NAKASEKE-Everybody was paid and every resident left because the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) was setting up a special military training centre for peace keeping operations in Kapeeka, Nakaseke district.
But a family of seven refused to leave the land in Bamba village - near Singo military barracks - which is now the ground for the UPDF Peace Support Centre.
“Cattle owned by soldiers are destroying my gardens of cassava, mangoes and bananas plantation. My crops are also being stolen. My family and I are going to starve yet we are not being compensated. I want concerned parties to intervene,” said Margret Tumuheirwe, owner of Plot 13 on the land taken over by the UPDF.
She says the barracks commander threatened to evict her family without compensation for their plot which borders the UPDF Peace Support Centre.
According to a letter from the President’s Private Secretary, Ms Flora Kiconco, President Museveni directed the Ministry of Defence to compensate all occupants on the land near the barracks for relocation to avoid accidents that may result from military training activities.
In August 2012, before the UPDF took over the land, the President met occupants on the affected land in Kapeeka Town.
“The President promised us fair compensation for our land and developments on it,” says Tumuheirwe.
However, she says, she has never been compensated for her Kibanja (untitled land) which measures five and a half acres together with its developments thereon.
Tumuheirwe lives with her six children and tenants who rent her housing units on the plot.
Tumuheirwe objected the compensation for her property as determined by the government valuer. She claims her land is not among the compensated properties which the government valuer assessed at Shs61.6 million.
Her fellow bibanja owners agreed to the valuation of their properties and were compensated by the Ministry of Defence.
They have all since left for other places after the 90-day deadline elapsed at the end of last month.
Tumuheirwe says she collects Shs2.4 million from her coffee a year, Shs280,000 in rent from her seven housing units every month and Shs2.5 million from her 28 avocado trees per year.
Her plot also includes a number of paw paw, mango and jackfruit tees. She says each acre without developments was valued at Shs5 million by the government valuer.
In a letter dated December 15, 2013, Tumuheirwe wrote to the President informing him about the unfair compensation for her property.
“I raised my issues of unfair evaluation through our leaders and even through local councils and also wrote my complaint to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence. I requested for a minimum of Shs170 million as compensation which can enable me relocate my family,” her letter reads in part.
With the help of her brother Mr Eric Biryomumeisho, she delivered the letter to State House. “Instead, on December 13, 2013 at Mbuya (Office of the Permanent Secretary) I was told that I vacate within 90 days with no regard to compensation or fair compensation,” she complains.
On March 19, 2014, the President’s Office through the Principal Private Secretary wrote to the Permanent Secretary for Defence directing her to look into the matter. The President’s directive yielded no fruits.
Tumuheirwe says soldiers from Singo barracks started encroaching on her land on March 25.
“On that day, three armed UPDF soldiers approached my garden and uprooted cassava and cut banana plants. The next morning of 26 I reported to the local council chairman and to the Singo Barracks commander,” she says.
“The commander told me he did not want to listen to me because I had refused the money I was given,” Tumuheirwe adds. A former resident of the place, who only identified herself as Nalongo, told Saturday Monitor that Tumuheirwe alias Mama Jane is the only resident still living on land now under UPDF due to disagreements on compensation.
“I also owned land near the barracks but when the President said the army wanted to use it, I agreed with whatever compensation I was given,” said Nalongo, who stays near the barracks.
UPDF spokesperson Paddy Ankunda told Saturday Monitor that Tumuheirwe became stubborn and refused to take the money that Ministry of Defence offered her for compensation.
“She must also consider leaving the land for her safety because the military training exercises are already ongoing and the period to vacate has also expired. If she does not want to pick the money, let her proceed to the courts of law,” Lt Col Ankunda said after visiting Singo Barracks.
Bamba village is now a deserted landscape with only skeletons of destroyed houses.
The atmosphere is characterised by sounds of explosions as soldiers undergo their military drills.
“We sometimes think it is raining because of the loud blasts,” said a boda-boda rider at Kapeka Stage which is about 2OO metres away from Singo Peace Training Centre. Tumuheirwe says she is considering petitioning courts for redress.