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Livelihood, Land And Investment

NITA boss cited in Shs 928m Land Fund mess



The executive director of the National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA-U) James Saaka has come under the spotlight before the Land Probe Commission over the Shs 402 million he received from the Land Fund.
Saaka received the money in 2015 as partial payment of the Shs 928 million for plot 1, block 141 in Buterere-Bugangayizi in Kibaale district measuring about 640 acres.
He appeared before the Commission chaired by Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, which has been investigating the processes in the Land Fund since last week. The Land Fund is a multi-purpose resource envelope meant to serve targeted beneficiaries, including tenants seeking to buy or own land.

Its also meant to finance the purchase of land by government for redistribution to bonafide occupants or resettlement of the landless people among others. Saaka is among a group of individuals, majority being government officials, who have benefited from the Land Fund.

Asked by the Commission’s lead counsel, Ebert Byenkya whether he owned the property in question, Saaka said the land belonged to his late father, Edward Batimbo Ssebuko who passed it to his children including him, the late Benedict Kitanwa, Annet Natuma, Peter Ssebuko and the late Ronald Mark.

Byenkya asked Saaka to explain how his father acquired the land. Saaka said his father acquired the land in 1963 to which Byenkya wondered whether theirs was one of the traditional families in Bunyoro kingdom.
“When I look at Bugangayizi, I see it as one of the lost counties that were returned to Bunyoro [kingdom] in a referendum. Isn’t that so?…So typically I’m expecting to see a traditional family that was granted mailo [land] in 1900 and maybe after the return of the lost counties. So, I would expect to see a title that reflects that history. But when I look at your title, it seems to start with your father” said Byenkya.”My lord, I wouldn’t know how my father acquired this property, I was one-year-old in 1963″, said Saaka.

Saaka explained that the family decided to sell the land to government after they failed to gain access to it. Byenkya wondered why there is no evidence of generic reference to people living on the land in question.

“I’m curious from 1979 to date coz I have been looking at some of the documents and people are referred to as squatters, people are referred to as tenants, but I don’t see any names and this seems to be typical even when you look at valuations.
People are generically referred to. I never see a list of people or homesteads for example counted and identified. I never see any form of identification of who these people are. So am wondering whether you yourself knew them?” Byenkya asked Saaka.
“I think the environment in that area, being an absent landlord it was difficult to bring them together and say identify yourself other than trying to engage them. I knew them [tenants] by face, when I went there I knew some of them, others you would only see cows.” Saaka said.
However, Byenkya said the fact that Saaka knew some of them by face, indicates that he was after all not an absent landlord as he claims. He asked him then why he did not take the next step of registering his tenants.
“It would suggest to me that you’re not an absent landlord. If you could go there, you could talk to them, you knew their faces. Why would you not be able to take the next step and record who these people were?” asked Byenkya.
“As I was in that process, that’s when the late Wilson Mulondo advised me and said; ‘I think there’s a Land Fund which could compensate you for that land since you have difficult in utilising it and I took his advice.” answered Saaka.According to the report of the chief government valuer, 70 per cent of Saaka’s land valued at Shs 448 million is encumbered while the remaining 30 per cent valued at Shs 480 is unencumbered.

The report further indicates that the 30% of the land which was free of occupants has 3 hills and a river making it unusable, a claim Saaka confirmed.

Saaka said that he could not answer for the valuer since he does not know the method that was used. Commissioner Mary Oduka Ochan asked Saaka why he had to sell part of the land that could not be used to government.

“Am talking of you, Mr Saaka, morally speaking, as an upright Ugandan who knows that this land is really not good for anything, you can’t do anything much, why did you think you should sell it to government?” asked Ochan.

“To begin with, it doesn’t really qualify for the Land Fund because it was unencumbered. But even if it did, if its not usable and you couldn’t use it or anybody else couldn’t use it, why do you sell it to government to pay much higher than they were paying for land which would have been more useful had those occupants not been there?”, she further asked.
“Is that morally fair, I would expect that you would be a person of integrity. When you talk of government money, that is taxpayers’ money and this is money which the minister of Lands plus the people of the Land Commission have all come here and said they wish there was more money put into the Land Fund. But we’re seeing as if the Land Fund actually has adequate money. The money has been going to wrong places, it has been going to things for which the Land Fund was never established like for example this. You’re saying you’re still owed money but I don’t think you’re owed much money, really!”

