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land, livelihood and investment

Land registrar admits to issuing fake land titles

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In one of the most heart-rending revelations, a senior registrar of titles at the ministry of Lands, has admitted masterminding a fraudulent land transaction in which she created and issued a fake special certificate of land title, that may see 161 households including the auditor general John Muwanga evicted.

Acting against the provisions of the law, Luella Ataro Bogere, without any due consideration of the normal procedures, acted illegally and created a special certificate of title for land under contention, located on Block 185, Plot 1131 at Namavundu sub-county Wakiso district. The fake title was created in the name of Peninah Karenge Busingye.

In collaboration with other surveyors, among them Vianney Lutaaya, a surveyor in the ministry of Lands, Ataro, issued a special certificate of title, knowing that all the plots in the mother certificate had proprietors.

Ataro did not also consider the normal procedures that when somebody applies for special certificate of title, the registrar has to wait for 30 days after an announcement is made in the national gazette.

Appearing before the Commission of Inquiry into land matters on November 20, the senior registrar of titles failed to defend herself saying it was an oversight. The commission is investigating allegations of double titling of land in Namavundu, Kasangati town council in Wakiso district. Commissioner Fred Ruhindi put Ataro to task to explain why she is always implicated in serious land fraudlent deals.

“This is not the first time you have caused a change in proprietorship on people’s titles. And this one is gigantic. What is it that it is you constantly? How many times so far have you been here on very grave matters and this one is worse? You have been compromised to the marrow,” Ruhindi said.

“You knew the transactions were taking place on this title but you didn’t act. Don’t try to white wash things here… but even if you wanted to do things fishy, you can’t even do it nicely”.

Ruhindi lashed out at the way the likes of Ataro testify against complainants in court.

“In courts of law you are the very people who go and testify against the complainants and testify against the commission. You earn twice from your deals. You earn from a person claiming money from government and the ones you are giving fake titles. Assuming our commission never came into existence, how could you actually cover this?” Ruhindi asked.

Commissioner Mary Oduka questioned why Ataro decided to ignore the statutory 30 days required by the law before issues of the fraudulent title.

“How much money was that that was involved that you couldn’t even wait for the days (30 days). Don’t tell me it was an oversight, you didn’t know. Not even God will listen to it.” said Oduka..

This is the fourth time Ataro whose name has hit the post office box for notorious fraudulent land deals, is appearing and being questioned before the commission. In June 2017, the Land Probe chairperson, Justice Catherine Bamugemereire ordered for the arrest of Ataro who she accused of obstructing justice and disrespect. Ataro was detained at Wandegeya police station.

Ataro, who was then appearing for the second time before the commission to explain her role in the issuance of a set of land titles to individuals in wetlands located at Kijabijo, was also accused of telling lies by the commission.

”And I am asking you again today and you said no. What exactly do you mean? Which means you actually knew about it”, a visibly exasperated Bamugemereire said.

Ataro who had been avoiding some of the questions put to her by the commission could not, despite overwhelming evidence from witnesses, admit that she had a hand in deceptive land deals and did not follow right due procedures when processing applications leading to grant of certificate of titles in wetlands.

Records obtained by the commission showed that title 170 plot 644 was registered by Ataro and her senior land management officer, Satya Mwangushya without following laid down procedures. The two, the commission heard, avoided the district land officer and the district land board by approving the award of certificate of titles in a wetland.

In March 2018, the commission told Ataro to resign after she was accused of allegedly conniving with land grabbers to take the central forest reserve in Ssayi, Mukono municipality, and soliciting for money in order to sign transfer forms.

The revelation followed an earlier testimony from one Evelyn Kafeero, who had wanted to transfer a piece of land she bought from Jude Clement Kidega in 2014. Ataro, the commission heard, refused to sign the transfer forms and instead demanded for Shs 10 million for the transaction.

Kidega, an employee of ministry of Works, is also accused of selling part of Ssayi central forest reserve in Mukono, which is under contention to Kafeero, admitted before the commission that he paid Shs 10m to Ataro to help her sign his transfer forms

The land probe team also heard that Ataro illegally authorised the sub division of Kabaka’s land at block 369 plot 3 at Golomolo Kiyaga without Buganda kingdom’s consent. It is alleged that Ataro, through  a mutation form, authorised the sub-division of Kabaka’s land from block 369 into plots 8,9,10, 11 and 13.

