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Mubende district police are aiding land grabbing and committing crimes against locals they are obliged to protect.



By Witness Radio team.

Mubende – Uganda: police personnel deployed to defuse land conflicts between worrying factions in Kirwanyi and Kituula parishes in Butoloogo sub-county, Mubende district has taken sides. Under the command of Mubende District Police Commander (DPC) Ayatollah Kapchmu, police are now conspiring with land grabbers to forcefully and violently evict locals, criminalizing homes and family fields for local leaders, community activists, and land rights defenders opposed to their method of work.

In July 2023, Witness Radio – Uganda published an article concerning a couple murdered in cold blood in Mubende district. The couple (late Naava Milly Namutebi and her husband, late Abdallah Kayizzi) were claiming ownership of 906.496 hectares. Late Naava and the husband before being killed, were allegedly caught harvesting maize/corn belonging to a kibanja holder. 

The land targeted covers 16 villages namely Kirwanyi Central, Kirwanyi East, Kirwanyi West, Nakasagazi, Kituule A, Kituule B, Kibalagazi A, Kibalagazi B, Kakkanembe, Bukyambuzi A, Bukyambuzi B, Kisende, Mulanda, Kituule central, Kirwanyi A, and Butayunja in Kirwanyi and Kituule parishes in Butoloogo Sub County in Mubende district and had been a home to over 4000 bibanja holders.

Shortly after the incident, Mubende district police under the command of Ayatollah, police personnel were deployed to maintain law and order in the area. Unfortunately, the police lost the impartiality test instead joined the family of the deceased to target community defenders and activists demanding land justice for the community with arbitrary arrests, framed with cooked-up criminal charges and imprisonment.

So far, Witness Radio has recorded eight (8) people framed, charged, and sent to prison, identified as the Kirwanyi Local Council one Chairperson Bangirana Innocent, Kaseekye Mugonjo, Tumusiime Benjamin, Byakatonda Harman, Biirijja Job, Zaina Kakayire, Nabasiita Maria and Rukundo Prince. All have been charged with various offenses, including murder, aggravated robbery, and attempted murder and others, and are currently on remand at Kaweeri government prison.

The arrests have triggered a wave of fear among community members, leading many to flee their homesteads to escape police persecution. However, Witness Radio has uncovered that the deceased’s family with support from police, is taking advantage of this situation, during which people are away from their homes to seize and take control of their plots of land (bibanja).

In Uganda, Kibanja ownership is defined under the Land Act Cap 227, (Section 29(1)(a)(i) as a lawful occupant falling within registered land particularly described as Mailo land tenure system, while a landlord is referred to as a property owner (including their authorized agent) who rents or leases that property (such as land, houses, or apartments) to another party in exchange for rent payments according to the Landlord and Tenant Act, 2022

Uganda is one of the countries whose majority of land has no certificate of ownership, according to a report from Land Links, USAID’s knowledge-sharing platform focused on land tenure and property rights to improving land and resource governance and strengthening property, only 15%–20% of the land in Uganda is registered, leaving a bigger vacuum.

Witness Radio research reveals a disturbing pattern in which people’s homes and crops are demolished and destructed, with no meaningful intervention from area leaders. Furthermore, those seeking to reclaim their land rights often face intimidation in the form of arrests, as they attempt to reoccupy their property.

According to community members who preferred anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter and numerous belongings have been pilfered following the unabated destruction, and their gardens are now being occupied and used by police and late Naava’s family members. Valuables like iron sheets and food crops have been looted as police appear incapable of preventing these incidents, which are causing significant distress to the residents in the area.

At night, police together with members of the deceased’s family, ransack people’s homes, plunder housing materials, ruin crops that are almost ready for harvest, illegally evict, and take possession of grabbed land.

According to one of the area leaders, more than ten families have lost their property (garden fields, houses among others) in the recent move. 

“These community members have not only experienced the loss of their property but also face harassment as they attempt to resettle. Both the police and Naava’s family falsely accuse them of being involved in the deceased’s death. In instances where they are found residing in other areas, their homes are destroyed, and they are forcibly told to relocate,” said a leader.

When contacted, the Regional police spokesperson of Wamala Region, Racheal Kawala revealed that she unaware of any violent incidents in the area.

“I am not aware of what you are telling me. Talk to the District Police Commander of Mubende,” she said.

