Police, land grabbers on the spot for connivance

A truck loaded with timber from a disputed land in Buikwe District. The land in question is claimed by two people. COURTESY/PHOTO

What you need to know:

A complainant says his dream of having an eco-resort is being threatened by land grabbers.

Trouble is brewing up in Bukwe District over a 540-acre piece of land in which police in Mukono District are being implicated for aiding land grabbing and destruction of trees on a private land. 
The land in question is at Mbiru Village in Buikwe District.
Mr Leonard Mutesasira, the owner of the land, says in 2012, he purchased the natural resource from Nakayago Growers Cooperative Society and it has been titled since 1974.

He said after the completion of the transaction, he set on to develop an eco-resort on the land. Mr Mutesasira said he planted a lot of trees, some of which are medicinal and created a conducive space for nature walks.
“I bought it in 2012 and I have been using it since then. I conserved and planted a lot of indigenous trees on it. We are going to have an eco-resort on it and the essence of having that eco-resort is to have a forest therapy as one of the products we are offering to our clients. We also plan to have extensive hikes in the natural forests,” he said.

Mr Mutesasira, however, says his dream and ambition to have an eco-resort is being threatened by a group of land grabbers.
He said until recently, he had known no other person until Mr Israel Serumpanyise showed up with a land title for the same piece of land. 

He said Mr Serumpanyise last week mobilised a group of people, protected by the Counter Terrorism Police, who descended on his plantation and destroyed hundreds of trees. He also alleged that Mr Serumpanyise caused the cancellation of his land title and instead was issued a title by the Lands Ministry.
Mr Mutesasira said upon hearing the news, he approached the Lands ministry that denied cancelling the title. The ministry also issued a directive to all the parties to halt any development and said the title issued to Mr Serumpanyise was in error and that it shouldn’t have been given to him.

On June 15, Mr Michael Kazibwe, the senior staff surveyor at Mukono Zonal Office, wrote to Atlas Consultants Ltd, a company that was contracted by the ministry to investigate the allegations of double titling of the land.  In his letter, Mr Kazibwe said there were multiple plot numbers and titles in the same location according to the system. 
“Whereas it appears obvious that all these plots occupy the same location, there is still urgent need to conduct a joint boundary opening exercise on ground with all the parties present...., a joint report will be forwarded to the Commissioner Land Registration for cancellation of the titles…,” he said.

Mr Mutesasira said the police are working with the land grabbers to take away his investments. 
“I sought the intervention of police at different levels but in vein. Two days ago, I went and met the Regional Police Commander Christine Akoth and she said the deployment was irregular,” Mr Mutesasira said.
Attempts to get an explanation from Ms Akoth proved futile because she referred our reporter to the Kampala Metropolitan East regional police spokesperson.  We were also unable to hear from Mr Serumpanyise whose contacts where of  by press time.