Mutation is the transfer or change of title ownership from one person to another when the property is sold. 
Ataro has further been implicated in the issuing of title in Mabira central forest reserve to Nurdin Yusuf and Bashir Yusuf illegally.

In all these incidences, Ataro, vehemently denied any involvement in the bribery scandal.

“My lord, it is not true that I received money. It is totally false,” Ataro said. She also stated that she did not know that the land in dispute was a forest reserve.

But in a turn of events and unlike other appearances where denial was been the order of the day, Ataro, who was again arraigned before the commission this time round succumbed to her deceitful woes and admitted creating the special title for the Namavundu land located on block 185, plot 1131 in the names of Peninah Karenge Busingye.

“My lord and commissioners, it was an oversight and I apologise for it, I did not know the magnitude of the problem but now I realise there was a problem,” Ataro told the commission during cross examination.

She admitted she did not advertise the application for the special title in the newspapers, as it is required by law, to establish whether or not there were people with interest on the land.

But this did not solve the equation: “The way you minimalise mistakes by saying it was an oversight…, I apologise…is rather appalling. You issued the certificate of title in violation of all the rules, regulations and procedures of the law. You had made up your mind that you have to get a title out” Justice Bamugemereire.

“This thing of titling a certificate that belongs to over 160 people and you keep saying I apologise is ridiculous.”

Documents tendered before the commission show that the fraudulent special title was issued only nine days after the application was submitted as opposed to the 30 statutory days required by law.

Furthermore, the commission found out that the special title that was supposed to be issued in the original names, was instead issued in the in the name of Natasha Karenge. Kerenge has been summoned to appear before the commission. However, last week he submitted a letter, to the commission purporting that she was indisposed and that her doctor had prescribed a bed rest. Karenge asked to be given some time before she can appear before the commission.

The presence of the illegal special title came to the forefront when one Karenge together with her daughter, Natasha Karenge, under duress, fenced off the land claimed by one Stanley Lwanga, who holds the original title of the land under contention.

Lwanga, a retired accountant formerly with the ministry of Health, is one of the 161 households in Namavundu who face eviction as a result of the fraudulent transaction. Others include the auditor general, John Muwanga.

The land probe commission was created by President Yoweri Museveni in December 2016 and is chaired by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire. Bamugemereire is assisted by six commissioners; Fredrick Ruhindi, Dr Rose Nakayi, George Bagonza Tinkamanyire, Joyce Gunze Habaasa, Mary Oduka Ochan and Robert Ssebunnya

The commission’s lead counsel is Ebert Byenkya while the deputy and assistant lead counsels are John Bosco Suuza and Andrew Odiit respectively. The commission’s mandate is to probe the efficiency of the laws, policies and processes of land registration, acquisition, administration and management.

It is also tasked with inquiring into the effectiveness of the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) in administering public land and relevant bodies in the reservation of wetlands, forests, road reserves and national parks.

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land, livelihood and investment

In memory of land and investment women victims in Uganda on the International Women’s Day 2021

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Good dreams shattered as forced land evictions breed child marriages in Hoima districts…

By witnessradio.org Team

Atimago Prisca, at the age of 11 years, was among the many children that lost their dreams of a good life when her families and the entire Rwemutonga village were invaded by anti-riot police and other security agencies and got evicted on orders of a rich man.

The evictor was Joshua Tibagwa who grabbed land to be used by an American company, McAlester Energy Resources, from Texas as a petroleum wastewater facility.

Uganda discovered commercially viable oil deposits in the Albertine Graben region in 2006. Uganda has approximately 6.5 billion barrels of oil reserves, with at least 1.4 billion estimated to be economically recoverable. In addition to producing and exporting crude oil, Uganda plans to build a refinery to produce petroleum products for the domestic and EAC markets. However, many citizens continue to ask whether oil discovery is a curse or a blessing…?

The 1000 villagers on a fateful day woke up to screaming, a hail of live bullets and teargas followed by the setting of fire onto people’s homes and looting of properties. Families fled to the nearby bush because armed personnel was threatening to kill whoever would resist vacating the land.