By press time, Witness Radio had been unsuccessful in securing an interview with the District Police Commander on the same issues, as our repeated calls remained unanswered.

The Mubende district, Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Birungi Abubakar revealed that people were allowed to reoccupy back to their land and wondered why the police would allow the family of the deceased to illegally destroy people’s homes, and gardens and loot their property.

“In the recent meeting, if I remember well, last month when we held it, we refused the police to intimidate bibanja holders with arrests, also agreed that these people should reoccupy their land, and the status quo be maintained,” he revealed in a phone interview with Witness Radio on Monday 23rd of October.

One of the officers at Mubende Central Police Station confirmed having received reports of evictions and destruction of property within those areas. 

“Yes, we have received such kind of reports and have urged the affected people to always come and report so that we kick start the investigations.” An officer who preferred to be anonymous told Witness Radio.

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How Kiryandongo land conflict has affected children



Parents affected by the seven-year-old land conflict in Kiryandongo District have said hundreds of their children are facing hunger and lack of education.

The children have been forced out of school since 2017 and their parents, who derived livelihood mainly from cultivation, are now struggling to put food on the table since their land is now occupied by a ranch.

Currently, the farming families are now trapped in the middle of farms belonging to Agilis Partners, Great Season SMC Limited, and Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, who have set up ranches measuring about 9,300 acres in Mutunda and Kiryandongo sub-counties.

The ranch land had for long been occupied and farmed by more than 35,000 families who came to the area after they fled war and natural calamities from other districts in Uganda, according to Witness Radio, a non- governmental organisation.

Ms Esther Namuganza, a resident of Kimogoro Village, Mutunda Sub-county, lives with her five children in an area known as Ranch 20.

She recalls that on November 23, 2017, agents of Agilis Partners told the people living within Ranch 20 and 21 that it had acquired the land and that they would have to vacate.

“The first eviction took place on November 23, 2017. It was a Thursday. We grew big-headed and refused to vacate the ranches because we are the citizens of Uganda, we have nowhere to go,” she says.

Her family is one of a few that still remain on the land but with nowhere to grow food.

“We eat one meal a day and even at times we just take porridge. We don’t eat during the day to save for tomorrow. If you say I’m going to have lunch and supper, what about tomorrow?” Ms Namuganza wonders.

Annet Muganyizi, a former Senior Four student who dropped out of school in 2017, says all the schools, health facilities and water sources on the land have all been destroyed.

Mr John Byaruhanga of Nyamutende Village in Kiryandongo Sub-county said agriculture used to be their only source of livelihood in the ranches.

“When Agilis Partners came, everything changed for the worse. We were beaten, tortured and evicted at gunpoint. When we ask those armed men where they want us to go with our children and cattle, they just tell us to vacate. When you try to resist, they arrest you. I am one of those who have been arrested twice,” he says.

However, the spokesperson of Agilis Partners, Mr Emmanuel Onyango, earlier dismissed the allegations of unending forceful evictions.

“To be honest, I don’t know why people keep on accusing us of evictions yet we still have people residing on Ranch 20 and 21,” Mr Onyango said . He explained that if indeed they were evicting people, “there wouldn’t be anyone left on the land.”

Mr Jonathan Akweteireho, the Kiryandongo deputy RDC, said the Bunyoro land question cannot be sorted out without thinking about its history.

“We had 38 ranches here, which, on guidance of these international organisations, told the government to restructure the ranches. The ranches were restructured, people settled there, they were never given titles and up to today, there are big problems in all those ranches,” he said.

Source: Daily Monitor

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Oil project-affected persons express disappointment in Uganda judiciary



The Tilenga and EACOP oil project-affected households have expressed deep disappointment over the failure of key stakeholders in Uganda’s judicial system to grant them audience to discuss their grievances stemming from a lawsuit filed against them by the government in December 2023.

In a press conference organized at Hotel Africana in Kampala, some members of the 42 of the families sued by the government claimed having travelled from Buliisa district to Kampala with the aim of meeting Norbert Mao, the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo and the deputy chief justice.

They also intended to meet the principal judge, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and others. Additionally, the households wanted to meet Total Energies’ managing director. However, they were unable to meet any of them, stating that their refusal indicated lack of responsiveness and dialogue on critical issues affecting the rights and livelihoods of project-affected people in the oil region.

