Ministry of Trade PS Geraldine Ssali in Anti-Corruption court dock Ministry of Trade PS Geraldine Ssali in dock at the Anti-Corruption

Live bullets and teargas rock Lubigi  wetland as security disperse LoP meet

A joint force of the police and military personnel disperse residents from a meeting with Mr Joel Ssenyonyi at Lubigi swamp in Wakiso District on June 17, 2024.  Photo/ Michael Kakumirizi

What you need to know:

  • Mr Ssenyonyi condemned the destruction and eviction, saying he was surprised to see their peaceful engagement with locals dispersed brutally by the security agencies.
  • During the May 28 meeting with the security committee led by Ms Justine Mbabazi,  the Wakiso Resident District Commissioner, Mr Barirega Akankwasah, the Nema executive director, said they would continue with the demolition.  

A joint force of the police and military personnel yesterday fired live bullets and teargas to disperse crowds of evictees who had gathered at Lubigi swamp to meet Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP).

 Mr Ssenyonyi, together with other MPs from his party, the National Unity Platform (NUP), had organised a meeting to listen to complaints from evictees whose houses were demolished by National Environment Management Authority (Nema).

 The MPs included Ms Betty Ethel Naluyima (Wakiso District Woman), Mr Hannington Wakayima Musoke (Nansana Municipality), Ms Helen Nakimuli (Kalangala Woman), Mr Frank Kabuye (Kassanda South), and Mr Muwada Nkunyingi for Kyaddondo East.
 
MPs speak out
Mr Ssenyonyi condemned the destruction and eviction, saying he was surprised to see their peaceful engagement with locals dispersed brutally by the security agencies.
 “This is the place from which we have been hearing an outcry from local leaders and the affected people. We wanted to hear what the people are saying and we get to connect with them and to understand the goings on,” Mr Ssenyonyi said yesterday as he addressed journalists at NUP headquarters at Makerere Kavule in Kampala City.  The residents had, before the meeting was dispersed, told the LOP that Nema did not engage them before the demolition.

 Mr Ssenyonyi  said: “They have bought Kibanja, have titles and some have been there for more than 40 years.”
 He said the victims criticised the government for exercising double standards as it evicted wananchi, and yet left untouched a police station, and a fuel station, which they claimed are right in the middle of the wetland.

Police, govt officials respond
But the  Kampala Metropolitan Deputy Police Spokesperson,  Mr Luke Owoyesigyire, said Nema wrote to Nansana Police Division Police Commander 21 days and tasked them to write to the Inspector General of Government (IGP).
 “It is after that engagement that Nema will be allowed to either demolish or spare the police post but if it is demolished, the area is likely to become a death trap,” Mr Owoyesigyire said last week.
During the May 28 meeting with the security committee led by Ms Justine Mbabazi,  the Wakiso Resident District Commissioner, Mr Barirega Akankwasah, the Nema executive director, said they would continue with the demolition.  Mr Akankwasah advised all those in the wetland to vacate immediately.

“It is very problematic for the government to let people settle in an area for a very long time and come now to demolish their settlement. Where have they been when they were putting up all these huge structures?” Mr Ssenyonyi asked.

 He said their engagement with the evictees was to establish facts on the ground before they presented the issues on the floor of Parliament.
 On the security agencies disrupting their gathering, Mr Ssenyonyi said: “This is unfortunate because as leaders, we had not gone there to fight. We had gone to listen to the people.”

Scheduled meeting
 Mr Ssenyonyi said he had also spoken to Mr Akankwasah to schedule a meeting with the victims and their leaders.
 “I’m happy that he bought the idea because we don’t want him to just sit in the office and issue orders,” he said.
 The area leaders, led by Ms Naluyima, said they need justice for the people who were affected. She also appealed to the government to extend financial support to the evictees who have been rendered homeless.
 “We were frightened to see security officers shooting and teargasing us. But we continue to demand justice for these people and when we go to Parliament, it is the same issue I’m going to present,” Ms Naluyima said.
Just like Wakiso Woman MP, Ms Nakimuli, the Kalangala Woman MP, asked the government to sit back and engage the people alleged to be encroaching on Lubigi wetland.
“If these people have been paying taxes to the government, you don’t wake up one day and demolish their houses without prior notices; it is unfair,” she said.

Kassanda South legislator Kabuye said what the government is doing is wrong as it is likely to increase crime in the country.
 Mr Samuel Eyotre, a lawyer who doubles as the Nansana Municipality chief mobiliser of the Patriotic League of Uganda (PLAU), a pressure group led by Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, also expressed disappointment in Nema for forccibly evictions.

 “What Nema is doing is inappropriate. This matter should have been taken to the courts of law for adjudication and if the court found that these people were actually in a wetland, then the necessary orders would be issued,” Mr Eyotre said.
 
The evictees
Ms Ruth Namuddu, 69, a resident of Nansana West, who has stayed on her kibanja since 1996, was found sleeping in a makeshift tent during the Monday morning downpour.  She has asked President Museveni to intervene in the matter and they have justice served.
 “I borrowed money from Brac Uganda to set up the rentals and I’m still paying the loans but now I have no source of income since the rentals were demolished,” Ms Namuddu said.

 Ms Namuddu said they acquired the Kibanja from someone with a Land title from Buganda Land Board and she has been paying busuulu (lease fees), the nominal ground rent for the space.
 Ms Odeth Mufasha, another victim who is a widow with five children, said she had her 15 rentals and a residential house demolished.

 “I don’t have any other source of income to get school fees for my children, but if they say we were in a wetland, why did Umeme connect us to power? The National Water and Sewerage Corporation also supplied us with water and we have been paying taxes very well. Something must be done,” Ms Mufasha said.
Ms Dorothy Nankya, the Nabweru chairperson, said the angry residents stormed her home last Friday because she was the one stamping their sale agreements.

“If the government says it is serving all Ugandans without discrimination and the President is giving out the Parish Development Model to alleviate poverty among these people, let Nema stop the evictions and those whose houses were demolished be compensated,” Ms Nankya said.