Ex-MP Mbabaali insists he owns Lake Birinzi land

Contested. Residents swim in Lake Birinzi on January 14, 2022 in Masaka District. The former Bukoto South MP, Hajj Muhammad Muyanja Mbabaali (in-set), claims ownership of the water body. PHOTO BY GERTUDE MUTYABA

What you need to know:

  • “I legally acquired that land [occupying Lake Birinzi] using my money and this makes me the rightful owner and I don’t have any plan of selling it off,” he said.
  • Lake Birinzi is one of the satellite lakes of Lake Victoria, only separated by a sand bar.

Businessman and former Bukoto South legislator Muhammad Muyanja Mbabaali has maintained he is the registered owner of Lake Birinzi, a public natural resource in Bukakkata Sub-county, Masaka District.

In 2019, the Masaka District leadership promised to push for the cancellation of Mbabaali’s land title and many others located in wetlands and crucial water catchment areas.

But in an interview last week, Mr Mbabaali told this publication that his land title is still intact and he will not relinquish his interest in the lake.

“I legally acquired that land [occupying Lake Birinzi] using my money and this makes me the rightful owner and I don’t have any plan of selling it off,” he said.

Lake Birinzi is one of the satellite lakes of Lake Victoria, only separated by a sand bar.

According to documents at Masaka lands zonal offices, Mr Mbabaali owns 640 acres of land, which constitutes Lake Birinzi. The former legislator said he legally acquired the land around the lake in 1998 before it was gazetted.

“Even though I have taken a long time to redevelop the site, it remains mine, there is hidden wealth in the lake which I will exploit in the near future,’’ he added.

Ms Juliet Najjuma, the secretary of Masaka District land board, said she was not sure whether Mbabaali’s title was genuine.

  “I need time to peruse our files and see the current status of land around Lake Birinzi, but an individual cannot own a lake because it is a public asset. The title could be fake,” she said.

Water access

When this publication visited the lake at the weekend, residents were freely accessing the water unlike before when the resource was restricted.

Mr Fulugensio Buyondo, the chairperson of Birinzi Village, said residents removed the barbed wire fence which Mr Mbabaali had allegedly put to restrict access to the lake.

“We have not heard from him [Mbabaali] ever since he tried to block residents from accessing the lake. Locals can now fetch water, which was not the case before,’’ Mr Buyondo said.

Mr Achilles Byaruhanga, the executive director of Nature Uganda, advised Mr Mbabaali to invest his money elsewhere.

“Lake Birinzi is a very important part of the Nabugabo ecosystem which is a Ramsar Site, a wetland of international importance. In addition, the laws of Uganda clearly indicate that all lakes and rivers are held in trust for all Ugandans, no one can own a lake,” he said.

In a previous interview with this publication, Mr Mbabaali said he plans to set up an ice processing plant, fish farm, hotel and beach site estimated to cost Shs12b on the disputed lake.

The lake is part of the Nabugabo wetland system, which covers about 22,000 hectares, a catchment area, which connects several rivers and wetlands in Masaka, Kalungu and Mpigi districts.

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