According to a one Bamutuleki, one of the affected members, they had written letters to various stakeholders, including the ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the chief justice, deputy chief justice, principal judge, Judicial Service Commission (JSC), and Total Energies, seeking for a meeting to discuss their grievances. However, they were unable to meet any of them for a crucial discussion.

“This lack of interaction leaves us feeling neglected and unheard in our quest for justice and fair treatment in the face of potential evictions related to the oil projects,” Bamutuleki said.

Julius Asiimwe, another oil project-affected person, raised similar concerns about their failure to meet the key stakeholders in the judiciary to address their grievances.

“We are not happy with all these offices. We are aggrieved. We wrote them letters requesting for meetings on specific dates and none of them wrote back to us. Based on the reception we received at the offices we visited, we don’t think that the judiciary understands the implications of its actions on our families, and our children,” Asiimwe said.

The failure to meet any of the officials leaves the future of the affected households in uncertainty after the High court in Hoima gave the government a go-ahead to evict them from their land.


In December 2023, the government filed a lawsuit against the households affected by the Tilenga and East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) projects in Uganda. This was after the affected households had rejected the compensation offered by Total Energies, a French company, which was acquiring the land on behalf of the ministry of Energy, citing it as inadequate, unfair and low.

The affected people said the government valuation did not reflect the value of their land, and the impact of losing their property. They expressed their preference for land in exchange for their property rather than monetary compensation in order to maintain their livelihoods.

Additionally, they claimed it was a violation of Article 26 of the Ugandan Constitution, which protects property rights and ensures fair compensation. However, the rushed court processes led by Justice Jesse Byaruhanga of the High court in Hoima resulted in a judgment against the households within four days of the case being filed, which is arguably one of the fastest court cases to be resolved in Uganda in recent memory.

The court ruling stated that the people’s compensation could be deposited in court and the government could proceed and gain vacant possession of their land.

The affected households did not participate in the court hearing because some of them were even unaware that they had been sued.
According Bamutuleki, other project- affected persons could not travel to the court in Hoima, which was far away from Buliisa, due to the short notice provided for the hearing and their lack of financial resources to cover transportation costs.

“This lack of adequate notice and financial constraints hindered our ability to participate in the legal proceedings and defend our interests,” Bamutuleki pointed out.

Additionally, Bamutuleki stated that they were given a pile of legal documents by the court and no one was there to make the interpretation for them. Most of the project-affected persons are illiterate, a factor that made it harder for them to get a fair hearing.


Many families say their eviction from land for the Tilenga and East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) projects makes their future unknown given that land is their primary source of income.

While at the press conference, Jelousy Mugisha stated that their daily lives depend on the land for various aspects such as generating income, sending children to school, and accessing medical assistance.

“I have been using my land for many years now to take care of my family because I don’t earn any monthly salary. So, the government giving me money to leave my land and get a smaller one is completely unfair and unconstitutional,” he said.

The families highlighted that they weren’t fighting the government and its projects but only want a fair compensation for their land, which will restore them to their former positions. Mugisha stated that the money the government proposed in compensation for their land is completely low compared to the market prices of the land in the area.

“The size of my land that was acquired is 2.5 acres. The government wants to give me Shs 5 million per acre yet the market price for one acre is Shs 20 million in my area,” Mugisha said.

“If the government really wants the land, let it get us another land equivalent to what we had and we shall agree,” he said.

Dickens Kamugisha, the executive director of the Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), an organization that has been supporting the affected families for a long time, expressed deep concern over the plight of the poor families from the oil region who are facing injustices.

He emphasized the importance of all Ugandans to take a keen interest in their struggles, highlighting the broader implications of the government’s actions and court precedents that allow for the violation of constitutional rights and unfair treatment of landowners.

“As these poor families from the oil region suffer injustices today, all Ugandans should take a keen interest in their plight. With courts setting bad precedents that allow the government to violate Article 26 and other human rights provisions of the Ugandan Constitution, where affected landowners are forced to accept low, unfair, and inadequate compensation, and courts deny people fair hearings, any Ugandan could suffer the same fate,” he warned.

Despite facing legal battles, evictions, and disruptions to their livelihoods, these individuals remain resolute in their pursuit of a just resolution to their grievances.

Source: The Observer.

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