“Before we heard one of our neighbors screaming out loud that, please forgive me, do not burn my house, now where do you want me to go, please have mercy. At first, we thought that they were being attacked by thieves. Shortly, in less than 10 minutes, a group of more than 10 armed policemen to our home and asked us what we were still waiting for, my mum replied to them that this is our land. They ordered us to immediately leave. Our father too tried to resist but one of the armed men told him that he would be killed if we don’t leave our home” Said Atimago.

Atimago, now a single mother of one at the age of 17 years, dropped out of school on a day of forceful eviction since her parents were rendered financially weak to meet the basic needs of 10 children.

Atimago who wanted to become a midwife narrated that after surviving a deadly land eviction, a well-wisher identified as Atien Oketch offered a 40×40 piece of land where they camped as a community and built some temporary structures and life became very hard.

“You imagine a family of 10 to sleep in that small structure, it was terrible that we could not manage the situation, some of us decided to get married. “At the age of 13, I decided to go for marriage since we had nowhere to sleep, nothing to eat, and no privacy, and I hoped that marriage would give me peace but that did not come” added Atimago.

She further explained that her marriage did not last long since his husband was not caring.

“After getting pregnant he told me to leave that he had nothing to do with me. He used to beat me which forced me to leave our home to a friend’s. Up to this time, he does not offer any help which forced me to stay with my parents,” she added.

Atimago’s story is not different from over 40 young girls in Rwamutonga who lost their education because of evictions in 2014 and they have since married been off.

“We were not even served with eviction notices, we didn’t know that we were going to be evicted, and police just came with four trucks full of police officers. They started firing bullets in the air and tear gas. Police together with the deputy RDC [Ambrose Mwesigye] burnt down houses, destroyed our properties, and even looted some,” some residents claimed.

 In an interview with Nelson Atich, Bugambe sub-county Councilor and representative of the evictees, he said the eviction was an advantage to the Boda Boda men who opted to marry these girls since many did not have wives.

“Of the over 1000 people, 700 were children and 60% were girls who could not tolerate this situation. For three years we were staying in a camp which is a deadly scenario for the girl child. What is annoying is that most of them after being used or impregnated were dumped,” he said.

However, after the eviction, the victim community ran to court and in 2015, Masindi high court ruled in their favor that the eviction was illegal. “The Eviction was unlawful and should not have happened in the first place because at the time of the execution of the warrant of vacant possession, there was an ongoing suit to determine true ownership of the land,” ruled Justice Simon Byabakama.

Whereas in 2017, the evictees were resettled back to their original land, but the lost dreams of a good future will never be recovered as the court did not consider awarding them for such damages.

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CSOs urge banks and other IFIs not to finance E.Africa oil pipeline project… 

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By witnessradio.org Team

Kampala – Uganda – More than 260 charities on Monday, the 1st/March/2021 urged banks and international financial institutions throughout the World not to finance a $3.5 billion oil pipeline in East Africa, concerned the project could lead to the loss of land for poor communities and livelihoods, environmental destruction and surging carbon emissions.

In a signed open letter 263 charities, estimated that once the project financing is availed, it will displace 14,000 households across Uganda and Tanzania will lose their land and hundreds of families will need to be resettled as a result of the pipeline and oil development.

As currently planned, the East African Crude Oil Pipe Line (EACOP) will pass through 178 villages in Uganda and 231 in Tanzania, leading to massive physical and economic displacement.

The proposed 1,445-kilometer crude oil pipeline worth $2.5 billion will stretch from Hoima in Uganda to the port of Tanga in Tanzania and expected to carry 216,000 barrels of crude oil per day (10.9 million metric tons per year) at ‘plateau production’ 

South Africa’s Standard Bank, Japan’s SMBC, and China’s ICBC are all advising the parties behind this pipeline, and are likely to be working to arrange the project finance loan. They’ll need other financiers to join them.

However, the undersigned CSOs from across the world who stand in solidarity with the directly affected communities and local CSOs defending community rights have urgently demanded financial institutions of the project to halt its funding that would displace tens of thousands of people, endanger the critical ecosystems of the Lake Victoria basin area and also putting in danger the climate catastrophe.

 In another part of the open letter to the financiers of the project explain that the project has already caused the large-scale displacement of local communities and poses grave risks to protected environments, water sources, and wetlands in both Uganda and Tanzania, including the Lake Victoria basin, which millions of people rely upon for drinking water and food production

According to the organizations, the same company has not yet compensated over 5,000 people in Uganda whose land was acquired to develop the pipeline project between 2018 and 2019.

