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.
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.
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.
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
He 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
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.
Ssebunnya 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
She 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
Gunze 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).
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK2 weeks ago
PFZW scraps funding from Total and others for failure to transition into a cleaner energy mix.
DEFENDING LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS1 week ago
Breaking: Witness Radio and Partners to Launch Human Rights Monitoring, Documentation, and Advocacy Project Tomorrow.
MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK1 week ago
Appellate Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) to hear an Appeal filed by CSOs which seeks to reinstate a petition against the construction of the EACOP project tomorrow.
MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK5 days ago
The Appellate East African Court of Justice sets timelines for hearing an appeal against the construction of the EACOP.
MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK2 weeks ago
Museveni grants avocado growing investor 5 square miles of refugee camp land
MEDIA FOR CHANGE NETWORK2 weeks ago
UN Human Rights Chief urges EU leaders to approve key business and human rights legislation
FARM NEWS14 hours ago
National Coffee Forum Petitions Parliament Over UCDA Merger