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My 26-year land fight with Gen Muhwezi



Last week, former minister Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, unsuccessfully tried to stop court bailiffs from enforcing an eviction order given by Makindye magistrate Richard Mafabi.

This was the climax of a 26-year battle for land measuring 1.2 acres in Kyamula Zone, Salama in Makindye division of Kampala. The Observer talked to James Mubiru with whom Muhwezi has been feuding over the land.


Mubiru’s father, George Ssekajjugo, died in 1987 when he was three years old, leaving him and his sister Nabunjo Nammande under the care of their paternal uncle Nathan Ssewambwa.

Together with their mother, they left their home that sat on a 1.2 acre piece of land and joined the Ssewambwa homestead within the same locality.

However, they kept on using the land for farming until one day in 1992 when strangers claiming to have bought the land showed up at his uncle’s home to introduce themselves as the new landlords. Puzzled, Ssewambwa asked who had sold them the land seeing that the only two orphans; Mubiru and Nabunjo hadn’t come of age.

Ssewambwa decided to take the matter to the Local Council committee. He got little help. When Mubiru, the heir eventually became of age, he joined his uncle to pursue justice.

“After some time, the people who claim to have bought the land came and razed down my father’s house and also exhumed his remains,” Mubiru told The Observer.

A sympathetic member of the L-CII committee eventually introduced him to one William Hitimana who claimed he had bought the land from one Naome Batuusa. Mubiru says neither him nor his uncle knew anything about Batuusa who had claimed to be the caretaker of the orphans.

Hitimana told Mubiru that now that he had learnt that he had been swindled, he wanted to legally purchase the land after all.

“I asked him where he buried the remains of my father and he said he threw them in the lake because he didn’t want emizimu gy’Abaganda [Buganda’s spirits] to disturb him,” Mubiru says.


Growing old and weak, Ssewambwa handed over all the paperwork relating to the land to Mubiru to start administering his father’s estate. With the assistance of LC-I chairman of Kyamula and his clan leaders who wrote to the administrator general, a letter of no-objection was obtained.

He was advised by the administrator general to get powers of attorney which were later given by then High court judge Remmy Kasule on July 12, 2005. Not much was heard of Hitimana until 2012 when Mubiru started the process of getting a lease from Buganda Land Board (BLB); the owners

of the land. In his first meeting, Hitimana had indicated a willingness to properly buy the land from Mubiru. But on discovering that he wasn’t willing to sell, he resorted to threats. Mubiru says Hitimana called someone whom he later learnt was Muhwezi.

“He asked Muhwezi what they should do for me, Muhwezi told him that he should just ignore me because I was useless,” Mubiru says.

He adds that Hitimana told him that it was in his interest to sell the land because if he doesn’t, he would lose it.

After the encounter, Mubiru still obtained an ownership certificate from BLB. He was given a go-ahead to survey the land so that they could determine how much money he would pay in busuulu [rental fees].

When the surveyors started surveying the land, Hitimana rose up again and through the LC-I chairman of Kyamula village, Kakooza Lukyamuzi, ordered the exercise stopped until the ownership wrangles are resolved.

The BLB’s standing orders prohibit surveying of any piece of land if there are some conflicts relating to owner- ship. When the exercise was stopped, Mubiru lodged a petition with High court at Nakawa and opened up a case against Hitimana.

The file was first transferred to the Anti-Corruption division then eventually forwarded to the Land division under High court judge, Joseph Murangira.

Muhwezi through his lawyer Ahmed Kalule Mukasa applied to become a party to the suit. He asked court for four months’ adjournment to justify why he was an interested party.

“But within those months, UPDF soldiers were deployed at our home and they arrested everybody they got there and took them to Kibuye police station,” Mubiru says.

Among the five arrested, three who were not related to Mubiru were released. Two were charged in the Makindye magistrate’s court with three counts of treason, attempted murder of Muhwezi and criminal trespass. Esther Nambayo, the then chief magistrate, remanded them to Luzira prison.

“I ran to the State House office in charge of land matters then led by Hajji Sseddunga who after studying the case wrote to the court telling them the circumstances surrounding their arrest. They were released on bail,” Mubiru says.

However, they continued to appear for mention of their case with the state attorney every time asking for an adjournment, claiming that investigations were incomplete. Nambayo eventually dismissed the case for lack of interest on the government side.

The five UPDF soldiers who had been deployed on the land never left until late 2013 when State House ordered them withdrawn. A two-roomed house was also erected on the land to house the soldiers. In place of the soldiers, private security guards were deployed.

In the court, after dismissing the case, the magistrate advised Mubiru and his cousins to streamline the ownership of the land.

Mubiru again sued Hitimana for malicious damage to property and trespass. Like in the previous cases, Hitimana refused to honour the summons, prompting court now under Richard Mafabi on March 30, 2015 to give its judgement, reinstating Mubiru as the rightful owner, and also awarding him Shs 10 million in damages.

Seeing that court had confirmed Mubiru as the owner, BLB gave him the green light to survey the land and get a lease title. Indeed, on June 6, 2015, Mubiru paid Shs 30 million to BLB for the land. But Muhwezi’s lawyer opposed the execution of the court order citing the presence of similar case in the High court.

Mubiru says he applied to that court to withdraw the case. He then went back to the magistrate’s court for fresh eviction orders which were granted and effected last week.


In 2015, BLB gave him surveyors to survey the land but their attempts were foiled by the private security guards. In the scuffle that ensued, involving shooting, the surveyors were arrested and taken to Kibuye police.

To secure their release, Mubiru was called to police. Three accounts; attempted murder of Muhwezi, criminal trespass and treason were slapped against him. Mubiru says for seven days he was locked up in a toilet.

“One night I was picked and taken to the OC’s office where I found a man in civilian clothes who asked me why I was refusing to vacate the land. The man asked me whether I knew him and I told him no. He then told me I will die because of that land; that I didn’t know the people I was fighting with,’ Mubiru remembers.

He says that night he was badly tortured and two of his teeth extracted using pliers. He now uses artificial dentures. He was later released on police bond and told to report there every after five days; a thing he did until January 2016 when he got tired.

For now, Muhwezi has petitioned the High court’s land division, asking them to review the magistrate’s decision. “[But] I’m hopeful that I will prevail because this is my land,” Mubiru says.


Gen Jim Muhwezi’s lawyer, Ahmed Kalule, said Mubiru used an illegal court order to effect the eviction.

“Gen Muhwezi is trying to correct a situation where Mubiru in clear abuse of the court process; filed illegal suits and executed orders which court has made clear to him will never be executed until the High court is done with the case,” Kalule said last week.

He said Mubiru has been disturbing Muhwezi since 2012 despite knowing that the general bought the land in 2005.

“He [Mubiru] filed a suit against the former owner of the land William Hitimana even when he was aware that Gen Muhwezi was the new owner of this land,” Kalule says.

Having filed a suit in the High court, all subsequent suits were illegal for as long as the High court had not pronounced itself on the matter.

Source: The Observer

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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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