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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Land probe is Exposing Speculators and Racketeers



UGANDA: The Justice Catherine Bamugemereire ongoing judicial inquiry into land matters has as expected generated multi-dimensional controversies with some people, especially those in the financial sector, lawyers in private practice, and some beneficiaries accusing the commission of witch-hunt, abrasiveness, one-sidedness, and not offering them adequate space to respond to all issues. In a country where those with power and money are so accustomed to impunity and impudence, they shouldn’t cry when facing hard tackling.
The loudest cry has so far come from an unexpected quarter, the Lands minister, Betty Amongi Ongom, who supervises land administration, and is expected to implement some of the commission’s recommendations with regard to amendments in the law and policies governing land acquisition and administration in Uganda. Early this month there was what many construed as a well-planned and orchestrated campaign in parliament and from sections of the media castigating the commission for alleged ‘squandering’ so far 13bn, and still asking for more, when its results, according to them, are not being visibly seen.
It looked like the slander campaign was intended to pressure President Yoweri Museveni into not extending the Commission’s tenure, and thereby ask it to quickly wind up an inconclusive investigation, and save some powerful personalities embarrassments. But as usual President Museveni disregarded the avalanche, and extended the Commission’s term by a further six months and directed the treasury to add it  more 7bn/=.
It is perhaps necessary to state that the Bamugemereire Commission has so far, if nothing else, helped expose and shame senior government officials, big business people and their underlings as some sort of mafia, racketeering from government estates, and laundering money.
While a Commission of inquiry may have specific terms of reference, in general terms, they usually help break archaic, non-functional, compromised and financially expensive government traditional systems like courts of law that appear to be beyond the reach of common people so much oppressed and in need of help. In this regard, it is therefore important that Commissions are supported in more flexible ways and not to only focus on the amount of money they may consume during investigations as some MPs and sections of the media seem to suggest.
What is emerging so far from this investigation appears to be a pattern where those with insider knowledge of government estates and bureaucracy especially government senior  officials, land speculators and business people , weaved networks to acquire proprietorship of either private or public land for a song.
Using this insider knowledge, some them then approached their networks within government ministries including the ministry of finance to access colossal sums of money from the Land Fund quite often at exorbitant prices set by themselves, and there was no one to verify values attached and demanded. In many of these cases there is evidence of abuse of office by public officials, influence peddling by ‘big’ and politically connected people, and blatant corruption which they didn’t even bother to attempt hiding perhaps knowing they were beyond reach, and so, it is good they are getting exposed.
Some people have claimed that the Bamugemereire inquiry is hurting President Museveni, government, and NRM standing especially when they come just before election campaigns, or when government is trying to showcase its manifesto achievements, which I disagree with. Firstly, President Museveni doesn’t condone corruption or abuse of office, and therefore it is good when he speaks so often and loud against it, and the appointment of commissions of inquiry should be testimony to his stand.
It is also important to remember that that over the years President Museveni has instituted many commissions of inquiry, among them to deal with rot in the Uganda police (1997/98), Uganda Revenue Authority (2002), Global Fund (2005), and recently the Uganda National Roads Authority (2015), not as mere public relations gimmicks, but as serious efforts to deal with corruption and inertia.
In fact, both the Global Fund inquiry chaired Justice James Ogoola, and UNRA inquiries were conducted when President Museveni and NRM were facing very tough multiparty elections, and at that time, some faint hearted NRM people expressed apprehension and silently castigated President for appointing the Commissions and permitting them run their full course.
And none of these inquiries have gone without serious criticisms on the way they handle those accused or witnesses who appeared before them, cost, and in some cases even the contents of the reports. In the URA inquiry, two commissioners, James Kahoza and Favin Cousens even disowned aspects of the report, in addition to it being challenged in courts of law by those who felt aggrieved. However, one common feature in all these reports is that they have been implemented and major concerns addressed including achieving institutional improvements as the police, Global Fund, URA and UNRA demonstrate today.
And while some people may see commissions of inquiry as an inconvenience, it may as well be true, and yes, in fact, they are supposed to inconvenience the corrupt and financial racketeers who seek to cheat the public of services, and we shouldn’t have any apologies for them.

