Residents of Bukulula Village, Bukulula Sub-county in Kalungu District have accused prison authorities of attempting to evict them from a 49-acre piece of land, which they claim belongs to Buganda Kingdom.
The land, which has about 700 tenants, also houses the sub-county headquarters, Bukulula prison, and Bukulula Health Centre IV .
On several occasions, residents have clashed with prison authorities accusing the latter of allegedly threatening to destroy their crops.
A recent incident happened on April 15 when prison warders fired bullets in the air to disperse residents.
Mr Paul Mwanje, a tenant, said Mr Steven Abala, the officer-in-charge of Bukulula prison , reportedly fired bullets to scare them away from their ancestral land.“Some 15 inmates went to my garden and started spraying the crops with dangerous herbicides and cut down my banana plantations,” Mr Mwanje told Daily Monitor this week.
He accused kingdom officials of failing to resolve the dispute despite reporting the matter to the Kabaka’s representatives in Masaka District several times.
“ It is unfortunate that the kingdom has not helped us yet we are bona fide occupants on the land. My three-acre kibanja (plot) is registered by Buganda Land Board,” Mr Mwanje said.
Residents also accuse prison warders of torturing them.
However, Mr Abala denied the allegations, saying: “It is the residents who attacked our inmates who were digging in the garden. In the confusion, one of the inmates wanted to escape, which prompted me to fire in the air to arrest him.”
Mr Abdullah Kato, the second deputy Pokino (Kabaka’s representative in Buddu County), accused police officers of using force to drive out residents.
He said the kingdom recognises the residents as lawful occupants because they pay annual nominal ground rent.
“We are currently in negotiations with top prison authorities to resolve this dispute, but I am surprised that their juniors in Kalungu are torturing Kabaka’s people. That might affect the negotiations,” Mr Kato said.
He warned Mr Abala against using guns to intimidate the sitting tenants.
On October 18, 2020, prison authorities from Greater Masaka and officials from Buganda Land Board and Kalungu District agreed that the warring parties halt their farming activities on the land until the matter is resolved .
However, both prison authorities and residents have continued growing crops.
Effort to protect tenants, landlords
A decade ago, Parliament passed the Land Amendment Act 2010 which government said was to protest tenants from illegal evictions. With increasing land evictions, government is currently pushing for amendments in the Act, which it said will protect interests of both tenants and landlords. 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. Landlords need a court order to evict tenants and must notify them before selling their land, but some of these conditions are never followed and many tenants are being pushed off their law without court orders and due compensation.