WITNESS RADIO MILESTONES
Uganda’s Judiciary resorts to mediation to curb the escalating backlog of land cases
By witnessradio.org Team
Access to land justice in Uganda is a nightmare as judiciary is admitting its limited capacity to handle overwhelming land cases filed in court each new day. Since 2007/8 financial crisis, Uganda has been experiencing unabated violent land evictions aided majorly by government armed forces.
Mid 2018, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) released a report pinning government institutions for being behind or fueling land disputes as poverty levels continue to rise amongst citizens.
Uganda’s economy depends on agriculture and the sector has remained the biggest employer with 68% households are engaged in subsistence economy making a contribution of 24% to the national GDP.
By January 2017, Judiciary had over 22,413 land cases that hadn’t been tried, 361 cases had been in court for over ten (10) years, 9,328 cases had been filed in the previous year while 12,724 cases had spent between 1 to 10 years in court, according to the Hague Institute for Innovation of Law.
However, case backlog also vary due to geographical location for instance, Kampala High Court Circuit by 2017, had 9010 land case backlog which are supposed to be tried by only five (5) judges meaning that if these cases are shared amongst the judges, it would take a judge six years with no weekends or public holidays to clear the case backlog, bearing in mind that no new cases come up.
Statistics indicate that 36% of cases in court are about land boundaries, 25% about land ownership, 22% are about land grabbing, 4% are connected to land titles, 2% connected to land tenure system while 10% are general issues.
The judiciary attributes the case backlog to limited human resource, inefficiencies caused by manual and outdated procedures, poor infrastructure (the rented building hosting the court is not user friendly and not suitable for judicial work or services including offering small courtrooms despite big the number of people connected to such cases, poor archiving systems and poor customer care) thus opting to a field based system to solve land related challenges quicker.
Funded by the World Bank, the three months pilot project will start January 2019 to be implemented by Judiciary in collaboration with the Ministry of Land, physical planning and urban development.
“Its a standard practice for all commercial cases to go through a mediation phase first but most cases in reality especially land related cases have failed this test because court officers assigned to carryout the mediation are senior lawyers and conduct it on pro-bornal basis. Therefore, the mediators recruited will be facilitated and required to visit the locus” said Solomon Muyita, the Judiciary spokesman.
He further explained that the first phase of the project will be to identify and introduce mediators to standard guidelines that will be used in the process because the Land division of the High Court is replicating what the Commercial Court has been using for years.
In 2004, government banned land tribunals and returned such powers to judges to cut down administrative expenses attached to the work of these tribunals.
“Mediators will be eminent members of the society with high integrity and they will mediate cases whose parties are willing to reach a consensus and reduce on the time the case spends in court but in situation where mediation fails, a mediator is expected to write a report directly to the judge for the hearing of the case to commence” Muyita added.
witnessradio.org has learnt that the mediation process will take up to 60 days maximum but parties involved can ask for an extension of not more than 30 days for the case to be closed.
Complaint against unprofessional conduct of the DPC Kiryandongo district for aiding and abetting land grabbing in kiryandongo district.
Professional Standards Unit, Uganda Police-Kampala.
RE: COMPLAINT AGAINST UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT OF THE DPC KIRYANDONGO DISTRICT FOR AIDING AND ABETTING LAND GRABBING IN NYAMUTENDE KITWARA PARISH KIRYANDONGO DISTRICT AND CARRYING OUT ILLEGAL ARRESTS AND DETENTION OF INNOCENT RESIDENTS/ BIBANJA OWNERS FOR PROTESTING AGAINST THE ILLEGAL EVICTION FROM THEIR LAND.
We act for and behalf of the Lawful and bonafide occupants of Land described as LRV MAS 2 FOLIO 8 BLOCK 8 PLOT 22 (FORMERLY KNOWN AS RANCH 22).
Our Clients are residents of Nyamutende Village, Kitwara Parish in Kiryandongo District where they have lived for more than 30 years and sometime in 2017, they applied for a lease of the said Land to Kiryandongo District Land Board through the Directorate of Land Matters State House.
As they were still awaiting their Application to be processed, they were shocked to establish that the said land had been instead leased to and registered in the names of Isingoma Julius, Mwesige Simon, John Musokota William, Tumusiime Gerald, Wabwire Messener Gabriel, Ocema Richard and Wilson Shikhama, some of whom were not known to the Complainants. A copy of the Search is attached hereto
Our clients protested the above action and appealed to relevant offices, but were shocked to discover that the above persons had gone ahead and sold the same to a one Maseruka Robert.
Aggrieved by these actions, the Complainants appealed to the RDC who advised them to institute proceedings against the said persons, and assigned them a one Mbabazi Samuel to assist them to that effect. The said Mbabazi accordingly filed Civil Suit Noa 46 of 2019 against tne said registered proprietors at Masindi High Court challenging the illegal and fraudulent registration, sale and transfer of the subject land to Maseruka Robert.