Source: Uganda Media Centre

Livelihood, Land And Investment

Over 500 Kapapi families in Hoima district remain stranded after the district security committee fails to resettle them back on their land as directed by the minister.



By Witness Radio team.

Hundreds of families, violently evicted from their land in Kapapi and Kiganja sub-counties in Hoima district are still pondering their next moves as efforts to return to their grabbed land remain ambiguous.

The directive came after Hoima district police and private guards from Magnum, a private security company raided people’s homes in Waaki North, Kapapi Central, Waaki South, Runga, and Kiryatete villages in Kapapi and Kiganja sub-counties, Hoima district on 10th of February 2023 at 1:00 am.

The violent scenes left hundreds of children with scores of injuries, houses were torched, and property worth billions was destroyed.  The animals such as goats, sheep, and cows were butchered and others were looted.

On 22nd of February 2023, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Honorable Judith Nabakooba while addressing a meeting in Rukola village Kapapi sub-county, Hoima district directed the security committee to return the victim villagers back to their land.

She considered the eviction unlawful since it was conducted at night and without a court order.

In that meeting, area leaders, Hoima district police and Hoima Resident District commissioner, Mr. Rogers Mbabazi, Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Michael Kyakashari were in attendance.

The victim community accuses a group of people including Ndahura Gafayo, Aston Muhwezi, David Mpora, Monica Rwashadika, Agaba, and Wilber Kiiza of being responsible for the land grab.

The grabbed land is situated at the shores of Lake Albert adjacent to the Kabaale parish in Buseruka Sub-county where the greenfield oil refinery is to be established. In April 2018, the government selected the Albertine Graben Refinery Consortium (AGRC) as the private sector investment to finance, develop, construct, and operate the Greenfield oil Refinery estimated to cost $4b.

According to the Witness Radio research team, ever since the directive was made instead, there’s increased human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, detentions and threats, and intimidation against victims of residents encamped at Rwenyana Church to vacate.

The evictees report that after the minister’s directive, three community members include; Mbombo Steven, and Kalongo Steven have been arrested, charged, and remanded to Hoima government prison.

“Our families encamping at church and waiting to be resettled back as directed by the Minister are facing further threats and intimidation to go away. They say they don’t want us at the church. Some of us are currently in hiding for fear of arbitrary arrests or kidnaps.” A community member who preferred to be called Enos due to fear of retaliation told Witness Radio.

He further added that the community is living at the mercy of God, with no food, or shelter, and predicted an uncertain future for their children since they are not attending school.

“Families are scattered in different centers while others continue to live with their relatives. However essential services such as shelter, food, health services, and education for their children remain a challenge. These people found us on land and started claiming ownership of this land. Imagine when we went for a search at a land registry, we found out that they only have a title of 2 acres but everyone knows we have been on this land for over 30 years. We have people who were born on this land.” He added.

Witness Radio contacted Mr. Rogers Mbabazi, Hoima Resident District Commissioner who heads the district security committee, to understand how far the committee had gone with the implementation of the minister’s directive. He instead referred us to his Deputy Mr. Michael Kyakashari.

Mr. Michael Kyakashari, when asked about the status of the directive, told our reporter that he did not have an answer for him before he hung up.

“I don’t have an answer for you” He repeatedly said.

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

State House Anti-Corruption Unit nets a surveyor implicated in Mubende district land-grabs



Mr. Mafumu Paul and his accomplices at police after their arrest.

By Witness Radio Team,

The State House Anti-corruption Unit has arrested an alleged landgrabber in Mubende district whose evictions have rendered masses homeless.

Mr. Mafumu Paul, a Mubende based surveyor is accused of using police and conniving with some officials in the Lands ministry to issue forged titles that have been instrumental in illegal land evictions in the districts of Mubende, Kiboga and Kyankwanzi.

