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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Uganda sets up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate into land management

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As the Commission of Inquiry kicks off its investigations into land management in Uganda, witnessradio.org puts together necessary information about it from its mandate, composition, profiles of individuals on the said commission to the budget for purposes of making it easy for all stakeholders to follow.

COMPOSITION

Constituted by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni on December 8th 2016, the commission is chaired by Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, Olive Karazawe as Commission Secretary and Rutagaata Suuza as the lead counsel.

Other members include; Fred Ruhindi, Robert Ssebunya, Mary Oduka Ochan, Joyce Habasa, Dr. Rose Nakayi, George Bagonza Tinkamanyire, and Douglas Singiza, assistant secretary for research below we shall share with you their profiles.

With seven terms of reference to the first-ever inquiry into land matters, will spend at least Shs2bn to conduct its duties within six months.

The terms of reference include; Investigating and inquiring into the law, processes and procedures by which land is administered and registered in Uganda, inquiring into the role of the Uganda Land Commission in the management and administration of public land and reviewing of the effectiveness of the relevant bodies in the preservation of wetlands, forests and game reserves.

In discharging its duties, the Commission will also inquire and solicit views on the role of traditional cultural and religious institutions who own large tracts of land, assessing the legal policy framework governing land acquisition, investing and inquiring into effectiveness of the dispute resolution mechanism available to persons involved in land disputes and inquiring into any other matter connected with or incidental to the matters aforesaid.

The formation of the Commission of inquiry occurred for various reasons including general outcry on the land grabs and disputes that pit moneyed persons, foreign companies and politically connected individuals, tormenting the impoverished peasants through carrying out massive land grabs.

Other reasons that triggered the inquiry, according to Betty Amongi, the Lands Minister were; delayed transactions in land issues, unfair treatment of genuine land owners, tenants and problems related to acquisition, administration, management and titling of land.

LEGAL GUIDELINE ON FUNDING INQUIRIES

Judicial Commissions of inquiry such as this are guided by the Commissions of Inquiry Act CAP 166 Laws of Uganda. Section 14 states; “Commissioners appointed under this Act, shall not be entitled to any remuneration, unless the remuneration has been especially granted by the minister, beyond the actual expenses incurred in holding the inquiry, but the minister may direct what remuneration, if any, shall be to secretary, and other persons employed in or about any such commission.”

The act adds under the same section, clause (2) “such sums, so directed to be paid, shall be paid out if money provided by parliament.”

THE 1995 CONSTUTUTON AND THE LAND IN UGANDA

Article 237(1) of the constitution stipulates “land in Uganda belongs to the citizens of Uganda and shall vest in them in accordance with the land tenure systems provided for this constitution.”

Whereas clause (3) of the same article stipulates “land in Uganda shall be owned in accordance with the following tenure systems; customary, freehold, mailo, and leasehold.”

Since the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda, Uganda enacted its first land act in 1998 and the land policy in 2013.

HISTORY

In 1975, disposed President Idi Amin moved the land Reform Decree 1975, which basically sought to overhaul the country’s land tenure system. Under Amin’s decree, all land was declared to be public land.

Land owned in freehold was converted to leases held from the government subject to development conditions.

With respect to customary land tenure, the decree removed the protection customary land owners had previously enjoyed under the Public Lands Act 1969. This land tenure system was, however, changed by the framers of the 1995 constitution, to re-vest the all land back to the citizens un all the aforementioned land systems.

COMMISSIONERS’ PROFILES

Catherine Bamugemereire

Lady justice Catherine BamugemereireA Master’s degree holder from Southern Methodical University, Dallas, USA, Bamugemereire has risen through the ranks in the Uganda’s judiciary.

She became state attorney in the early 90s before being appointed a Grade 1 Magistrate in 1994, rising to Chief Magistrate Buganda Road in 2004. She summarily quit the judiciary returning in 2010 as High Court judge in the Anti-Corruption Court division after returning from abroad.

She is currently a justice of Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court after being appointed in 2015.

Regarding the judicial Commission of inquiry work, Bamugemereire, came to the fore in 2013 when she was appointed to head Kampala Capital City Authority’s tribunal that made a lethal report which recommended among others, the impeachment of Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago.

In 2015, Bamugemereire was again named to chair a judicial commission of inquiry to inquire into the corruption tendencies and shoddy works in Uganda National Roads Authority. At the end of her six-month investigations, Bamugemereire’s commission recommended among others, to prosecute at least 20 top managers at UNRA at the time, selling off properties of the implicated officers to recover at least 10 trillion shillings that were lost due to their negligence.

