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Museveni private secretary grilled over directives on Land Fund payments



Byenkya: Please, state your name in full?
Kamukama: My name is Nawe Molly Kamukama
Byenkya: How old are you?
Kamukama: 45

Byenkya: What do you do for a living?
Kamukama: I work as a permanent secretary in the private Office of the President, which gives me the title of the Principal Private Secretary to the President.
Byenkya: And how long have you been doing this?
Kamukama: I was appointed in November 2016 as a permanent secretary.
Byenkya: You were invited here because we are conducting investigations into the operations of the Uganda Land Fund and it turned out that you had done some correspondences in relation to the Fund.
Kamukama: Yes

Byenkya: It has come up in different situations but among the witnesses we interviewed was the Minister for Lands, Ms Betty Amongi, and as we were discussing payments from the Land Fund and their criteria for making payments, she had a category called presidential directives. What do you know about this situation where there are presidential directives in respect of the Land Fund, whether you are aware the President makes directives of any sort?
Kamukama: My lord, part of my job is that I receive correspondences from the public, government agencies, ministries and departments. Some of them are petitioning the President on matters such as land encroachment from any area in the country. I cannot take such a letter to the President because it is just a claim and the President is not in his ordinary duties engaged in land matters. What I do is direct it to the line ministry. This because whereas it is a petition to the President, in essence, it is a petition to government, so it has to go to where there are technically competent people employed by government to answer to it. The ministry is requested to attend to it and manage. They are supposed to go on the ground, evaluate and see within the law what decision to make. And because it comes from the President, we require that whichever decision they will have made, they return to us to inform the President. Sometimes a matter can be on lands but it has a security component, may be somebody says people are threatening his life, so where life is threatened, you are not going to write only to the Lands ministry, you also have to write to the minister of Security to ensure that life is protected. That is how those letters come about and I am always telling them to attend and manage appropriately.
Byenkya: From your explanation, your letters are referrals of a petition of an issue?
Kamukama: Yes

Byenkya: And they are not directives?
Kamukama: Directives are written as such, by the way. For the directives to be written either by the President or myself, all the issues relating to that matter will have come to light. That means a directive is a decision in itself. It would be written, saying: “I direct you to do A, B, C…,” because the facts are clear either to the President or to myself. But normally directives are written as such and I am sure in your course of work, you will meet them.
Byenkya: So, if the President was making a directive, the title would be directive, it would not be a request?
Kamukama: The content in that letter would clearly state that it is a directive.
Byenkya: For comparison, Kamukama, I have a letter that the President wrote to the minister of Finance, Mr Matia Kasaija. May be you just look at it and have an idea what we should interpret that to be. It relates to the Land Fund as well [hands her the letter].

Kamukama: This is a letter from the President and I do not think I can really answer for him.
Byenkya: No, I just want you to interpret; is that a directive in your opinion?
Kamukama: I mean, a directive, don’t you see that statement on the last line?
Byenkya: Just read the statement
Kamukama: The statement reads, “I direct you to pay…”
Byenkya: So that would typically be how the President will do it.

Kamukama: Yes, because if you look through the content, he has already put the facts and he knows them.
Byenkya: In the letters you wrote, would you use similar language?
Kamukama: I would not because I would not be having facts on that matter because it is a claim from the public or department. When you say management, part of management is investigation, evaluation and all those things. Until that is done and clear to all government officials that these are the real facts, you cannot direct.
Byenkya: I wanted you to look at this letter written by Ms Amongi and read a couple of paragraphs and indicate the date.
Kamukama: (reads) November 23, 2016 addressed to the Chairperson of Uganda Land Commission
Byenkya: Read the title and the first paragraph.

Kamukama: (reads); The title is urgent payment for land compensation.
I refer to my earlier letter dated November 15 and taken into account the need for urgent compensation for the following beneficiaries for the Land Fund and reviewed my earlier position and allow the accounting officer ULC to pay the underlisted people for the available land fund resource for this quarter.
Byenkya: I want you to look at the columns and read out.
Kamukama: The authority to pay?

