By witnessradio.org Team
Mubende – Uganda – More than 50 witnesses have been lined up to testify in a 30 day-long trial of 28 land rights defenders, which kicked off on November 11th, 2019. What has been termed as a rare trial in the history of human rights defense in Uganda, is being presided over by the visiting Judge co-opted from Arua High Court, Justice Anthony Oyuku Ojok.
The presiding judge has directed that the criminal trial of the 28 defenders be handled daily until it is disposed of.
The 28 land rights defenders under trial include; Nantubiro Grace,34, Mugwabya Ronald, 35, Mugisha Focus, 26, Ssekamana Kaloli, 42, Mwikirize Keleti, 24, Ssewanyana Kizza John, 23, Tumwine Moses, 22, Bigirwa Gilbert,48, Mulindwa Tadeo, 19, Kayesu Patrick, 30, Kyalimpa Tobias, 24, Mugisha Stephen, 28, Mwesigye John, 21, Kiiza John Bosco, 19, Byakatonda Aroon, 18, Manirikiza Elidefunce, 42, Tabalamule William, 57, Kobwemi Christopher, 31, Kiwanuka Emmanuel, 26, Senkula Charles, 26, Ssemombwe George, 38, Musinguzi Paul, 36, Biryomumisho Fred, 27, Maniriho Forodis, 18, Habimana Ernest, 26, Byaruhanga Emmanuel, 24, Mwesigye Julius, 19, Kezaala Saul ,21.
Grace Nantubiro, the only woman, and Ronald Mugwabya are members of witnessradio.org.They were framed and imprisoned for speaking against the illegal eviction and empowering the affected communities to understand their land rights. The affected communities are in turn expected to use the same skills and knowledge to fight illegal evictions. The remaining 26 accused are land rights defenders who were sensitizing their peers on land rights..
It is after the illegal arrest and persecution of the 28 land rights defenders, that communities’ defense of their land was weakened. They lost their livelihood and means of survival to an individual, Kaweesi George, who dispossessed them of 322.5 hectares.
The land under dispute is registered on Block 168, Plot 19, 22 and 23 with over 322.5 hectares covering five villages namely, Kambuye, Kikono, Kyabaana, Kanseera and Lwensanga in East Division, Mubende Municipality, Mubende district.
According to the Prosecution, more than 30 witnesses including security agencies and medical personnel will be produced to pin the land rights defenders while the Defense lawyers have listed 20 defense witnesses.
Justice Anthony Oyuku Ojok has however expressed fear over financial limitation in this special criminal trial saying, other cases expected to be heard in the same session are likely to be left out.