Tension as tenants face eviction in Gulu
Posted Tuesday, September 24 2013 at 01:00
GULU- Over 53 families living in Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) quarters face eviction from a place they have called home for more than 10 years.
This follows a directive from the privatisation unit at the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development on implementing reform programmes and divestiture of public enterprises that include the sale of noncore assets that were ear marked as source of fund to sustain the operations of URC in transition.
Mr Bernard Olweny, 24, is among those who have lived in the quarters for the last 11 years. He wonders what is next for him and his siblings if the sale goes ahead.
Mr Olweny takes care of his five siblings having lost both their parents in 2007. They were left in the URC quarters where they have lived to date.
“We came here in 2002, and I have not seen any other home apart from this. When we are chased away from here, I do not know where to begin from,” he says.
In the July 18, letter written to the sitting tenants, signed by director privatisation unit David Ssebabi and copied to Acting Managing Director URC, they (sitting tenants) are given the first priority to acquire the assets.
But the cost attached to each unit is what the tenants have protested as being exorbitant.
The letter also indicates that the payment should be made within 70 days for those who wish to buy the property.
In case the sitting tenants fail, “the quarters and land will be offered to the general public to purchase by way of open public tender and should you refuse to vacate the premises, you shall be evicted by URC without the necessity of recourses to court.”
Mr Olweny’s plot of land is 17 by 19 meters and will cost Shs35m, which he says is too much for him to raise.
Olwenyi, who is also a student at Gulu University, says the little cash he gets from the odd jobs he does helps him with his tuition and feeding since he remains the breadwinner in the home.
He says the houses on the plots are also dilapidated and not condusive for human settlement, with Asbestos roofs which were condemned by World Health Organisation for their health problems like cancer.
Ms Rose Lanyero, a women leader in the quarters who has stayed there for 15 years, says Shs15m per unit would be better and the tenants should be given at least a period of 15 years to pay off the money.
“I have six orphans and my earning cannot enable me to buy the house and land at this much unless I am given enough time to do it,” she says. Ms Lanyero laments about systems that broke down leaving the communities to look for other alternatives.
“Latrines and water systems are no longer operational and we are now using four pit latrine stances to cater for the 53 house hold in the area.”
The Layibi Division chairperson, Mr Alfred Oluba, whose offices occupy part of the URC Land, says the price is too high for them and the time frame for paying is too short.
“Layibi Division is supposed to pay Shs292m for two plots measuring 0.363 and 0.146 hectares where it has temporary structures. There is no money in the division yet they have given us 21 days to pay Shs29m and the balance in 60 days,” he says.
Mr Oluba adds that the privatisation unit has intentions of failing the sitting tenants because they are giving them little time yet they know no one can afford.
He also blamed the unit for placing an advertisement for the same area yet they had given the sitting tenants an opportunity to retain the plots and houses. “Some investors have started coming to us that they want to buy and information reaching us is that Privatisation Unit is behind the move,” Mr Oluba said.
He adds that better houses were sold off in Senior quarters and African quarters but they did not fetch the amount being asked for.
“This is our ancestral land that was given for development. We could even have it back for free if they were considerate enough,” Mr Oluba says before adding:
“If they reduce on the payment and give like five years to pay, that’s fine, but if they are rushing it.”
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