While awaiting the progress of the case mentioned hereinabove, the Complainants were surprised to find that the said Mbabazi, instead of assisting them, he went into a consent settling the said suit on their behalf without their knowledge or consent. A copy of the Consent is attached hereto.
Among the terms of the said consent Judgment was that the residents would be compensated without specifying how much and would in return vacate the Land.
As if that was not enough, Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel are going ahead to execute the said Consent Judgment by forcefully evicting the occupants without compensation which has prompted the complainants to challenge the said Consent by applying for its review and setting aside at Masindi High Court which is coming up for hearing on the 29th March 2023. A copy of the Application is attached hereto.
Sensing the imminent threat of eviction, we also filed an application for interim stay of execution of the said consent to avoid rendering their application for review nugatory but unfortunately the same could not be heard on the date it was fixed for hearing (6th February 2023). A copy of the Application is attached hereto
On Thursday last week, three tractors being operated by 6 workers of a one Mbabazi Samuel [the very person who had been entrusted to represent our Clients to secure their Land through Civil Suit No.46 of 2019] encroached close to 50 acres of our Clients’ land and started ploughing it but our Client’s protested and chased them away.
We have however been shocked to receive information from our Clients that on Sunday at Mid night, 3 police patrols invaded the community in the night and arrested community members; Mulenje Jack, Steven Kagyenji, Mulekwa David, Ntambala Geoffrey, Tumukunde Isaac 15 years, Kanunu Innocent, Mukombozi Frank, Kuzara, Rwamunyankole Enock, and took them to Kiryandongo Police Station where they are currently detained.
We strongly protest the illegal arrests and detention of our Clients as this is a carefully orchestrated land grabbing scheme by Maseruka Robert and Mbabazi Samuel who are receiving support from the DPC Kiryandongo.
The purpose of this Letter therefore is to request your good office to investigate the misconduct, abuse of office and unprofessionalism of the said DPC Kiryandongo District and all his involvement in the land grabbing schemes on land formerly known as Ranch 22.
Looking forward to your urgent intervention,
C.C The Head Police Land Protection Unit Police Head Quarters Naguru
CC The RDC Kiryandongo District
CC The Chairman LCVKityadongo District
CC The Regional Police CommanderAlbertine Region
WITNESS RADIO MILESTONES
The Executive Director of Witness Radio Uganda talks about the role played by Witness Radio in protecting communities affected by large-scale agribusinesses in Kiryandongo district in an interview with the ILC.
WITNESS RADIO MILESTONES
Witness Radio Uganda wins the best CSO land rights defenders award at the National Land Forum Awards.
By Witness Radio Team
Uganda’s leading land and environmental rights watchdog, Witness Radio has been awarded the best CSO land rights defender award 2022 in the recently concluded National Land Forum Awards held last week at Mestil hotel in Kampala.
Witness Radio’s executive Director, Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala attributed the award to the community land and environmental rights defenders who stand up against the intimidation and different forms of harassment from land grabbers (economically powerful and politically connected companies and individual investors).
“This is an award for defenders at a community level. They work in very deadly environments filled with harassment, torture, death threats, arrest, trumped-up charges, and kidnaps among others to advocate for community land and environment rights. This is happening at a spate where criminalization and silencing of community land rights defenders are at increase.” Jeff added.
The award has come at a time when hundreds of Ugandans in different parts of the country are accessing services provided by the organization ranging from legal service provisions, non-judicial mechanism engagements, empowerment to help them understand their rights, and using the same knowledge to use the same skills to push back against illegal and forced evictions
The chairman of the organizing committee of the second National Land Forum, Mr. Jimmy Ochom noted some progress on legislation in Uganda’s land Governance. He cited growing inequalities on land where the poor are more vulnerable.
During awards, the state minister for housing, Hon persis Namuganza revealed that the government approved the plan for 2018-2040 that maps the land use in the country.
According to the minister, the government had identified land for settlement, game reserves, wildlife, arable land for farming, and water bodies among others in the plan which she said was passed a few weeks ago.
The event was organized by Oxfam and partners and provided a platform for discussions by the different actors in the land sector on issues around land governance, including land rights, land administration, and land governance for improved collaboration, cooperation between the actors, and improved land service delivery for Ugandans under a theme “Taking stock of the National Land Policy in addressing Land inequality in addressing Land inequality in Uganda.”
Other categories of awards that were won by different organizations and individuals including Mr. Eddie Nsamba-Gayiiya for his contribution to research on land rights, Justice Centers Uganda for Promoting Access to Land Justice, and Mr. Henry Harrison Irumba for Championing Legal Reforms among others.
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