The alleged land grabber has been arrested alongside two of his farm workers who include Ssenyondo Ronald and Sseruyange Ben.

The arrest follows complaints of grave human rights abuses to the State House Anti-Corruption Unit and the minister for lands housing and urban development. In response, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, the Hon. Judith Nabakooba Nalule, visited the families whose crops were sprayed with chemicals by Mafumu’s workers. She later requested the State House Anti-Corruption Unit to intervene and investigate circumstances under which forged certificate of land titles are issued and used to forcefully evict local communities off their land. She further directed the Mubende Police to oversee the arrest of the Mufumu.

He has been implicated in instigating unlawful arrests, beating people, denying communities to access clean water sources, razing-down people’s houses and gardens, fly-grazing, and spraying their crops with chemicals in order to evict them from their land.

In one of the recent cases, on the 14th of January 2023, violence was meted out on the residents in Nalyankanja village, Kyenda Town Council in Mubende district. Mafumu is said to have ordered his workers to spray their crops, an act they believe has escalated hunger in their area. The crops sprayed with chemicals included: sweet potatoes, pineapples, coffee, bananas, and Cassava.

According to Witness Radio research, Mafumu has been accused of violently evicting over 17 families since 2018 from their land measuring approximately 248 acres.

The alleged land grabber and his accomplices are currently being detained at Mubende Police.

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Kiboga district senior lands officer is arrested and detained over land fraud.



By Witness Radio Team

A joint team of investigators has arrested Kiboga district senior lands officer for allegedly committing cases of land fraud, Witness Radio has established.

The operation led by the Deputy Resident District Commissioner (D/RDC) of Kiboga district, Mr. Mathias Lutwama, was jointly carried out by the State House Anti-Corruption Unit and three officers attached to the Central Police station of Kiboga district.

According to Lutwama, the suspect has been on the run after deliberately refusing to respond to the State House Anti-Corruption Unit and the police summons.

Mrs. Flavia Kizito, a Senior Secretary to the Kiboga district Land Board before the arrest, leased land belonging to a family of the late Edirisa Kyakulagira respectively in 2018 and 2019 to three different leasees without their knowledge.

The three people including Mr. James Kagolo, One Mateka, and Mr. Kayondo Moses were separately given 1080 acres of land by Kiboga District Land Board.

In the process of taking possession of the grabbed land by different leasees, 3 members of a victim family (occupying the piece of the land) were shot at and injured by armed agents of the agents of leasees while protesting an illegal eviction.

“The shootings happened differently, but the recent one was in February 2022, I was shot at, in the palm and the armpit by Mr. Kagolo James. The incident happened when the operators of my tractor that were cultivating our orchard of mangoes were stopped from cultivating and got arrested. So, they called and I had to rush to the farm to rescue my workers. Upon reaching the farm, one Kagolo who was accompanied by armed gangs with machetes asked me why I was cultivating their land. In response, I told him that this has been our land which angered him. He coked the gun and shot me in the palm and armpit. I lost a finger in the process.”  Mr. Nyanja Erikka, one of the victims revealed.

Eyewitnesses told Witness Radio that the victim (Nyanja) who was down and bleeding was handcuffed, and arrested by Kiboga police on charges of illegally possessing a firearm, before being driven to Kiboga main hospital to get treatment first.

The following day, the witness further narrates that Nyanja was put off the handcuffs and given a police bond to get treatment.

Our investigations further reveal that victim families have since 2020 been facing violent and forced evictions from the alleged land grabbers during the Covid-19 lockdowns. Violence intensified as houses got torched and mangoes plantations got cut down.

Our research team further established that Kagolo and one Mateka, during COVID-19 lockdowns, they brought over 1000 heads of cattle and started grazing them on people’s farms. The cattle keepers were allegedly armed with rifles for about a month.

The same Land Board of Kiboga district on December 2022 got suspended by the Minister of State for lands Dr. Sam Mayanja over land fraud.

Currently, the suspect is being held at the Kiboga district Central Police Station.

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