Lira Hospital to evict over 200 families from disputed land

Mzee Peter Ayela stands in front of his house. This structure was the first bar and lodge in Lira- and was constructed by his father on the disputed land in 1958. PHOTO/PATRICK EBONG

What you need to know:

  • On March 16, 2023, the management of Lira hospital went with over 50 armed police personnel to provide them with security during the demarcation of the hospital land.

Dozens of households at Teso Bar “A” Cell, Lira City, are going to be evicted from their homes on a long-term disputed land by Lira Regional Referral Hospital.

The estimated over 200 families have built on Plot 9 -19 Ngetta Road and Plot 6 -14 Agoro Road in Lira City West Division. Altogether the two plots measure approximately eight acres.

The contentious land is occupied by members of Liira clan, whose forefathers once donated part of their land for the establishment of the hospital.  This was during the British colonial administration in 1928.

In fact, the Lira administrative units: Lira City and Lira District derived their names from the Liira clan, the first inhabitants in the area.  

However, following a decision of the High Court in Lira in March 2022, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal, members of Liira clan – now being looked at as squatters – must vacate the land.

Peter Alyela, 85, who was born in the disputed area and has lived for all his life, is among over 200 people to be evicted.

"This land belongs to my father who was a farmer. He gave much of his land to the British government," Ayela told Monitor.

The conflict over ownership of this land emerged in 2012, when the hospital management reported the likes of Ayela to then Lira Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Joan Pacoto.

“The RDC advised the hospital to buy our land if they were interested in it,” Mr Ayela said as he showed our reporters a dilapidated house which he said was constructed by his father’s friend in 1958.

"This is our customary land belonging to the Liira clan that my father left for his children and grandchildren to develop," he added.

According to Ayela, the hospital dragged 21 people and others to court and he was their witness since he is aware that land has never belonged to the hospital.

"If there are any mark stones that were planted on this land without our notice, we should be shown where they are located, or if there is any agreement Lira Regional Referral Hospital made with my late father on when we should leave this land, then it should be produced," Ayela demanded.

Fatuma Umar was born in the same contested area in 1950. She said for the last 73 years they were living in good harmony with Lira Regional Referral Hospital and the hospital administration could share a number of things with her parents since they were neighbours.

But when they fled to Tanzania during Idi Amin's regime, many things changed. Part of their land was given away by then Lira Municipal Council, now Lira City Council.

"After coming back from exile, we found our land given to New Generation Secondary School but when we complained, Lira Municipal Council ordered the school to pay us Shs600,000,” Umar said.

Haji Musa Ayo, the former Liira clan chief, said he was born in the disputed area in 1943.

According to him, the neighbouring Lira School of Comprehensive Nursing and Midwifery, which is part of Lira hospital, was constructed when he was already 18 years old.

"That chain link of the school was fenced by the same White men who planted some live fence on the side of their boundary to demarcate it from our land," Ayo explained.

"Our grandfathers gave the government land free of charge, but we need peace as compensation," he added.

Ms Beatrice Okot, a human rights defender from Women Human Rights Defenders Network- Uganda (WHRDN-U), has vowed stop the planned eviction of residents.

"I am going to take this matter very seriously and ensure that it reaches the parliamentary committee on human rights and even the Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo," Ms Okot said while meeting the affected families on March 24.

On March 16, 2023, the management of Lira hospital went with over 50 armed police personnel to provide them with security during the demarcation of the hospital land.

There were no boundary mark stones but the hospital planted pegs and iron bars to demarcate their land boundaries.

Peter Okello Odeke, the Lira hospital principal administrator, said he has been in office for seven months but one of the first assignments the hospital board gave him was opening the facility’s land boundaries.

"When we came in there were issues we found pending and one of them included encroachment on the hospital land,” he said. “Okello Geoffrey and [17] others and this case were in the Court of Appeal [but] the court ruled in favour of the hospital because we have the land title from Uganda Land Commission."

The hospital administrator said the land dispute case had been pending in court since 2007. In March 2022, a ruling was made by the High Court in Lira in favour of the hospital and an eviction notice was also issued.

“The Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) wrote to the hospital board in respect to the outcome of judgement arising from the court case: Lira Regional Referral Hospital versus Geoffrey Okello and others from the civil case appeal number 08/2013. And also arising from the civil suit number 092/2010 of the High Court of Uganda sitting at Lira," he explained.