Saaka said that if he knew from the start that part of his land didn’t qualify for compensation from the Land Fund, he would have rejected the valuation. He was then asked if he would accept to be given back his land title and compensation only be given for the land that was encumbered. Saaka said that was not what his agreement with government was saying.

Justice Catherine Bamugemereire also queried why the unusable land was valued highly. She said that the chief government valuer will be summoned to explain the irregularity. Bamugemereire wondered what Uganda Land Commission could be doing with this kind of land that cannot be used.

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 scrutinizing the work of relevant bodies in the reservation of wetlands, forests, road reserves, and national parks, among other gazetted spaces.

The probe is mandated to investigate and inquire into the role of the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) in administering public land and the Land Fund.

The commissioners are Frederick Ruhindi, Mary Oduka Ochan, Robert Ssebunnya, Joyce Gunde Habaasa, Dr. Rose Nakayi and George Bagonza.

Source: The Observer

Livelihood, Land And Investment

Breaking; Lands Minister directs police chief to arrest armed mobs involved in forced and illegal land evictions.



By Witness Radio team

Uganda’s Lands Minister Judith Nabakooba has directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Martins Okoth Ochola to arrest all organized and armed mobs involved in forced and illegal land evictions.

The directive is the second one from the same minister to the police chief in three (3) months due to widespread forced and illegal land evictions in Uganda.

On February 28, 2022, President Yoweri Museveni came out and banned all land evictions in the country that are carried out without the consent of the respective District Security Committees (DSC).

The latest directive was triggered by violent scenes that occurred on the 19th of March 2023 when armed groups of men with graders invaded the St peter’s Church of Uganda’s land in Kibiri and started destroying crops planted on the church land. The armed group whose employer is not yet established claims the church is occupying someone’s land illegally.

In an attempt to stop the unlawful eviction, Church leaders, led by Reverend Maxwell Ssebuggwawo and some faithful tried to intervene but in vain.

According to eyewitnesses, the armed group immediately attacked the Clergyman and other Christians causing severe bodily injuries. In the scuffle, Rev. Maxwell Ssebuggwawo’s vestments were torn by the mob, whom the community believes was being targeted.

In response to the violent attack against the church leader and congregation, the minister observed that many land grabbers have resorted to using organized and armed mobs to evict people from their land. She further describes eviction as illegal and unacceptable since the government has capable security agencies that can effect lawful evictions.

“We have noted incidents where some crooks employ mobs to evict people yet we have security forces that can do this concerning the law. This is wrong. I have therefore directed the IGP to arrest everybody involved in these illegal acts and be brought to book”, the Minister added in an interview with the local media.

Witness Radio in the recent past has documented incidents where organized and armed mobs are participating in violent land evictions.  For instance, a recent eviction of a 99-year-old Hellena Namazzi in Numugongo in Kira Municipality in Wakiso district by Sema Properties boss, Ssemakula Sulait, another ugly case involved a violent eviction of over 2000 people off 328.1 hectares by one Moses Karangwa and Abid Alam in Kassanda district among others.

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Over 500 Kapapi families in Hoima district remain stranded after the district security committee fails to resettle them back on their land as directed by the minister.



By Witness Radio team.

Hundreds of families, violently evicted from their land in Kapapi and Kiganja sub-counties in Hoima district are still pondering their next moves as efforts to return to their grabbed land remain ambiguous.

The directive came after Hoima district police and private guards from Magnum, a private security company raided people’s homes in Waaki North, Kapapi Central, Waaki South, Runga, and Kiryatete villages in Kapapi and Kiganja sub-counties, Hoima district on 10th of February 2023 at 1:00 am.

The violent scenes left hundreds of children with scores of injuries, houses were torched, and property worth billions was destroyed.  The animals such as goats, sheep, and cows were butchered and others were looted.

On 22nd of February 2023, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Honorable Judith Nabakooba while addressing a meeting in Rukola village Kapapi sub-county, Hoima district directed the security committee to return the victim villagers back to their land.

