By witnessradio.org team
It’s over seven months since tragedy befell former traders of the demolished Park Yard Market. Around 4am or 5am in the morning of Sunday, February 28th 2017, when numerous police officers, armed to the teeth arrived and seized off Park Yard market.
The eviction operation commanded by Andrew Felix Kaweesi (RIP), left over 15,000 traders jobless with merchandise stolen and others destroyed. After living in a deplorable situation with diminishing hope to regain their source of income, traders have resorted to seeking for justice from court.
Through MS&S Tuhimbisibwe and Co. Advocates, over 500 victims led by Jimmy Mukwaya, Yusuf Luboyera, Abdallah Bukenya, Pius Waswa and Idah Nakatende sued the Attorney General, Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium Board of trustees, Beti Kamya, the Minister for Kampala, Police and Hamis Kiggundu (the investor) over illegal eviction and destruction of their merchandise in suit No. 678/2017, filed on August 30th 2017.
Speaking to witnessradio.org, the evictees explained that they sued Nakivubo stadium board of trustees for abdicating its obligations as their landlord, Kamya for issuing an ultimatum of 30 days to traders and fail to implement it, Hamis Kiggundu for demolishing market and stealing their merchandise before the deadline expired, Attorney General on behalf of government which failed to build them a market and Police for overseeing the eviction and stealing of the merchandise.
“We want the court to order Ham enterprises to return our merchandise that was stolen from the market during the eviction.” Bukenya, a former chairperson of Kitala zone in Park Yard said, “We also want Ham to pay us with interest because we think that our merchandise would have been able to earn us more money, and then we want Ham to compensate our time we have spent without working.”
The respondents have 15 working days within which to file their defense in court in regards to the issues brought against them.
The proprietor of Ham Enterprises, Hamis Kiggundu was contracted by Government to re-develop Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium land including the market, occupied by over 15,000 small scale-vendors.
During the forceful demolition, many traders lost their merchandise because the eviction was carried out in the wee hours when a number of traders hadn’t reported to their duties and on a Sunday, considered a resting day.
Many traders say, were given little warning or confusing messages before their market was razed down thus denying them a chance to collect their belongings, the merchandise in particular which they always kept from market stalls.
Indeed, the demolition of Park Yard came just five days after Beti Kamya, the Minister of Kampala had issued a 30-day ultimatum for traders to voluntarily leave the market.
Without exception, traders who worked from a market that was being overseen by Government through its agency Kampala Capital City Authority have to this day, never received any penny as compensation that would cover the losses incurred during the process.
Leaders of the affected evictees detailed the problems they have faced over the last six months as a direct consequence of their eviction. A significant number of the victims, leaders say, found themselves unemployed again, rendering them homeless due to the biting poverty they experience now.
They were less deprived of their survival and livelihoods, because the market which was the only source income to sustain themselves and their families to the extent that many children are no longer going to schools.
“Our merchandise were destroyed which tremendously affected our livelihoods. Because we no longer work, we can hardly get what to eat and our children have dropped out of schools which is detrimental to their formal futures.” Abudallah Bukenya one of the victims’ leaders explained.
Besides, Bukenya says, “some of our colleagues lived with HIV Aids and they could take ARVs adequately but some of them have since died because life because unbearable for them. So, we are living very distressful lives.”
Located down town Kampala, the demolished market accommodated over 15,000 traders with majority being youths from poor families surviving on it since 1980s. It sat on 3.5-acre of land and traders would deal in second hand merchandise like shoes, clothes, bags, among others and low-income earners in Uganda would visit it regularly.
It was not the first market that employs the urban poor to be demolished in Kampala after a number of them –including Shawuliyako, part of Kisekka market, Katimba market, among others, were demolished under the similar circumstances.
What is so uniform is that evictions are organized by government authorities, and are enforced by police and sometimes, the army. At times, those evicting the urban poor use gangs of private individuals to help them carry out the demolitions, but most significantly, most of the markets where urban poor have been evicted from, have been gutting fires under mysterious circumstances prior to the actual forceful evictions.
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
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 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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