Govt sends team to probe land wrangles in 3 districts

Mr Abraham Luwalira addresses the affected tenants in Biwanga, in Mubende Municipality on Monday. PHOTO/ JESSICA NABUKENYA  

What you need to know:

  • Residents in Mityana, Mubende and Kassanda accuse local leader and police of fuelling land evictions

The minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ms Judith Nabakooba, has dispatched a team from Kampala to investigate land wrangles in Mityana, Kassanda and Mubende districts.
Last week, a four-man team commenced investigations with  visiting most of the affected areas in the three districts.
However, the team was overwhelmed by accusations that police and local leaders were fuelling land evictions.
Led by Mr Abraham Luwalira, the chairperson  of Uganda Bibanja Holders Association, the team started their probe from Kiteredde Village in Kiganda Sub-county, Mubende District.

In Kiteredde, residents complained about the brutality meted out on them by police as they push them off their ancestral land.
“They [police] arrest us, fabricate charges against us and sometimes destroy our crops,” Mr Joseph Ssebugenyi, one of the affected bibanja holders, said.
Mr Richard Ayebuzibweki, the Mityana District speaker, said  for a long time they  have  sought  intervention of different government offices and individuals in vain.
Mr  Luwalira warned the police to desist from handling land cases with a bias.

At Biwanga Village in Mubende Municipality, a group of people on Monday accused ‘well-connected’ people of threatening them with eviction.
“We have lived on the public land for a long period as sitting tenants, but some few people are now claiming ownership, they are subjecting us to acts of torture, with an intention of evicting us .We are living in fear, ” Mr Enock Mukiibi, a resident said.

In  Kassanda District, the elderly persons asked the team to help them solve the issue of  fake documentation. 
“They wanted to buy a piece of this Kibanja and duped my son to sign a fake agreement. My son was later arrested over obtaining money by false pretence. Every day, they come and monitor. I am in fear, I need help,” Ms Catherine Nankabirwa, a resident of Nakateete Village, said.
Ms Matilda Nyanzi who represented minister Nabakooba, they urged the residents to remain calm as await government intervention.

“We are going to make an urgent report to the minister and we hope she will respond immediately,” Ms Nyanzi said.
Evictions and transactions
Recently, the government stopped all land transactions and evictions countrywide until end of the Covid-19 induced lockdown.
Ms Nabakooba said any land titles obtained during the lockdown will be considered null and void. 

She also warned Resident District Commissioners  and District Police Commanders not to engage in any land transaction during the lockdown.
According to the Land Amendment Act 2010, tenants can resist eviction, especially if they have been paying the annual nominal ground rent. 
The law allows the tenants to either pay annual nominal ground rent (busuulu) fixed by the minister or by their district land boards.
 According to the law, landlords must have a court order  before evicting tenants and must notify them before selling their land.

However, some of these terms are never followed and many tenants are being pushed off their land without compensation.
Mityana, Kassanda and Mubende have experienced a series  of intense land wrangles for  in the past years.
The wrangles are partly fuelled by immigrants from neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi who come into the districts as refugees but end up in communities searching for land for cultivation. 
For the last 20 years, some of the migrants  have been  settled on the central reserve forest land  in Mubende, Mityana and Kassanda districts.