She considered the eviction unlawful since it was conducted at night and without a court order.

In that meeting, area leaders, Hoima district police and Hoima Resident District commissioner, Mr. Rogers Mbabazi, Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr. Michael Kyakashari were in attendance.

The victim community accuses a group of people including Ndahura Gafayo, Aston Muhwezi, David Mpora, Monica Rwashadika, Agaba, and Wilber Kiiza of being responsible for the land grab.

The grabbed land is situated at the shores of Lake Albert adjacent to the Kabaale parish in Buseruka Sub-county where the greenfield oil refinery is to be established. In April 2018, the government selected the Albertine Graben Refinery Consortium (AGRC) as the private sector investment to finance, develop, construct, and operate the Greenfield oil Refinery estimated to cost $4b.

According to the Witness Radio research team, ever since the directive was made instead, there’s increased human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, detentions and threats, and intimidation against victims of residents encamped at Rwenyana Church to vacate.

The evictees report that after the minister’s directive, three community members include; Mbombo Steven, and Kalongo Steven have been arrested, charged, and remanded to Hoima government prison.

“Our families encamping at church and waiting to be resettled back as directed by the Minister are facing further threats and intimidation to go away. They say they don’t want us at the church. Some of us are currently in hiding for fear of arbitrary arrests or kidnaps.” A community member who preferred to be called Enos due to fear of retaliation told Witness Radio.

He further added that the community is living at the mercy of God, with no food, or shelter, and predicted an uncertain future for their children since they are not attending school.

“Families are scattered in different centers while others continue to live with their relatives. However essential services such as shelter, food, health services, and education for their children remain a challenge. These people found us on land and started claiming ownership of this land. Imagine when we went for a search at a land registry, we found out that they only have a title of 2 acres but everyone knows we have been on this land for over 30 years. We have people who were born on this land.” He added.

Witness Radio contacted Mr. Rogers Mbabazi, Hoima Resident District Commissioner who heads the district security committee, to understand how far the committee had gone with the implementation of the minister’s directive. He instead referred us to his Deputy Mr. Michael Kyakashari.

Mr. Michael Kyakashari, when asked about the status of the directive, told our reporter that he did not have an answer for him before he hung up.

“I don’t have an answer for you” He repeatedly said.

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

State House Anti-Corruption Unit nets a surveyor implicated in Mubende district land-grabs



Mr. Mafumu Paul and his accomplices at police after their arrest.

By Witness Radio Team,

The State House Anti-corruption Unit has arrested an alleged landgrabber in Mubende district whose evictions have rendered masses homeless.

Mr. Mafumu Paul, a Mubende based surveyor is accused of using police and conniving with some officials in the Lands ministry to issue forged titles that have been instrumental in illegal land evictions in the districts of Mubende, Kiboga and Kyankwanzi.

The alleged land grabber has been arrested alongside two of his farm workers who include Ssenyondo Ronald and Sseruyange Ben.

The arrest follows complaints of grave human rights abuses to the State House Anti-Corruption Unit and the minister for lands housing and urban development. In response, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, the Hon. Judith Nabakooba Nalule, visited the families whose crops were sprayed with chemicals by Mafumu’s workers. She later requested the State House Anti-Corruption Unit to intervene and investigate circumstances under which forged certificate of land titles are issued and used to forcefully evict local communities off their land. She further directed the Mubende Police to oversee the arrest of the Mufumu.

He has been implicated in instigating unlawful arrests, beating people, denying communities to access clean water sources, razing-down people’s houses and gardens, fly-grazing, and spraying their crops with chemicals in order to evict them from their land.

In one of the recent cases, on the 14th of January 2023, violence was meted out on the residents in Nalyankanja village, Kyenda Town Council in Mubende district. Mafumu is said to have ordered his workers to spray their crops, an act they believe has escalated hunger in their area. The crops sprayed with chemicals included: sweet potatoes, pineapples, coffee, bananas, and Cassava.

According to Witness Radio research, Mafumu has been accused of violently evicting over 17 families since 2018 from their land measuring approximately 248 acres.

The alleged land grabber and his accomplices are currently being detained at Mubende Police.

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