who filed new compensation claims for a rock on land they sold to government in 2014 to allow the construction of the 183 megawatts project at Nakatooke, Kayunga district.
According to information before the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire led commission, Magumba bought the 14 acres of land for which he was compensated by government while serving as a town clerk for Kayunga town council.
He was compensated with Shs 200 million in 2014 for his land that he had earlier bought between 2010 and 2011 at Shs 51 million. Despite being compensated, Mugumba complained to the then ministry of Energy permanent secretary Kabagambe Kaliisa in a letter dated July 2, 2014 seeking compensation for a rock on his land.
But according to Magumba, Kaliisa never responded to any of his letters prompting a joint letter dated July 30, 2014 letter by his lawyers in which they demanded the government chief valuer to carry out revaluation of the rock on Mugumba and former Ntenjeru South MP Tom Musisi Kazibwe’s land with a view of compensating them.
In an August 5, 2014 valuation report, signed by a senior valuation officer in the Lands ministry John Moses Magala and addressed to Kaliisa, Shs 44 billion compensation was recommend for Mugumba and another Shs 88 billion to Kazibwe.
With Magumba’s lawyers copied in the report, it has since informed the civil suit against government demanding a compensation totalling Shs 132 billion.
The commission’s deputy lead counsel John Bosco Suuza questioned the speed at which the revaluation was done by Magala and also noted that the report has since been disowned by the chief government valuer Gilbert Keremundo who accused Magala of doing things without his knowledge.
It’s this questionable report and others including the inflation of land compensation value for Kampala-Entebbe Express way to a tune of Shs 3 billion that led to Magala’s suspension in 2016.
Magumba denied knowledge of Magala’s dealings saying that all he was seeking is fairness and compensation for his rock since the contractor, China International Water and Electric Corporation was using materials from the rock to construct the dam yet government allegedly gave the contractor money to buy materials.
“In the initial stages when they told me I would be affected, they said I would be affected by the transmission line. But nonetheless my lord, I would be very happy as a Ugandan that what the ministry of Energy officials are saying is the truth.
That actually, they have a contract and government of Uganda is saving this money and Ugandans will not have to pay this money, Ugandans will not pay this loan because we have a loan to pay my lord and that this will reduce the cost of power, I would be very happy.
But if they are lying to you here and somehow the contractor is taking free money, it would be unfair to me as a Ugandan first of all as a private person for the loss I would have incurred. Then two, as a Ugandan because I would be part of the Ugandans who will be paying this loan,” Magumba submitted.
Suuza told Magumba that government had signed an engineering procurement contract (EPC) with the contract meaning that the contractor was given the site and everything within the project site. But Magumba said that he was not aware of this arrangement from the start since his numerous letters to the ministry of Energy were never responded to.
Justice Bamugemereire accused Magumba of conflict of interest saying that he bought land as a public servant with prior knowledge of a project and compensation process.
She further put it to Magumba that her commission had information that he had tried to use underhand methods by contacting former Energy ministry permanent secretary Kabagambe and government valuer Magala to get compensation from government.
“We have information that you actually approached Mr Kabagambe Kaliisa, please be truthful to yourself. Be truthful to yourself, be a truthful civil servant you did approach Mr Kabagambe Kaliisa…Isn’t true that you approached the Chinese and that’s when you decided that you’re going to tussle this out?” asked Bamugemereire.
The judge alleged that after failing to get the Shs 44 billion compensation claim, Magumba decided to sue government. With Magumba categorically denying the allegations, Bamugemereire handed him over to the CID officers attached to the commission to record further statements on the matter.
“Then you’re an incorrigible liar. You’re the kind of person who uses offices even Mr Kabagambe Kaliisa came here and said he declined your request. And you have personal issues with Kaliisa and you said you will tussle it out in court….you tried other means of getting this money and when those means failed you decided that you will go to court,” Bamugemereire said.
“You need to start thinking whether you want to be a public servant or a speculative businessman because you cannot use your public office to try and extort from government and at the same time pretend that you’re a loyal servant of the people of Uganda. Do you realise that you’re seriously conflicted? Many public servants sitting in that chair don’t want to talk about conflict of interest but it exists in our laws. It is an offence and both the Leadership Act and the Anti-Corruption Act.” she added.
Commissioner Fred Ruhindi also noted that the issue of conflict of interest was at play in Magumba’s case describing it as a tragedy for a town clerk to file a civil suit against the same government he serves.
“This issue of conflict of interest is downplayed but as a town clerk of an area who’s supposed to be guiding government on how public resources should be managed and government projects should be run, you’re the town clerk [but] you’re in court against yourself, you’re in court against yourself because you’re in court against yourself. You’re in court for land you bought at Shs 51 million [but] you’re in court claiming Shs 44 billion. Government official I don’t know why we should downplay this conflict of interest, its a government tragedy.” said Ruhindi.
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.
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.
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.
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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