Lukaya residents protest eviction

Affected. Bulakati Market is one of the affected structures facing eviction by the army. PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER KISEKKA

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Argument. The army insists it owns the land, which is also claimed by more than 200 residents on grounds that they bought it from Lukaya Town Council.

KALUNGU. More than 200 residents who were recently notified by the Ministry of Defence to vacate the army land at Bulakati in Lukaya Town Counci, Kalungu District, have vowed never to vacate it.
Led by Mr Bonny Kiddu Ssali, a former chairperson of Lukaya Town Council and one of the affected residents, the residents claim they bought it from Lukaya Town Council- the lawful custodian of the land.
“We bought the land using our money and we were given general receipts from the town council, which is enough evidence to show that we settled here legally,” Mr Kiddu said during an interview yesterday.
“For the years we have occupied this land, the army never came out to say, we are occupying their land and we are wondering why they are coming out now,” he added.
The sitting tenants claim that though the land initially belonged to the army, the army abandoned it after the 1979 liberation war, which ushered in the Obote II regime and Lukaya Town authorities took over its management.
Lt Ninsiima Rwemijuma, the Masaka Armoured Brigade spokesperson, said when the army was acquiring the land in the 1970s for matters of national security, all the sitting tenants were compensated and “therefore UPDF cannot again compensate land grabbers”.
“That land is for the Ministry of Defence under the custodian of UPDF. All those who illegally settled on it are land grabbers and I don’t think they deserve any compensation,” Lt Rwemijuma said yesterday.
He added that UPDF has always known that the land belongs to them and this is the reason why they even established an army detach there.
“Their claims are baseless. If someone leaves his office and goes on leave, can another person simply come in and occupy it?” he asked.
Meanwhile, Mr Gerald Ssenyondo, the Lukaya Town Council chairperson, yesterday clarified that the eviction will affect residents who occupied the land after 2010.
“When the Bulakati land issues continued to bring discomfort among residents here , residents wanted to stage a demonstration and I rushed to the army authorities who promised that UPDF being a people’s force, could not chase away people,” Mr Ssenyondo said.
The Kalungu Resident District Commissioner, Mr Abubaker Kaddunabbi, said he is going to convene a stakeholder’s meeting to look into the matter.
The controversial land, measuring 463.43 hectares, is part of Bulakati Army Airstrip land and it comprises Mwota Block 181, Kirinnya Block 184, Lukaya Block 185, Kalungi Block 145 and Kawanda Block 146.

Residents warned
This newspaper has learnt that on different occasions, since 2005, the Military Land Board started warning Lukaya Town Council, which was still part of Masaka District to stop encroaching on the said land.
In 2010, Lukaya Town Council authorities tried to acquire part of the controversial land from the Uganda Lands Commission, but they were referred to the ministry of Defence which said it still needed its land.


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