The UNRA report also recommended for the blacklisting of road construction companies involved in doing the shoddy work, particularly Dott Services.

Olive Kazaarwe Mukwaya-Commission Secretary

She is a judicial officer with the Uganda Judiciary, presently stationed at the Commercial Division of the High Court as Deputy Registrar since January 2017.

Prior to the posting, Kazaarwe was an Ag. Registrar, Planning and Development, a Judiciary arm that partly coordinated the multi-million dollar DANIDA-funded Uganda Good Governance Project.
Under the Project, she directly supervised the implementation of a number of Judiciary development programs and Access to Justice Initiatives. Kazaarwe has a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Administration and Management from Uganda Management Institute, Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from Law Development Center and a Bachelor of Laws from Makerere University and she has over 17 years of mainly judicial work experience, starting out as a Legal Associate with Ruyondo & Co Advocates in 1999.

She joined the Judiciary as a Grade One Magistrate in 2000 and rose to Senior Magistrate Grade One in 2004. In 2009, she became Personal Assistant to the then Deputy Chief Justice, Leticia Mukasa Kikonyogo, leaving on promotion as Chief Magistrate in 2010, and served in Hoima and Buganda Road Courts in Kampala up to 2014.

In May 2014, she was briefly posted to the Inspectorate of Courts as an Ag. Assistant Registrar, before she was assigned to manage the donor project and also works on the Executive of the National Association of Women Judges of Uganda as a secretary and engages in part-time work as an External Examiner at the Law Development Centre.

Ebert Isaiah Busobozi Byenkya- Lead Counsel

Ebert Isaiah Busobozi ByenkyaHe is a founding partner at Byenkya, Kihika and Company Advocates. He is one of Uganda’s top litigation lawyers, continuously ranked high in every edition of Chambers Global issued in the past decade.

Of recent, he was a Lead Counsel for President Yoweri Museveni in a Presidential Election petition filed to challenge the outcome of the 2016 elections.

He holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University (1988) and a Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law Development Centre (1989).

Over the last decade, Byenkya has also established a thriving transaction advisory practice with hands-on experience in most of the largest infrastructure projects under taken to-date in Uganda. These include advising a consortium of lenders on the concession of the Kenya-Uganda Railway by the Governments of Kenya and Uganda to Rift Valley Railways Ltd and acting as legal counsel for the sponsors of Bujagali Hydroelectric power dam before, during and after project completion.

Byenkya is presently considered one of the leading energy lawyers in Uganda having advised on several energy projects of various sizes. He has also provided legal advice on several syndicated loan financing transactions in Uganda.

John Bosco Rujagaata Suuza-Assistant Lead Counsel

John Bosco SuuzaHe is the Commissioner of Contracts and Negotiations in the Attorney General’s Chambers at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

Rujagaata, is also the designated Legal Assistant to the Attorney General and his duties broadly entail the provision of legal counsel to the Government and allied institutions on any matter; and guiding all Government negotiations both domestically and internationally.

His other duties mainly involve the drafting and reviewing of Government contracts, international treaties and all types of agreements to which the Government of Uganda is a party or in which it has an interest. He also represents the Attorney General in any forums both within and outside Uganda.

As the designated Legal Assistant to the Attorney General, his duties entail the provision of day-to-day and on-call professional assistance to the Attorney General.

He joined the Justice Ministry in 2000 at the rank of State Attorney, rose to Senior State Attorney (2005), Principal State Attorney (2010) and was assigned the current office with effect from March 2017.

He has, among other things, served as Government of Uganda Legal Counsel in negotiations on the Uganda – Tanzania Inter-Governmental Agreement on the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, and currently represents the Attorney General on the Government team spearheading the development of the Oil Refinery in Western Uganda.

He was also Legal Counsel for the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council for 10 years.

Rujagaata is also the coordinator of Uganda’s defence in the case concerning Armed Activities on the Territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo v. Uganda) before the International Court of Justice (ICJ); and is the Desk Officer for the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

Robert Ssebunnya-Member

Robert SsebunnyaSsebunnya is a senior Presidential Advisor on Buganda Matters, a position he has held since 2006. He is also the President of the Uganda Heart Foundation, founder and former chairman of the Uganda Heart Institute.

Ssebunnya’s work-life started in 1965 as a Public Relations Assistant, and Export and Advertising Executive with the Madhvani Group.

He later worked as Executive Director of Uganda Development Corporation (Textiles); Minister of Health at Buganda Kingdom, Member of Parliament under the National Consultative Council; and Chairman of the Mpigi District Council, among others.