“These people were stopped from cultivating on their land and setting up new developments. This has left people impoverished. The impacts of this increased poverty are being felt by women, parents, children, the elderly and others who were mainly using the land to grow income-generating (cash) and perennial crops,” reads the part of the letter.

According to calculations based on the specific fuel density of the EACOP blend, the emissions from the burning of this fuel would be at least 34.3 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent (CO2e) per year. These emissions will dwarf the current annual emissions of its two host countries combined, and will in fact be roughly equivalent to the carbon emissions of Denmark.

In addition to significantly contributing to the climate crisis, the project poses serious environmental and social risks to protected wildlife areas, water sources, and communities throughout Uganda and Tanzania.

Extraction at the oil fields in Albertine Graben will jeopardize the Murchison Falls National Park, which is important for tourism as Uganda’s second most visited national park. In addition, the mangroves at the coast of Tanzania which the pipeline puts at risk support approximately 150,000 people, in addition to the ecological services they provide. The 300 permanent jobs the pipeline is expected to create will not compensate for the loss of jobs in agriculture, tourism, and mangroves.

Nearly a third of the planned pipeline (460 kilometers) will be constructed in the basin of Africa’s largest lake, Lake Victoria where more than 30 million people depend on Lake Victoria for water and food production. The pipeline also crosses several rivers and streams that flow into the lake, including the Kagera River.  Possible spills from the pipeline due to bad maintenance, accidents, third-party interference or natural disasters, risk freshwater pollution and degradation in this area – a likelihood that is even greater since the area around Lake Victoria is an active seismic area.

As a result of these risks, the project is facing significant local community and civil society resistance. 

In November 2020 in Uganda, over 877 petitioners – including 810 directly affected people – signed a petition to Total and the other EACOP project developers. They called on the oil companies to prioritize environmental conservation and community livelihoods over the EACOP project.

The CSOs, therefore, call on all banks and all financial institutions with a business relationship to Total and CNOOC to publicly commit not to participate in financing the EACOP project or associated oil projects, engage with the governments of Uganda and Tanzania and other financiers to promote an energy future for East Africa that, does not rely on oil or other fossil fuels, but rather on clean energy alternatives; and to demand that Total acts immediately to compensate people already affected by the pipeline for the impacts to their land.

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A government project is pushing hundreds of families off the land without re-settlement

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By witnessradio.org Team.

Lyantonde – Uganda – without any informed consultations or community engagements, the government of Uganda is constructing a world-class pre-export quarantine facility for animals on a piece of land which has been feedings hundreds of native families for more than three decades.

Once the project takes off, a source of food, employment, education, and a provider of finances to meet basic needs for hundreds of families will be no more.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, the facility will act as a quarantine ground for animals before export for a specified period of time for veterinary observation, sampling, testing, and vaccination among others.

The project which targets land measuring approximately 98.2 Hectares, shall facilitate the export of animals and meat in bulk from Burundi, Rwanda, and DR Congo, and other neighboring East and Central African countries.

But, Grace Batine, 57 years and a mother of 12 children who has been deriving a livelihood from the targeted land says, the project is shattering the future of her family as it will deprive them of the right to food and other basic rights.

“I settled on the land in 1994, which has been a source of everything. When the government decided to develop it, why do they fear to consult us and whose responsibility is it to protect and care about our wellbeing? Do they want the European governments to care for us if they can’t,” a poor Batine questioned.

Benon Musinguzi, a resident of Makukulu Village, says they only want the government to compensate if not, resettle them because they have nowhere to go.

“We respect the government’s move to construct the facility but it would not be fair if they evict us from our only livelihood. We think if they have no money for the compensation they should allocate to us part of the land for us to continue thriving. We admit this is not our land but for more than 30 years we have been on this land,” adds Musinguzi a father of 8.

In an interview with the land desk officer at the Ministry of Agriculture, Bruce Turyatunga, claimed the move to evict residents is ready and the government shall not even compensate a single coin to them since they illegally occupied the land.

“This is a government land that was surveyed and we have a title on it, how do you compensate someone on your land, we are even consulting from the Attorney General and Administrator-General to see how these people can compensate us for using our land for all that time,” Mr. Turyatunga added.

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