War veteran dies homeless year after brutal eviction

The late Stephen Mugambwa. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • On the night of February 24, 2022, when the country was still under the Covid-19 lockdown, Mugambwa’ house was razed to the ground using a grader.

The ugly face of ruthless eviction of bibanja holders, especially in central region, came to the fore last Friday during the burial of a homeless National Resistance Army (NRA) Bush War veteran.

Stephen Mugambwa, a victim of a brutal eviction executed during the Covid-19 induced lockdown in Kimegeredde Village, Semuto Town Council in Nakaseke District, was laid to rest on September 9 in his ancestral burial ground in Kikondo Village.

Family members said the late Mugambwa suffered trauma and stress after his eviction that might have accelerated his demise after a heart attack.

Mugambwa died homeless even after President Museveni had met him shortly after the eviction, promising to have the matter resolved.

When the President visited Kijaguzo Catholic Parish in Semuto Town Council, Nakaseke District, on April 30, 2022, he met Mugambwa and the Church authorities whose land was targeted by a dealer who had executed several illegal evictions, including the demolition of the veteran’s house.

At the burial, residents questioned the government’s ability to resolve the land issues after failing to resolve cases that the President has shown interest in and directed his officials to handle.

“We are gathered here not to make merry, but it’s a sad moment and last sendoff of our own and a war veteran. The story of Mugambwa is known to all of us, including the President of Uganda. He has died homeless. Many people are already victims to the powerful and ruthless landlords,” Mr Richard Mavuuma, the Nakaseke District vice chairperson, said as he addressed the mourners.

Mr Steven Mugambwa (R) and his wife at one of the gardens that were destroyed by yet unknown people on his land at Kimegere village Semuto Town Council in Nakaseke District. Photo | Dan Wandera

Nakaseke South Member of Parliament Paul Lutamaguzi revealed that the landlord, who demolished Mugambwa’s home and took away his piece of land, also dragged him to court.

“I have a case in the High Court in Luweero where the landlord identified as Sula Sserunjogi dragged me to court together with Steven Mugambwa for interfering with the land matter. Our country has degenerated…,” he said.

On the night of February 24, 2022, when the country was still under the Covid-19 lockdown, Mugambwa’ house was razed to the ground using a grader.

The attackers also destroyed gardens. Mugambwa and his family members escaped unhurt although the attackers made a chase, he revealed to State Minister for Lands Sam Mayanja who visited the area shortly after the incident.

It later emerged that the attackers were implementing a controversial court order by Luweero Chief Magistrate under Civil Suite No.076 of 2018 where Mr Sserunjogi, a former RDC, had sued Mugambwa, claiming ownership of the land on Block 241, plot 12 Bulemeezi.

This came despite a presidential order against any evictions during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The contest
Mugambwa, at a meeting convened by State Minister for Lands Sam Mayanja on March 3, 2022, in Semuto Town Council, said he had inherited the seven-acre land from his late father Colombani Mukasa in 1974.

Late Mukasa had also donated a piece of the land to the Church but Sserunjogi had reportedly claimed that he legally became owner of the land in 2018.

In an earlier interview with Monitor in 2022 shortly after the eviction, Sserunjogi revealed that he had proof of ownership of the land that he said he legally acquired in 2018.

“The courts of law resolved the matter and all my actions are backed by the law. This issue has been politicised but the law will take its course,” he said.

Maj John Kaddu, a former bush war veteran who served as RDC, urged the government to address the concerns of Bibanja holders whose rights to own land are being denied.

“I was even dragged to court by a land dealer in my capacity as Deputy RDC for Nakaseke District when I intervened to protect Mugambwa after the eviction in 2022. It is sad that Mugambwa has died homeless after the property he acquired more than 45 years ago was taken away by a land grabber,” he said.