Mary Oduka Ochan-Member

Mary Oduka OchanShe is a renowned social advocate and economic development expert with vast experience in business management and administration, institutional development, and gender mainstreaming and analyst, among others.

Ochan consulted on numerous prestigious projects including Ireland Aid Uganda’s HIV/AIDS programme, DANIDA agricultural sector programme support, World Bank/OPM NUSAF and the five-year strategic plan for Uganda Women’s situation room, among others.

Until recently, she was the senior advisor on HIV/AIDS for Irish Aid (2003 to 2016) and country director with the Agency for Personal Services Overseas in charge of Uganda and Kenya.

Ochan is a holder of a master’s degree in Development Studies from University College Dublin, Ireland (2001), and a Makerere University bachelor’s degree in Commerce (1978).

In the early years of her career, she worked as a marketing officer at Uganda Airlines Corporation (1978), UPC Secretariat as the assistant secretary for women affairs (1981-1985). She was also the executive director and consultant for the East African Regional NGO Africa Development Assistance (1986 to 1993).

Joyce Gunze Habaasa-Member

Joyce Gunze HabaasaGunze is the Managing Partner and Senior Consultant at Terrain Consult a specialist firm in Land Use Planning, Land Surveying, Land Management, Land Policy Formulation, Geographical Information Systems and Remote Sensing.

She has lectured at the institute of survey and land management at Entebbe and has also worked with Hoima District Local Government land office as the District surveyor and Secretary to the district land Board. She has participated in several surveying and mapping projects for engineering and dispute resolution purposes. Key projects include; survey of Karuma and Kabwoya wildlife reserves, land acquisition for the oil refinery in Kabaale-Buseruka, land acquisition for road construction for Vurra-Arua-Koboko-Oraba road and design of ten mini hydropower dams under the western Uganda Hydro and rural electrification project among several others.

She holds a Makerere University Bachelor’s Degree in surveying (1996) and Master’s Degree in Geo-Informatics (Geographical Information Systems & Remote Sensing) from the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC)-Enschede, The Netherlands (2003).

Rose Nakayi-Member

Rose NakayiNakayi is an advocate, researcher and legal consultant.

She is also a lecturer at the School of Law, Makerere University. Her academic, research and teaching interests span multiple subject areas including land law, land governance, human rights law and transitional justice. She started out her law practice as a legal intern at Barya, Byamugisha & Co. Advocates.

Passionate about legal education and teaching, she joined Makerere University to teach in 2001. She was the Acting Director of the Human Rights and Peace Center in 2012/13 and she has been a consultant on land law, human rights, gender and transitional justice for a number of civil society organizations, Justice, Law and Order Sector departments and agencies and some development partners.

Through strategic collaborations with civil society organizations, human rights bodies and some government departments, she has facilitated a number of workshops/trainings on land related issues, human rights and good governance.

In 2007, she was the coordinator of the Uganda Coalition for the International Criminal Court at HURINET-Uganda. She is a member of the Uganda Law Society, having been enrolled as an Advocate of the Uganda High Court in 2002. She practices with KALNAR Advocates.

Fredrick Ruhindi-Member

Freddie RuhindiHe is a lawyer, politician who has served the country in different capacities, and the immediate former Attorney General, who is by law a chief legal advisor to the Government

For 15 years, Ruhindi served for three consecutive terms as Member of Parliament for Nakawa Municipality in Kampala on the ruling party National Resistance Movement Organisation ticket.  He previously served as Minister of State for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, and Deputy Attorney General.

He holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University and a Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law Development Centre.

Ruhindi also has a Master of Laws degree from the University of Edinburgh, majoring in Constitutional Law and Legislative Drafting. Before joining politics and serving in Cabinet, Mr. Ruhindi, among others, held several positions including State Attorney and Principal State Attorney in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, served the Uganda Law Society as Treasurer, and later crossed to the Uganda Investment Authority as Corporation Secretary. He has of recent been engaged in private legal practice and consultancies through his law firm, Ruhindi and Company Advocates.

George Bagonza Tinkamanyire-Member

George Bagonza TinkamanyireHe is a teacher by profession, but he is better known as a political figure, especially in his native Hoima district in the Bunyoro region.

Tinkamanyire dominated and influenced Hoima local politics for about two decades, advancing to become the district chairman in 2001.

He won repeated elections and held LC5 chairperson position for uninterrupted 15 years until he voluntarily retired from the position and active politics in 2016.