Byenkya: Yes, start the name and the authority to pay.
Kamukama: I see they have said letter by PPS to the President .
Byenkya: Yes, first read them out for the record and then we discuss it.
Kamukama: Letter by PPS to H.E the President for three of them.
Byenkya: Why I am bringing it to your attention is that this is the way your letters have been misinterpreted and applied.
Kamukama: By?

Byenkya: Well, in this case by the Minister for Lands. She is the author of that letter.
Kamukama: You should crosscheck the letters I wrote and see if they relate to this matter. I write to the minister or the permanent secretary for their attention and management. How they choose to manage, operate, they have the laws. I would not know what laws are governing the Land Fund; I do not know what criteria they use, how they go about their business. It cannot be that they are using just my letters. My duty is to bring it to their attention to act because even when this person is petitioning the President, it is about land and the land matters go to the ministry who are most suitable to do the work.
Byenkya: What concerns us is that when you write these letters, you also appreciate that they could be used in all sorts of ways and they could be used to appear to give the endorsement of the President’s office to a claim.

Kamukama: These letters are not only directed to ministry of Lands; they are directed to all government ministries and agencies and the Attorney General because in our ordinary work, we receive about 300 letters in a day. All those matters come from the public and they need to be attended to. Sometimes they come from a different ministry and they raise it to the President. So before it goes to the President, it has to be evaluated by all the concerned relevant bodies. By the way, when I get reports from ministries, I read through and brief the President who will sometimes direct me to write a Cabinet paper so that it moves to inform the policy.
Byenkya: This is why it is important for us to have this kind of discussion because I think you will appreciate that your letters carry the authority of the Office of the President. So, we do not want them to be misunderstood or misapplied.

Kamukama: I do not know what they use it for because every ministry has their terminology, which they use in their work. I also get letters from the ministers as an accounting officer and we use those letters and they are eventually paid but you pay within the law.
Byenkya: I agree that you should not abandon your mandate as an accounting officer but do you think in this case, your letters, the way you write them, do you think it is proper for somebody to categorise them as authority to pay?

Kamukama: I do not know what they categorise as authority to pay because for me, my issue is that I would have raised the matter with you. So the management of that matter is up to you and eventually when you make your informed decision as an accounting officer, then you brief the President because those letters are actually addressed to him. For all of us who are working and handling, we are handling them on his behalf. So he has to be informed.
Byenkya: Why I put a mark on those particular payments is because they have one common story you might have heard about by now if you have been following the proceedings of the commission. We had a witness called Richard Buzibira (lawyer), do you know him by any chance?
Kamukama: No

Byenkya: Buzibira was supposed to be an attorney of various people and received Shs13 billion from the land fund. These particular three names I marked use your letter being used as authority to pay; they are all payments which actually went to Buzibira and formed part of this Shs13 billion…. Buzibira gets to the land fund and gets paid and one of the things that he gets armed with is this letter from PPS to the President… The point is, we think these payments are not proper, when you look at the trend, pattern, frequency and amount, it seems to be a big scheme. This is why I want I wanted us to discuss for these letters flying out and people using them as an excuse to pay.
Kamukama: When you say letters are flying around, letters cannot fly around, no. these are serious matters. Somebody has written to the President; that cannot be a fly around document.
Byenkya: It was a kind of phrase to show that they are just so many.

Kamukama: Yes, there are so many letters and all of them require attention because they need a service from the government and they petitioned the overall boss of the Republic of Uganda. So, the relevant ministries, agencies and departments must look into those matters and investigate how true it is. If we receive such a petition as the Office of the President and keep quiet, what will happen to the petitioner? If you release such a document to the President, the answer you are going to get is ‘what do you want me to do with this? Where are the facts?’. That is why I write to the relevant ministries and actually sometimes it is the legal department that does the writing.
Byenkya: My final question to you would be; are there any lessons to learn because people with questionable claims got paid and in billions? Is there a way we can make sure that the authority of the President is not misunderstood or misused?

Kamukama: I think the authority of the President is known but I think what we need as a way forward is that more safeguards should be provided so that there are more stringent approvals on these payments so that more eyes can look at the claim, including Cabinet, because at the end of it all, the President and Cabinet members are answerable to the public.

Source: Daily Monitor

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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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