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Man buys land at sh72,000, sells it to govt at sh1b



In a public hearing conducted at the Archives and Records Centre in Nakasero, the commission was stunned by the incredible story of how a 24-year old was paid excess of over sh1b.

The land probe commission, chaired by Court of Appeal Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, has commenced inquiry into a bogus multi-billion-shilling land fund bonanza, by Kibaale district officials.

In a public hearing conducted at the Archives and Records Centre in Nakasero, a city suburb of Kampala, the commission was stunned by the incredible story of how a 24-year old was paid excess of over sh1b.

The Land Fund is a multipurpose resource basket with targeted beneficiaries, including tenants seeking to buy/own land, government seeking to buy land for redistribution to bonafide occupants or resettlement of the landless, loans to persons wanting to acquire titles or even survey their land.

Senior land management officer Denis Musinguzi, 34, was tasked with explaining how he acquired over 1,000 acres in 2007 in Nyakatojo village, Mpeefu sub-county, Kibaale district. In 2007, Musinguzi was the district land surveyor. The land is registered as Block 3 Plot 4, Nyakatojo.

He was given a title in 2012. Lead counsel Ebert Byenkya wondered how Musinguzi paid a paltry sh72,000 to the district land board and was given a title, and, later sold the land to government at over sh1b. Musinguzi claimed he was driven by the urge to succeed, and that when the opportunity presented itself, he took advantage.

“As an ambitious young man, I wanted to plant trees, so I saw free land, and to the best of my knowledge, it had no occupants. I later paid sh72,000 to the land board, and when I heard that Uganda Land Commission was buying land for compensation in the Land Fund scheme, I sold it and was paid sh1b in between 2013 and 2014,” Musinguzi stated.

But Byenkya scoffed at his claims and said he had crafted a fable to validate fraud against government. “You are lying about the land being free in 2007. There was a community that was already living in that area. You lied to government of Uganda to get money and land which was occupied by people,” Byenkya said.

But Musinguzi insisted that the land was unoccupied and uninhabited. When the commission insisted on knowing how he spent the money, and the other beneficiaries, Musinguzi asked to reveal such details in camera. “I request that the commission allows me to mention those details in camera. I fear for my security.”

Byenkya slammed him, and said he was part of the scam and a cartel that was bent on defrauding government. But when pressed to reveal district officials who participated in the bonanza, he cited Joseph Kwezi (LC 3 Kibaale Town Council), Michael Yombo (LC3 Kakindo sub-county), Godfrey Mugisha (Town Clerk Kibaale), and Rogers Kwezi (physical planner, Kibaale district), among others.

Musinguzi was also quizzed on conflict of interest, and the harsh penalty for civil servants cited in fraud. Bamugemereire cited Section 9 of the Anti-Corruption Act, which condemns a convict to a 12-year jail term.

When Musinguzi conceded that there could have been mistakes committed, Bamugemereire directed the Police investigators attached to the commission to record his additional statement. She noted that in the event that what he discloses is of value, then his request will be considered.

The other commissioners are Frederick Ruhindi, Mary Oduka Ochan, Robert Ssebunnya, Joyce Habaasa, Dr Rose Nakayi, and George Bagonza. Ebert Byenkya is lead

counsel, John Bosco Suuza the assistant lead counsel, while Olive Kazaarwe Mukwaya (High Court Judge designate) heads the secretariat.

The commission’s mandate is to probe efficiency of the laws, policies and processes of land registration, acquisition, administration and management. It is also tasked with inquiring 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, among other gazetted spaces.

In 2011, the Auditor General lamented that after nearly 11 years since the Act came into force, the Fund is not operational. Section 41(1) of the Land Act 2000, states there shall be a fund to be known as the Land Fund, which shall be managed by the ULC. Sub-section 10 prescribes that the lands minister shall ensure that the fund is instituted within a year after the President assents to the bill.

Last year, on September 9, President Yoweri Museveni inaugurated the Kibaale district lands zonal office, and vowed to do justice by returning the lost counties land to the ordinary people. Museveni alluded to the colonial era when the British awarded Buganda the counties of Bugangaizi and Buyaga which were taken from Bunyoro and awarded to collaborators of Buganda.

At the ceremony held at Bujuni Primary School in Buyanja constituency, Museveni handed over 254 land titles, under Land Fund, to lawful owners. In 1927, the British conducted a survey and mapping exercise. The next year, the collaborators were titles, which were stored for safe custody at the administrative seat of Buganda kingdom, Mengo, and, subsequently, at the Mityana lands offices.

But after the 1964 referendum, when the Banyoro voted overwhelmingly to return the lost counties to Bunyoro, the titles were taken to Fort Portal land offices. At the inauguration of the Kibaale land office, ULC chairperson Baguma Isoke revealed that the Government had secured 504 titles, having bought 200,000 acres of land at sh92b.

Source: New Vision


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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