As district chairperson, he was at the forefront in supporting government’s bid to secure the 29.6- square miles of land for the proposed Oil Refinery in Kabale, Buseruka Sub-county – Hoima District between 2006 and 2009.

He also facilitated the securing of land for the proposed Oil Pipeline highway and other attendant utility, in areas of Hoima and Kyankyanzi, as well as the land for the construction of the 9MW Buseruka Hydro Power Plant.

Tinkamanyire’s other responsibilities included serving as chairperson Board of Directors Uganda Kolping Society, member of the International Kolping Society, and is currently member Board of Directors, Kolping Entrepreneurs Development Programme.

Reporting by Deo Walusimbi

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Government orders arrest of notorious land grabber in Mubende district.

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By Witness Radio team

The government of Uganda has ordered the Police in Mubende to oversee the arrest of a  land grabber in the Mubende district whose evictions have caused suffering to residents in Mubende for over a decade.

The Prime minister of Uganda, Rt Hon. Robina Nabbanja while meeting the affected residents at her home in Kakumiro district ordered the arrest of Milly Naava Namutebi and halted all activities carried out by a land grabber on people’s land. She further made it clear that all residents remain on their land till her visit to ascertain the true owner of the land.

For over a decade, Naava has been carrying out forced evictions in the area with the assistance of the area police which has rendered people homeless. People have lost land, lack food, children are not schooling and families have broken as a result of her unending violent evictions. Defenders have been framed and arrested, whereas others have been beaten in evictions.

Over 3.5 square miles belonging to 4000 residents have all been taken by the wealthy investor without consent from the owners.

Over 60 residents of Kirwanyi in Kiruma sub-county led by their Chairman Bangirana Innocent pitched camp at the Prime minister’s home in protest of the increased and violent evictions of Naava and her men and wanted the prime minister’s intervention to save them from being evicted.

According to the residents, Naava with the protection of police officers was harvesting people’s crops including maize claiming she wanted to use the land. The residents informed Witness Radio that they have been on the said land for generations and wonder how Naava came to own it.

One of the victims, Mr. Lubuuka Godfrey who had over 20 acres of maize told the Prime minister that casual laborers attached to Naava and guarded by the police officers slashed all his plantation and ordered him to leave the land immediately.

“I direct the District Police Commander (DPC) of Mubende and the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) to withdraw the four police officers guarding Naava, and thereafter arrest her for causing distress to the people.” The Rt Hon Prime minister said.

At least 30 houses and hundreds of hectares of crops especially maize were destroyed in the recent violent evictions, according to a community land rights defender, Mr. Ssesazi Christopher.

Naava has on several occasions been arrested and charged for violently evicting people without compensating or resettling them. In July 2022, Naava together with his people at large were arrested, arraigned before the magistrate court in Mubende, and charged with 20 counts including forgery, malicious damage, fraud, and criminal trespass among others.

The Rt Hon Prime minister’s order comes after Naava defied directives of not evicting people on land that were given by the Minister of Lands, Hon Judith Nabakooba. Last year, Nabakooba visited the affected communities and directed no further evictions citing investigations into the land ownership.

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

Land grabs: Officials in Mubende district are colluding with economically powerful and politically connected people to grab local communities’ land.

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By Witness Radio Team

Justine Nakachwa (not her real name) had never thought of losing land she and her family had happily lived on for decades. Her dream of owning farmland had come true.

The land passed down to generations of descendants from the late 1970s was now being claimed by a renowned businessman. She got staggered.

“I was shocked by this news because I have spent most of my life here. Am wondering how he could acquire the land without the knowledge of the whole village.” She painfully revealed this while speaking to a Witness Radio-Uganda reporter.

The sixty-year-old is one of the community members of over 800 smallholder farmers in the three villages; Biwaalwe, Kabaale, and Kyagaranyi in Kanyogoga parish, Butologo sub-county in Mubende district currently facing eviction by Tubikaku Uganda Limited, a company owned by City businessman Desh Kananura.

The smallholder farmers have been practicing subsistence farming on this land to earn a living since the 1970s.

Intending to secure ownership and legalize it, they conducted a search and due diligence, which revealed that the land had no encumbrances.  In 2012, they applied for a lease. Sadly, the Mubende District Land Board declined to grant their request and instead awarded the lease of 906.4 hectares to a ghost company Tubikaku Uganda Limited.

The economically powerful and politically connected to grabbing the downtrodden land with the assistance of land board officials is rapidly growing in Uganda. With the aid of district land boards, cartels are increasingly disposing of smallholder farmers. This practice is now predominant in many districts in the country, especially Mubende district.

