Tens of thousands of poor families in Mubende district, have over the years lost numerous hectares of land to either companies or powerful individuals who carry out forceful evictions, witnessradio.org has reported to the commission of inquiry into land matters chaired by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire.
Constituted in September 2016 by President Museveni, the commission’s role is to investigate and inquire into the law, process, and procedure by which land is administered and registered in Uganda.
“For years we have worked around land issues in several districts, Mubende in particular, we find it an epicenter of land evictions in Uganda,” Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala, the Director, witnessradio.org informed the commission on August11, 2017 at Mubende during its public hearing.
“These evictions are perpetuated by politically and economically powerful individuals and companies who are using their financial muscle or their connections in some government departments and agencies to evict the population.” Ssebaggala added.
witnessradio.org, a non-partisan organization working towards an equitable land management through the use of technology has documented various forced land evictions that have had grave social and economic effects on natives.
On numerous occasions, it has reported incidents where the disputes have resulted into loss of poor peoples’ lives, loss of sense of belonging, arbitrary arrests and detention, use of tramped-up charges against community leaders opposing such evictions, and livelihoods, hence threatening the survival of entire communities and indigenous groups.
Indeed, witnessradio.org detailed to the Inquiry some of its findings when it comes to the chilling effects of land grabbing menace in Mubende district.
“This is against a background of a massively poor, rights unware and voiceless population who have become an easy target for all sorts of violations including torture, intimidation, unlawful arrests and detention, plus destruction of homes, crops, animals, dwellings, schools etc.” Ssebaggala said.
He added; “Apart from victims losing their livelihoods and sense of belonging, some have died or have been rendered disabled due to the severe torture that they are subjected to in the process of eviction(s).”
Ssebaggala explained that Mubende came to be an epicenter for land grabs because of being one of the districts that “hosts huge chunks of public land” with major land problems centered in sub-counties of; Butoloogo, Maduddu, Kitenga, Kitumbi, Manyogaseka and Kiganda which were found to be having majority of absent landlords.
Public Offices pinned on abetting Land Evictions
Both elected and technical officials occupying public offices have been immensely weakened by individuals either through corruption or other interests, thus enabling land grabbing in district, according to witnessradio.org findings.
Mubende Resident District Commissioner’s office, Uganda Police Force, Mubende District Land Board, Court of judicature, Director of Public Prosecutions and district chairperson’s office, were the offices witnessradio.org mentioned as the culprits as far as land grabbing is concerned.
In justification, witnessradio.org told the commission that the leadership has “failed to restrain investors from forceful eviction and destruction of people’s properties and crops,” which has resulted into communities’ starvation and causing anger, hatred and retaliation
Secondly, witnessradio.org spoke to the commission about impunity and retaliation to cause death, singling out attacks on helpless communities because of being unattended to by police and other authorities. For instance, Stephen Tumwine (RIP) the former manager of Formasa, a Chinese-tree planting company involved in massive evictions.
Before his hacking to death, Tumwine was caught red-handed cutting down crops in one of the residents’ garden in Butolo village to plant trees before compensating land owner, but the case had been reported to both area police and Mubende police to no avail.
Use of trumped-up charges to frustrate communities’ efforts to oppose unlawful evictions and their land rights, was the third justification witnessradio.org fronted.
Advocacy platform said that Mubende prisons are overcrowded due to either direct or indirectly linked land evictions. It’s a common practice in Mubende for anyone or a group of people leading a particular community to oppose unlawful eviction to be arrested and charged with capital offences.
But most interestingly, would be crucial offices in rescuing residents, public offices including the office of the RDC, were accused of protecting land grabbers. It was reported that, most of the cases mentioned above, police, the army and RDC’s office have been very active protecting land grabbers.
The unbecoming conduct and corrupt-oriented tendency of Mubende District Land Board while issuing freehold land titles also became an issue.
“We have noted with dismay the conduct of members of district land board sidelining communities’ efforts to attain full ownership of the land they have lived on for decades,” said witnessradio.org
Also, the board was also pinned on issuance of multiple land titles on one piece of land by the same advocacy platform.
It was against this background therefore, that witnessradio.org urged the commission to do the following;
• Issue a production warrant to prisoners on land-related matters to enable them an opportunity to testify in regards to their fate
• To order an immediate return of the evictees back to their land so as they can regain their sense of belonging, survival and livelihoods
• Critically look into the workings of Mubende police, RRDC’s office and District Land Board and individuals responsible to be held accountable to the suffering natives
A self-claimed landlord who caused the imprisonment of six community land rights defenders on false charges was aligned before the court and charged with 28 counts.
By Witness Radio Team
A magistrate court at Mubende has charged a self-claimed landlord with 28 counts plus murder. Naava Milly Namutebi caused the arrest of six community land rights defenders, falsely accused them of murder, and got imprisoned for three years without trial.
Naava’s appearance before the court followed shortly after the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) dropped murder charges against six community land rights defenders. These include; Tumusiime Benjamin, Bagirana Innocent, Habana Domoro, Miyingo Gerald, Byangaramani Charles, and Byekwaso Fred.
Naava was charged along with Bulasio Musoke, Richard Mugagga, Henry Kaaya, among others. They were not allowed to answer any charges as the court had no power to make legal decisions and judgments on charges read to them.