It is alleged that the District Land Board has previously leased people’s land to tycoons without following proper legal land acquisition procedures.

Seven years ago, a community’s land in Lwebigajji village in Mubende district of 226.5 hectares were grabbed by a local investor with the help of district land board officials. The community had lived on their land for over 30 years.

When the community showed interest in acquiring a leasehold on the land, the district land board of Mubende hurriedly offered the title to one Deo Semwogerere Mutyaba, a local businessman, who does not even own a decimal on the land.

Consequently, over 2000 families were affected. “In 2014, we requested the Mubende district lands board for a lease on this land, got surveyed using our efforts and resources, however upon returning the leasehold title in 2015, it had Semwogerere’s names as the owner of the land.” Grace Nantubiro, one of the community leaders said.

Samuel Wambi Mamali, a local businessman was also helped by the Mubende district land board officials to allegedly steal local community’s land covering three villages. These include Kyamukoona, Kijojolo, and Kalagala in Mubende District that have been occupied by locals for decades. The villages accommodate over 800 families.

The villagers indicated that Maamali fraudulently acquired a lease title he never applied for, did not consult community members on the land, nor at parish, or sub-county land committees that should have advised and guided on whether the land was lawfully being occupied and cultivated.

The few listed cases above are among several cases of grabbed land by wealthy and politically connected people in the Mubende district.  The trend of district land boards facilitating land grabs has left many local and indigenous communities landless.

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Livelihood, Land And Investment

A community of over 300 smallholder farmers conned as their land is sold to a local investor without their consent.

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By Witness Radio Team

As foreign agribusinesses take over Kiryandongo communities’ fertile land, other local investors are also eyeing the remaining land occupied by the poor families in the southwestern district of Uganda to grab their land.

A community of over 300 smallholder farmers in Ranch 22, Nyamuntende village in Kiryandongo district is being evicted by a local businessman Maseruka Robert who claims ownership of the land some have lived on for decades. Mr. Maseruka connived with some leaders in the community to grab land from the poor.

The evictions that started in August this year have caused the displacement of over 50 households so far on land measuring over 2000 acres without consultations or being fairly compensated. Crops belonging to residents, and houses were razed.

When evictions by multinationals soared in Uganda, the community acted swiftly to protect the interest on the land and avert a land grab. And in 2015, they applied for a lease of 49 years on the land from the Kiryandongo district land board which was granted to them.

However, unbeknownst to them, schemers would take advantage of this opportunity to grab their land. Earlier, the residents whose land is located on Ranch 22 Block 8 Bunyoro Ranching Scheme entrusted Wilson Sikhama, Ochema Richard, and a few other community members as their leaders in 2016 during the requisition of the land.

According to the residents, initially, the application processes unfolded as they had planned, however, Sikhama and Ochema allegedly connived with other people not known to the community to drop the names of some of the community members whom they had entrusted and replaced them with Julius Isingoma, Gerald Tumusiime, Messanger Gabriel Wabwire, Musokota William John and Simon Mwesige.

Residents further added that the land was titled in the names of the seven people who excluded the villagers. In 2019, when the community expected the location forms of the land per person, they understood that the land they had acquired was sold to one Maseruka Robert without their notification by Sikhama and the group.

In the same year 2019, the community ran to court seeking its intervention to regain the ownership of their land. The community was led by one of their own Mbabazi Samuel. In a blink of an eye, Mbabazi allegedly reached an agreement with the aforementioned group. On the 22nd of October 2020, he allegedly sold the said land to a group of people (Mr. Sikhama’s group) at One Hundred Million Shillings (100,000,000 equivalent to USD 26,483.79) without the approval of the community he represented.

After completion of the sale, the group of schemers sold the land to Maseruka who is now evicting the community.

In our interview with Maseruka, he failed to explain how he acquired the land but, insisted that he wanted the community to leave his land. “These people should leave my land because I want to use it, this is my land.” He maintained.

Some of the evictees whose houses were destroyed had relocated to their neighbors’ homes for fear of what would befall them. A 42-year-old widow and a mother of 10 said Maseruka’s accomplices destroyed her house leaving her destitute.

“These people wanted to give me 700,000/= (185.39) for the 15 acres of my land. When I resisted, they began destroying what they found including my house. They told me the money they were giving me was enough for me to vacate.” She explained.

The chairperson of the affected community, Mushija Caleb said his people are being forcefully evicted because they refused the peanuts given to them as compensation. He reiterated that his people don’t want to leave their land.

“They should not think of compensation irrespective of the amounts they are willing to offer because people are not interested in surrendering their land,” he added.

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