The prosecution alleges that Naava and others still at large, committed offenses in areas of Mubende and Kampala districts between 2006 and 2021.
From 2012 to date, Naava got help from the senior army, police, and other public officers in Mubende orchestrated violence and committed human rights violations/abuses while forcefully evicting over 4,000 people off their land.
The land being targeted measures 3.5 square miles covering villages including Kirwanyi central, Kirwanyi East, Kirwanyi West, Nakasagazi, Kituule A, Kituule B, Kibalagazi A, Kibalagazi B, Kakkanembe, Bukyambuzi A, Bukyambuzi B, Kisende, Mulanda, Kituule central, Kirwanyi A, and Butayunja in Kirwanyi and Kituule parishes in Butoloogo Sub County in Mubende district.
Naava and others accused were remanded to Kaweeri prison until 19th/July/2022.
Six community land rights defenders from Kawaala have turned up at police for interrogations but, failed to take off
By Witness Radio Team.
The six community land rights defenders from Kawaala zone II and the local leader that were summoned to appear at the Old Kampala Regional Police Headquarters have turned up, however, the interrogations did not take off due to the absence of the head of investigating team.
The six community defenders were required to report back to police for further investigations into alleged crimes that have not yet been officially disclosed to defenders’ lawyers. They were supposed to appear before the police investigation team today the 06th of July 2022 at 10:00 AM.
The defenders include; Kasozi Paul, Busobolwa Adam, Kabugo Micheal, Serugo Charles, Ssemanda David, Sserukwaya David, and the area vice-chairman Patrick Kato Lubwama.
While appearing before police for the first time last week on Wednesday 29th, the Deputy Assistant Inspector of Police (D/AIP) Domara Patrick who heads the investigations team casually said the defenders and the local leader are being investigated for obtaining money by pretense and forgery, which charges are not mentioned on police summons.
Since the first COVID outbreak in 2020, the victim defenders and others have been leading a pushback campaign to stop forced eviction by a multimillion dollars Kampala Institutional and Infrastructure Development Project (KIIDP-2) being implemented by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The drainage channel construction is financed by the World Bank.
This project first impacted Kawaala Zone II around 2014, when a channel diversion was constructed. The current planned expansion will widen that channel and require forced evictions across an area at least 70 meters wide and 2.5 km long.
Witness Radio – Uganda has established that the Deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) in charge of Rubaga Division, Mr. Anderson Burora is among the complainants. Resident City Commissioner is a representative of the president in the Capital City at the division level.
Witness Radio – Uganda believes that police are being used to harass and intimidate defenders to back off the justice campaign for people negatively impacted by the drainage channel.
The defenders and the local council leader have been booked to report back to the police on Monday, the 11th of July 2022 at 9:00 AM local time.
A self-claimed landlord who masterminded the imprisonment of six community land rights defenders for three years has been arrested.
Naava being arrested by police.
By Witness Radio team.
A joint team of investigators from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) from Kampala and the Mubende police arrested a self-claimed landlord who falsely accused six community land rights defenders of murder and led to a three years imprisonment without trial.
Naava Milly Namutebi was arrested at her farm in Kirwanyi in Mubende district with other alleged land dealers namely Bulasio Musoke, Richard Mugagga, and Henry Kaaya.
Naava’s arrest occurred a few days after the DPP dropped charges of murder against six community land rights defenders who had spent three years without trial. These include Tumusiime Benjamin, Bagirana Innocent, Habana Domoro, Miyingo Gerald, Byangaramani Charles, and Byekwaso Fred.
Since 2012, Naava with the help of senior army, police, and other public officers in Mubende have orchestrated violence and committed human rights violations/abuses against over 4,000 people to evict them off their land. The land is measuring 3.5 square miles covering villages namely Kirwanyi central, Kirwanyi East, Kirwanyi West, Nakasagazi, Kituule A, Kituule B, Kibalagazi A, Kibalagazi B, Kakkanembe, Bukyambuzi A, Bukyambuzi B, Kisende, Mulanda, Kituule central, Kirwanyi A, and Butayunja in Kirwanyi and Kituule parishes in Butoloogo Sub County in Mubende district.
According to locals, Mubende police acting on Naava’s orders arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained dozens and dozens of land owners at different police stations in the district. Several victims allege they had to pay colossal sums of money to be released.
For many years, Mubende district has been one of the forced eviction hotspots where families are forced off their land with compensation or being offered settlement. Witness Radio’s one-year research report released in 2017 revealed that over 60% of the total grabbed land in the district was stollen by local investors.
Witness Radio – Uganda research indicates that Naava is involved in multiple land grabs with the help of government security apparatus. In 2017, residents namely Ruhobana Dombo, Samuel Ndekezi, and Chleopus Zariwa from the Butoloogo sub-county in Mubende district were arbitrarily arrested and detained on Naava’s orders by Mubende police.
The victims and other residents lawfully occupied and cultivated their land for decades but got shocked to hear that Naava was claiming ownership of their land.
The trio had gone to their gardens to plant maize on August 17, 2017, when Naava’s stick-wielding laborers attacked and severely beat them.
Naava is currently held at Mubende Central Police Station, with 28 charges including murder, attempted murder, forgery, and others preferred against her.
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